Effective project portfolio management (PPM) is crucial for organizations aiming to achieve strategic goals, maximize resources, and enhance overall project success. This article will explore various tools and approaches to implementing PPM successfully within an organization. We will also offer some ways to ensure a successful rollout of the PPM tool.
The PPM trend for 2024 is to select and use the best PPM platform for your organization.
Assessment and Planning
Before implementing changes to any system, it is important to understand the system as it is. What are we to change? What limitations do we presently have that will need to be resolved? It is essential to understand the goals and objectives of the organization. It is good to thoroughly assess the organization's current portfolio and project management processes and identify pain points. Pain points can be a user interface, information output, consistent information output, tracking, and closeout.
If your organization has a Project Management Office (PMO), perhaps you have data from the many projects conducted over the years and the use of tools like Microsoft Power BI for analysis.
Chesterton's Fence is a principle named after the English writer and philosopher G.K. Chesterton. The essence of this principle is to emphasize caution and the importance of understanding the reasons behind existing structures or practices before advocating for change. The metaphorical "fence" represents any established system, rule, or tradition, and the principle suggests that before one decides to remove or alter the fence, one should understand why it was put there in the first place.1
This does not suggest that we must understand everything and make changes in one fell swoop. Prioritization is based on data, the level of difficulty for the project team members, and the organization's longevity.
Identify the specific needs and challenges the tools aim to address within the organization. Besides analyzing historical data, we will interview key stakeholders and department areas. A project delivered on time and on target requires multiple perspectives. This is done by engaging key stakeholders and gathering input to ensure a comprehensive understanding of requirements.
Once we know what to change, we must define what good or success would look like. Clearly specify the objectives and goals of introducing the tools. Outline the expected benefits and outcomes to align with the organization's strategy. This description should include the present performance metrics and the new target.
Research and Select Tools
Conduct thorough research to identify tools that best meet the organization's needs. Sometimes, a tool will not help us. No matter what we do here, we need to understand that any tool can be as much a hindrance as a boon. Poorly integrated tools (more on that later), tools that do not support our actual way of working, and poor training for those using the tools are all paths to failure. Consider factors such as scalability, ease of integration, user-friendliness, and long-term support.
Create a Business Case
Why is a PPM system needed? What are the areas of improvement or control to be exerted? What issues or problems will the system solve? How will the system be used? Who will input to or manipulate the system? Develop a compelling business case highlighting the value proposition of the selected tools.
Include cost-benefit analysis, potential ROI, and alignment with organizational objectives. We provide a short list below.
1. Strategic Alignment Metrics
- Strategic Fit: Assessing how well individual projects align with the organization's overall strategic goals and objectives.
- Value Delivery: Measuring the value delivered by each project in contributing to strategic outcomes.
2. Financial Metrics:
- Budget Variance: Comparing actual project expenses to the planned budget to identify cost overruns or savings.
- Return on Investment (ROI): Calculating the financial return generated by the projects within the portfolio.
3. Risk Management Metrics:
- Risk Exposure: Evaluating the risk associated with each project and assessing the portfolio's overall risk exposure.
- Risk Mitigation Effectiveness: Monitoring the effectiveness of risk mitigation strategies implemented across projects.
4. Resource Management Metrics:
- Resource Utilization: Analyzing the utilization of resources, including personnel, equipment, and facilities, across the portfolio.
- Resource Capacity: Evaluating the capacity of resources and identifying potential bottlenecks.
5. Schedule and Time Metrics:
- Schedule Variance: Assessing the variance between planned and actual project timelines.
- Time-to-Market: Measuring the time for projects to move from initiation to completion.
6. Quality Metrics:
- Defect Rate: Evaluating the number of defects or issues identified during project execution.
- Customer Satisfaction: Measuring stakeholder satisfaction and perceptions of project quality.
7. Portfolio Health Metrics:
- Portfolio Health Index: Aggregating and assessing various performance indicators to provide an overall health index for the portfolio.
- Project Success Rate: Calculating the percentage of completed projects within the portfolio.
8. Innovation Metrics:
- Innovation Impact: Assessing the impact of projects on fostering innovation and driving organizational growth.
- New Product Development Rate: Measuring the rate at which new products or features are introduced through projects.
9. Governance Metrics:
- Compliance Adherence: Ensuring that projects within the portfolio adhere to regulatory and compliance requirements.
- Project Approval Cycle Time: Monitoring the time it takes to obtain approvals for project initiation and changes.
10. Customer Impact Metrics:
- Customer Adoption Rate: Measuring how quickly and widely customers adopt products or services resulting from projects.
- Customer Feedback and Ratings: Evaluating customer feedback and satisfaction related to project deliverables.
11. Agile Metrics:
- Velocity: Calculating the work completed by Agile teams in each iteration.
- Lead Time: Measuring the time it takes to complete a feature or user story from initiation to delivery.
Secure Stakeholder Buy-In
Present the business case to key stakeholders, including executives, department heads, and end-users. This can be a wrestling match in that stakeholders' needs may be competing or constraining. From experience, the needs of one department can be an imposition on another. Use this conflict effectively to find solutions that work for all. In the short run, it might seem easy to sub-optimize the tool and process, but that is expensive in the long term. Address concerns and ensure there is broad support for the introduction of the tools.
It is in the tool selection and integration team to develop a strategic plan outlining the short and long-term goals, objectives, and timeline for implementing PPM tools, at least the individual functions. Thinking along the lines of a Business Case, what are the Why, What, When, How, and Who?
After you have answered the questions, and these may not be the only questions, start researching systems in the market.
Management Systems for Project Portfolio Management:
PPM Core is a cloud-based platform that centralizes workflows, improves collaboration, and simplifies project and portfolio management. Track project finances in real-time for accurate budgeting and cost control.
The platform unites the project data from various file formats and brings all project participants together while synchronizing their workflows into one centralized place that everyone can use daily.
Microsoft Project is a widely used project management tool that offers project planning, scheduling, and resource management features. Its integration capabilities make it an asset for PPM. It is also full of various functions and takes time to learn. Introduce Microsoft Project gradually, starting with small teams and projects. Provide training sessions to familiarize teams with the tool's functionalities.
Jira Portfolio, part of the Atlassian suite, focuses on agile project management. It allows teams to plan, track, and manage their projects in alignment with organizational goals. Implement Jira Portfolio in agile-oriented teams first, gradually expanding its usage across the organization. Ensure teams understand the agile principles embedded in the tool.
Smartsheet is a versatile work management and automation tool. It enables project managers to plan, track, and manage projects collaboratively. Start with a pilot project on Smartsheet, showcasing its benefits in terms of collaboration and real-time updates. Encourage feedback to tailor the tool to the organization's specific needs.
In our experience, the ‘dump and run’ approach is not recommended or successful. As with the introduction of any application, a vertical startup is achievable with planning.
Select one or a few individual features to be used initially for all organizations and significantly smaller organizations. Ensure superusers are available and let staff learn how to input current project information. It is not always successful and can be with guidance and planning.
Introducing Tools into the Company
Introducing tools into a company involves a strategic and systematic approach to ensure successful adoption and integration. Here are steps to guide the process. Though how we introduce the tool to the organization will depend on the context, some fundamentals will be consistent.
Start with a pilot program involving a small group or specific department to test the tools in a real-world environment. This is a learning experience, so applying on projects with a recurring theme in the organization focuses on the most common. Gather feedback, identify challenges, and make necessary adjustments before full implementation.
Customize and Configure
Tools off the shelf may not meet the exact needs of the organization. Ideally, the tool we selected will allow for adapting to our organization. Tailor the tools to match the organization's unique processes and workflows. Part of the tool selection should include this ability to adapt, with support from the supplier, to facilitate the configuration and boundaries of the product. Configure settings, integrations, and permissions to align with specific business requirements.
Develop comprehensive training programs for end-users and administrators. Part of that training should include training the trainer program to extend the knowledge to large organizations. This is immediately done by conducting workshops, webinars, or one-on-one sessions to ensure users are proficient in using the tools. The ongoing training can be supported by a User Group that shares information and documents that knowledge for team members supporting the training.
Implement a communication plan to keep all stakeholders informed about the tool introduction. Just like any project, we need to know who needs to know what. This communications plan will include connecting stakeholders to specific metrics and reporting expectations. We should report benefits, but especially those things that are not going to plan.
Plan a phased rollout strategy to avoid disruptions to ongoing operations. For example, only introduce the tool on projects of a certain size, after a specific start date or having met some other prerequisites. Learn from those experiments, adjust, and gradually introduce the tools across different teams or departments, ensuring a smooth transition.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Establish monitoring mechanisms to track the performance and user satisfaction with the tools. Identify key performance indicators and methods for gathering the data. Build a dashboard and establish update schedules. Continuously monitor as part of the project management organization.
Proactively address any challenges or resistance that may arise during the implementation. It is essential to address these emerging events by providing ongoing support and resources to mitigate issues and ensure a positive user experience.
This will require accounting for the hours and talent in the budget as part of the business case. The duration of this extension is not fixed but depends upon the scope of the project, the magnitude of the change at the organization, and many other factors.
Once the pilot succeeds and adjustments are made, scale the implementation across the organization. Monitor scalability and make further optimizations as needed. This will also be a time for heavier support (see Address Challenges).
Foster a culture of continuous improvement by regularly evaluating the effectiveness of the tools. Seek opportunities for enhancements, updates, or the introduction of complementary tools.
Maintain thorough documentation on the tools, including user guides, troubleshooting resources, and best practices.
By following these steps, organizations can introduce tools successfully, ensuring smooth and effective integration into their workflows.
It is prudent to develop a continuous improvement approach to using the tool, extending its features and benefits to the organization.
Implementing PPM tools is a strategic decision that can significantly enhance an organization's project management capabilities. Organizations can streamline project portfolio management and drive successful outcomes by carefully selecting and introducing these tools, with thoughtful planning and user support.