What would a caveman do with a computer?

A recent article on ProjectTimes covering the pitfalls of Project Portfolio Management (PPM) or Enterprise Project Management (EPM) tools drew some “heat”.

It’s true that many PPM tool purchases fail to deliver expected benefits relative to their (often significant) hard & soft costs.  However, one can draw the parallel to any other type of enterprise business application – ERP systems are the stereotypical example of this, and yet, there are case studies of organizations that have successfully implemented ERP solutions and the same will be true for PPM or EPM tools.

As my father is fond of telling me, “A bad workman always blames his tools”, so the following questions should be answered before you get started.

1. What is the primary objective of implementing a tool –  is to to provide a toolkit for PMs to reduce their administrative efforts, is it to automate defined PPM or EPM work flows, or is it to provide dashboards and reports to improve decision making?  The answer to this question should help to narrow the field of products and will help you understand what process and governance prerequisites need to be in place.

2. Is your organization culture ready for it?  If your culture is still unfriendly towards PM or you don’t expect to have effective sponsorship in place to support the solution, think twice!  A common precursor to introducing such tools is to provide some PM 101 training for all impacted staff.

3. Can you create a valid business case to justify it?  Selling the project on the basis of increased efficiency or similar intangibles may come back to haunt you if the expected improvements don’t materialize.

4. Are your sponsors and stakeholders willing to accept “good enough” from work flows and reporting capabilities?  Similar to early adopters of ERP technologies, PPM or EPM customers often expect that a product will fit their needs perfectly “out-of-the-box”.  This is unrealistic given the variance in reporting, data capture and work flow needs.  The lesson to be learned is that it is often best to find a product that “fits” your culture as well as “reasonably” matching your needs and implement it with minimal customizations during the initial roll out.

5. How do you plan to deal with compliance challenges? The weak link in most EPM or PPM implementations is the completeness or quality of the data being captured.  Beyond the initial growing pains period, how will you identify such issues and do you have the support structures in place to address them so that it is not a “garbage in, garbage out” outcome?

6. Do you have basic processes defined?  While you may need to adopt “out-of-the-box” work flows, a lack of some definition around PM and PPM processes will just result in automated chaos.

While PPM or EPM solutions may not be the right tool for everyone, they can act as a positive catalyst for capability improvement so long as we answer the fundamental question “are we ready?”.

Categories: Facilitating Organization Change, Project Portfolio Management | Leave a comment

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