Evaluating, selecting, implementing and growing a PPM solution is a considerable investment for your organization. Many companies that set out to procure a solution, fail to choose between project management, project portfolio management and enterprise work management and do not end up purchasing at all. So why invest so much time and effort to go through the process? The answer lies in the benefits to be gained from the solution and the change that occurs around the solution. Let’s look at some of the major benefits of a solution.
1. Better Decision Making
First and foremost, PPM provides visibility into projects and resources that isn’t possible without a centralized location. Better visibility cultivates better decision making with the power of information. This isn’t just in theory or in the long term. Customers that onboard with KeyedIn (or any PPM solution that is deployed successfully) report decision making as the primary benefit of their investment. This yields measurable and invaluable results for the business. KeyedIn PPM supports better decision making by:
1. Providing both strategic and tactical visibility
2. Ensuring you have more certainty about decisions related to projects
3. Quickly identifying projects that are not contributing to corporate objectives
4. Understanding how changes to one project impacts the delivery of others
5. Modeling “what if” scenarios to discover the impact of adding new projects
2. Minimize Risks
The ability to avoid or reduce your exposure to risks is a key benefit of Project Portfolio Management. There are several categories of risks, including financial, governance, resource, and misdirected efforts. On the financial side, good PPM policies will help you to calculate the benefits vs. cost of cancelling a poor performing project, as well as identify projects that are not contributing to corporate objectives. The sooner you identify these wayward projects, the sooner you reduce your risks. As for reducing governance risk, the goal is to build an accountability framework that ensures that the right level of compliance is followed through every project lifecycle. Risk mitigation within KeyedIn includes:
1. Calculating the financial impact of cancelling a poor performing project
2. Identifying projects that do not contribute to objectives
3. Getting early warnings of potential problems in meeting program/project deliverables
4. Reducing program and project cost overruns
5. Building an accountability framework to ensure appropriate levels of governance throughout the project lifecycle
3. Maximize Resources
The third great benefit of PPM is the ability to maximize your resources. The greater degree of visibility we mentioned earlier, both on the macro and micro level, makes it possible for you to gain the type of control over your projects that is not possible in a non-PMO environment. A centralized approach also allows you to reduce your project costs, primarily though the reduction or elimination of duplicate effort. Since human resources are by far the greatest cost of implementing projects, this can be a substantial benefit. Nothing increases the frustration and cost of a project more than skills shortages, especially during peak demand periods. With a good capacity planning solution, you can see your overall and specific project demand and redeploy your resources accordingly. With a centralized resource pool, you will be able to quickly find the right resource for each project, keep skills profiles up to date, and then manage resource demand, allocations and capability. Key benefits of effective resource management include:
1. Immediately gain greater control over projects
2. Reducing project cost and effort duplication
3. Reduce the risk of skill shortages at peak demand periods
4. View of overall project demand vs. resource supply and redeploy resources as needed
5. Quickly find the appropriate resources for specific projects
4. Prove the Value to Stakeholders
If there is one factor that separates the super successful PMO from the rest, it is the ability to prove its value to the business stakeholders. By stakeholders, we mean anyone who has an invested interest in the individual projects. This group includes line-of-business managers, project managers, financial analysts and the executive team. An effective PMO and PPM strategy also allows relevant stakeholders to have access to the project status and results data they need, without bogging them down with sorting through reams of data that is irrelevant and confusing. The net result of this greater degree of transparency is that stakeholders gain a much greater comfort level and appreciation for what you are doing both in terms of project execution and results. Key benefits include:
1. Increasing the support and buy-in from all stakeholders
2. Improving customer relations and team morale
3. Reduced timetables for executive and board-level reporting
4. Enabling stakeholders to access the project status data that is most relevant to their specific interests
5. Providing a greater level of comfort by providing transparency into all aspects of project execution and results
5. Enable Repeatable Success
One of the best ways to demonstrate value to stakeholders is to demonstrate how the PMO creates an environment that leads to repeatable and predictable project success. While not discounting the skills of the PMO leadership, the essence of an effective PPM strategy is providing a process framework and technology infrastructure that allows you to continuously meet your business objectives. Repeatable success is gained by establishing best practices and proven project management methodologies and enforcing their use throughout the organization. You need to be able to leverage the processes and lessons learned from previous projects and capture this information in the project repository. This allows you to not only use past data, but also real-time data to continually improve your project operations and results. In this way, you will be seen as a proactive, not reactive organization. Finally, PPM gives you a single version of the truth to enforce consistency in evaluating past projects and guiding the prioritization and execution of future projects. Key benefits include:
1. Providing a framework to consistently meet financial and business governance milestones
2. Establishing best-in-class methodology for creating and executing projects
3. Adding new projects quickly by inheriting processes and attributes from previous projects
4. Using real-time data to turn your PMO from a reactive to a proactive organization
5. Creating and enforce a single version of the truth
The Evaluation Process
Evaluating and procuring a software has different milestones for different organizations but there are some commonalities in the process that help business leaders understand what the value is and what due diligence has been done. These might include, but are not limited to, market research, vendor interviews, internal debriefs, shortlist of vendors, secure funding, and finally negotiate and contract. This is all before the implementation and go-live with the system, of course, and requires a level of careful planning and execution. Not unlike a project, evaluations typically have a timeline, budget, stakeholders, and milestones. But like a project, it is important to scope and outline what those key milestones are to ensure a successful delivery (procurement).
This is the phase of understanding the main players, high level functional alignment, initial outreach. During market research, it is common to consume content, refer to third party or analyst research, read up on different vendors and their offerings as well as their thought leadership and overall corporate vision. It is important to note, this phase does not typically end, rather it is continued throughout the evaluation and further.
Engaging with vendors, talking with representatives of the company, and getting a better understanding of alignment of their offerings with what you are looking for. There are many vendors that are considered PPM, but not all of them have rich functionality around PPM or have a portfolio-first approach. The initial interview with vendors might require a couple of phone calls or video calls to get an understanding of alignment and baseline fit for your team’s goals and requirements. If there are any “deal breakers” this might help narrow your list as well – Fedramp required, language or currency requirements, etc.
It is critical at this stage to really understand what is important to your stakeholders and what will drive their decisions. Are there pre-disposed biases, specific features that your team likes, industry nuances that not all vendors cater to? These are all considerations that need to be addressed in internal meetings with your evaluation team.
Setup your criteria for shortlisting vendors to narrow the focus and really compare. Are there inconsistencies or areas you want to drill further into? Do they have good peer reviews? A lot will come up during evaluation that you might not have considered previously, and keeping a record of what vendors are able to offer and how they solve your team’s unique problems will help you shortlist to a handful of options.
You might be making your case throughout the process or you might wait until you have a few very promising options before securing funding, but it is important to also make sure you have the funding for the software your team chooses. Pricing and licensing can be tricky and not a universal language among providers so make sure you understand the proposals and what is included.
Build Timeline and Go Live
The evaluation process is just the beginning of your PPM journey, but selecting the right PPM tool will give your team a great onramp for continued success.
Cautions and Considerations
The evaluation process above is a very high-level outline of what to expect throughout your journey. There are many things to consider as you go along and very rarely is it straightforward, identifying the internal challenges and barriers to project portfolio management adoption can help as well as gaining a good understanding of the consequences of not implementing project portfolio management. Here are some common considerations that customers and potential customers might not think of when starting an evaluation.
Vendors often use the word "timeline” for the evaluation and agreement. But many customers view “timeline” as go-live. If there is a driving factor in when you need a solution in place, consider your timeline based on what your goal is and work backward from there.
Without a budget for the software assigned first, it is very difficult to keep momentum. Building a business case is helpful in securing funding for a new solution, or wait to evaluate until you have at least verbal approval or you will spend a lot of time in research and evaluation with a dismal result.
Similar to budget, without executive sponsorship it is difficult to make the case when you already have a solution in mind. Get executive sponsorship early and include that executive in the process to ensure you are meeting the needs of the organization.
Almost every time this list changes as you learn more about features on the market rather than the reason you set out for a new solution in the first place. Keep a running list of “need to have” vs. “nice to have” because it’s likely you won’t find a vendor that does it all (and does it well). Use this quick PPM requirments checklist to begin the process and also remember key aspects such as configuration and security, there are many options available to you and many do not offer essential features for successful project portfolio management configuration.
Biases and impulses are not going to be mitigated but they can be dangerous. Understand what drives your stakeholders to make decisions and press for facts over gut when necessary.
There sometimes is a concern about getting a solution too soon, before processes are really standardized. It is hard to get a solution that matches all of your processes and also hard to implement and onboard a solution without a degree of process to support it. This balance can be tough to navigate so ensure your PMO is working with your selected vendor to match your process level or help elevate it if necessary.
RFI Gathering Requirements
A request for information (RFI), or a request for proposal (RFP) is a common deliverable for software evaluation. Let’s decipher the difference and which you will need for your evaluation purposes.
Request for Information
An RFI is an initial document that allows a vendor to explain what they do an provide in a manner that allows you to compare multiple vendors based on the same set of criteria. An RFI is not essential but helps companies learn more about the offerings of a particular solution to see if there is general alignment. This part of the evaluation is best to happen after initial research by the prospect looking to procure a solution so they have the best candidates in the initial round of vendor inquiries. Sending an RFI will help to reduce the number of vendors in the interview process based on that alignment of solution to goals. For example, a prospect looking to for a project management solution to track tasks and assignments and improve efficiencies might find in the RFI process that certain solutions are better suited to helping their customers with collaboration or have strengths in execution management while other solutions might have strengths in planning or strategic selection of projects. This could narrow the field of vision for the prospect so instead of evaluating and demonstrating all project management solutions to those that provide collaborative work management or a more strategic portfolio-level management solution. This helps both the prospect and the vendor narrow the scope of evaluation and can lead to a more tailored demonstration to what it is the prospect is looking for. This can also be achieved through a discovery call or pre-demonstration meeting with the prospect to ensure the solution aligns with what the prospect is looking for.
Request for Proposal
An RFP is a more formal document that dives into specific features and functions to provide those evaluating a level playing field. An RFP is helpful because it narrows the scope to just those features the prospect is looking for rather than the full gambit of options the vendor might provide. It also puts common pricing structure to all the vendors based on what the prospect is looking for. Pricing can be very complex for solutions because there are many factors to consider: how many users and what types of users, how much configuration and services will be needed to implement and onboard a customer, what degree of longer term training and support can be expected. These are important factors and can impact the price of the solution. An RFP should include areas to determine how much each area will cost upfront and what is capable within the solution. The RFP is helpful while building a business case so that you can accurately make the ask for an appropriate amount of budget within the business case and secure the funding needed to adequately onboard and implement the solution needed.
Tools to help you build your PPM RFI and RFP
Ultimately, all vendors (hopefully) are after the same goal: making the customer as successful as possible. This is a mutual benefit because not only does the customer renew and grow their use, but that means they are successful within their organization and realizing results from the software. What is really important during the RFI and RFP stages is to evaluate the vendor for a long term partnership option. No PMO enjoys the process of evaluating and implementing software: it is often cumbersome and in addition to their already assigned jobs. It takes time and research but is invaluable to the success and longevity of the PMO. That’s why it is critical to perform the process right the first time – to avoid needing to go through it again because the wrong solution was chosen.
Project Portfolio Management Implementation
Replacing your existing spreadsheet based, home grown or non-integrated solution with a fully integrated PPM solution requires a fair amount of upfront effort but pays dividends when it comes time to deliver results - find out why in the scary truth of spreadsheets. Implementation is a key element that is often overlooked or undervalued in a PPM evaluation but is actually the onramp for long term success.
Implementation can take a few weeks to a few months depending on how quickly teams are able to adopt the change and how much time is dedicated to the implementation – both by the vendor and the customer. Finding a solution provider that can match your pace and work with you to get the product installed and the team onboarded will set your organization up for the long run. Adoption is critical, after all, the system is only as good as the information that is stored within it.
Avoid the Big Bang Deployment
Most significant to project portfolio management success is the start – PMOs who begin with a system configured to their specific needs realize the greatest benefit. That also presents the biggest challenge. A collaboratively planned system involving both the organization and PPM software provider, with best practice consulting and an all-encompassing implementation plan is necessary. This is the differentiator between a PPM system that staff utilize and the business benefits from, versus one available but not embraced. This is never truer than in the project management office environment where project portfolios are subject to high levels of change, meaning the selected PPM solution must be intuitive, flexible, and instill best practices. A structured implementation approach which focuses on the core features to necessitate immediate benefits is key to this success. High growth levels in organizations result in constantly evolving project demands. An implementation approach structured around short, medium and long-term objectives will focus efforts and reduce implementation costs. Planning entails analysis of needs specific to an organization’s individual business and culture, ensuring the proper KeyedIn features are activated, creating a tailored environment with easy-to-use, clutter-free capabilities needed today, with plans for additional functionality available as the company’s growth evolves.
Ten Tips for Successful PPM Implementation
Taken from our blog 10 Project Portfolio Management Implementation tips based on real-world experience, use these 10 tips to drive out a successful implementation.
Get a sponsor that cares
Someone who will use the system themselves and set a good example but also break through internal politics to address the inevitable laggards and luddites.
Prototype to get it right
People need to touch, feel and experience the solution to really understand what it means and how it works.
Don’t automate something you don’t understand
Building sophisticated integrations, workflows and reports in the early stages can actually cause problems later on. Instead, wait until you understand how things are really going to work through experience of live running.
Make it easy to get right first-time
Run the first few projects with simple examples and make sure there are no problems before adding complexity.
Start from where you are, not where you like to think you are
Honestly assess your organization’s maturity and aim the solution at a reasonable level above that – rather than trying to implement everything at once. You will just leave people behind otherwise.
Use the solution to record agreements and support the work
Rather than try to automate everything in workflow: Heavy workflow just encourages people to find creative ways around updating the system. You will not replace interactions and discussion outside the system, so just make them visible to everyone.
Run the project like a proper project
Don’t assume this is “business as usual.” It’s not. The people-change side is probably more important as you are often dealing with Project Managers who are not used to being told what to do by someone else.
Good is good enough
Perfection is very expensive and time consuming, so focus on getting the critical, important things working well enough first. Often those “bells and whistles” were never needed anyway.
Focus on the actual implementation part of the project most
A difficult project can be made into a success by an excellent implementation – but the converse also applies. Invest in training, communications and floor-walking/contact-at-live to make sure it lands as expected.
Multi-skilled Implementation Consultants
Ideally find one that can work end-to-end, reducing hand-offs, misunderstanding and providing instant responses. You want a technology partner that is invested for the long haul.
While there are many stakeholders involved in the process of evaluation and procurement, it often comes down to a narrow group to make the final decision on a PPM software purchase. Understanding your decision team – and involving them early and often – is a key contributor to a successful outcome of your PPM process. Majority of software evaluations lead to no purchase at all – about 70% according to our internal analysis – meaning a lot of time and effort with no resulting change. The best way to mitigate this risk is to form a decision team and include any executive sponsor as part of this decision team. To mobilize around an outcome of the evaluation, there are three areas of benefits to focus on:
Real Time Visibility
Real Time Information is critical to anyone who manages complex, enterprise-wide, multi-project environments requiring quick decisions throughout all levels of the business. Poor access to data in real time is a key factor in why many projects fail. Having real time information greatly improves the accuracy and speed in which you can make decisions. For example, ask yourself, how quickly is your business able to make the following key decisions:
1. What mitigating action do we take if we go over budget?
2. What action do we take when a vendor is late with a delivery?
3. What happens if a new government regulation impacts new product development?
4. Do we have the capability to take on this new business?
5. How fast can we modify the product road map to anticipate new market competition?
The Power of Role Based Visibility
In 4 key factors affecting the successful deployment of PPM we discuss why visibility is key to providing clarity. Role Based Visibility is all about distilling project information throughout the business, in a format relevant to the viewing audience, for example executives, PMO leaders and individual project managers. This provides individuals the information they need at the time they need it reducing time spent digging through various systems or searching archives. This might include:
1. Ability to cope with reduced budgets and increased expectations
2. Meeting productivity goals consistently
3. Aligning business goals and projects
Portfolio / Program Managers
1. Prioritize initiatives, resources and assets across the project portfolio
2. Assess and communicate portfolio, program and project status
3. Identify and manage inter-project dependencies
4. Ensure consistent processes across the business
5. Optimize key resources across projects
Project / Resource Managers
1. Manage the project delivery process
2. Manage project outcomes and assess project status • Manage scope, planning, verification and change
3. Manage resource demand and supply
Adoption Starts Now
There are many PPM adoption hurdles but gaining buy-in and driving adoption starts long before the implementation or even selection of a ppm tool. The decision team is critical to this long-term benefit because they will be making decisions on behalf of everyone involved. There are four critical components of adoption that begin during the research and selection phase that every PMO should be aware of.
Aligning the PMO to goals and remaining focused on the desired outcome not only brings people together but ensures a common goal. Keeping outcomes in mind and rallying behind a goal has benefits beyond adoption of a tool or process, but is a solid way to guarantee people use the system you select allowing more value to be recognized from your efforts and investment.
Reassuring team members that manual efforts won’t be forever and reiterating the intention behind easing daily tasks helps with the long term adoption of a solution. Many team members might see the effort put forth in evaluating and selecting as burdensome but little extra work upfront will save a lot of time and effort in the long run.
Changing software often requires a degree of process changes but keeping the number of steps or perceived red tape to a minimum will help people onboard and adopt much quicker.
The changes that will inevitably occur with a new software rollout will be much smoother with early communication and evangelization. Echoing the benefits, speaking to individuals rather than always in groups, and communicating the intention as well as the realistic effort will go a long way to keep people engaged and focused on the positives.
Developing Decision Criteria
Many teams will have their own list of requirements and wishes, but of course you likely won’t be able to satisfy them all. Outlining what are deal-breakers and what are niceties will help your team narrow and select a software that meets your needs. Most PPM software solutions offer a number of benefits: centralized data repository, increased visibility into projects and resources, and reduced time spent on manual reporting. How each solution accomplishes these benefits might vary but ultimately there are common benefits from adopting a solution, generally speaking.
But developing a decision criteria requires a layer further than the overarching benefits you are sure to receive. Depending on your specific goals, what is a must-have and what is a nice-to-have might vary. Here are some areas to consider and weigh with your team to determine what is most important to enable your success.
Many companies have certain requirements for procurement and contract sign-off of a new software purchase. If you aren’t regularly involved in evaluating and purchasing software, you might not realize some of the steps required for software approval and purchase. Here are some common stages of corporate purchase and where it might align with the PMO evaluation timeline.
Understanding internal process and steps can help align expectations among the PMO and other lines of business units. While some stages will rely on different stakeholders to lead, others steps require involvement from team members and the decision team. Regardless of what your procurement entails, understanding the steps you will need to take – and aligning those steps with expectations – will ensure an easier process and a successful transition.
To finanlize buy-in, it's important to understand the Project Portfolio Management ROI. Let's explore how to establish a solid return-on-investment in the next installment of Mastering Project Portfolio Management.
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