Author: Lindsey Marymont

The Business of IT PPM: Putting the business into your portfolio management strategy

Project and portfolio management (PPM) is designed to help organizations deliver on their goals, optimize performance and become more adaptive in a constantly changing business environment.

It is a secret weapon of IT teams to deliver value to the business, become strategically aligned with goals of the organization, and most importantly, show that value through data and reporting. If your organization has been searching for new ways to take advantage of the benefits of IT PPM through the optimization of your PPM strategy, your project management office (PMO) has the tools and the capability to do just that. Focusing on four key areas, your IT PPM can be the biggest influencer in your IT strategy and an extension of the business, rather than just a function of business.

IT helps PMOs manage projects, portfolios and investments collectively by harnessing vast amounts of data, resources and deliverables under one umbrella, then providing tools that support the distillation of that information into meaningful reporting that drives all sort of decision-making. Let’s take a look at the four key ways you can leverage IT PPM to advance business.

1.      Prioritization: The right work at the right times, consistently

In order to realize the benefits of PPM in your business, your organization needs to have a single, integrated prioritization system that takes into account all facets of your operation across all types and sources of work. IT PPM empowers your PMO and other stakeholders with the ability to make informed decisions based on capability, capacity, change readiness and other important business drivers.

This is because IT PPM provides broad visibility into all areas of a portfolio, from deadlines and deliverables, to resources and historic results. In short, your process and technology helps determines what is possible. It is important to recognize that IT implementation is a partnership with a singular goal: the long-term success of the business. While technology determines what is possible, business provides needed context for these prioritized goals.

·         Top down alignment

·         Strategically focused

·         Based on optimizing ROI

·         Balances all sources and types of work

·         Balances innovation and time to solution

·         Eliminates gaps and inefficiencies

Managing your resources while ensuring the right people are deployed to the right projects is the tricky part of project management, which is why PPM can be so helpful in enhancing your overall strategy. Too often, PMOs get stuck in a rut that makes distributing resources more about urgency than accuracy. They can only see the crisis in their immediate vicinity and solving it quickly becomes a singular goal. When you’re putting out a fire, you don’t pause to complain about the type of hose that is handed to you, right?

2. Resources: Optimized utilization, maximize efficiency


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Resourcing should be strategic and future-focused — it must consider the current and future needs, as well as time to prepare. In the midst of change and uncertainty, it is difficult to maintain a long term strategy, but it actually becomes more important to do so. Ensuring your resources align to the projects you have deemed important to the business will ensure you are delivering on those promises. Furthermore, a solid resourcing strategy must also recognize that skills can be just as important as availability when it comes to distribution. It’s not enough to have a warm body at the monitor — each task needs the right taskee to ensure it is performed efficiently. IT PPM helps PMOs balance the distribution of work across all projects and portfolios with a dedicated, single resource pool that includes an exhaustive list of the skills, certificates and capabilities of each team member so no resource is over-utilized or double booked.

Business must go on and IT PPM supports the PMO to curate data on every resource at their disposal and find them quickly and easily when it comes time to assign work. When backed by the prioritization benefit listed above, your PMO can optimize utilization by providing the right resource for the job with zero waste or overlap.

3. Pivots

Rapid, pain-free adjustments

If the developments in the last year have taught us anything, it is that business is not stable. Even the factors we all once considered a foundational element of operations, such as person-to-person meetings, physical offices or fast and simple travel, have collapsed in the face of unprecedented hardships. What we have also learned is that flexibility is the key to survival and that IT is imperative to that flexibility. In a recent Forrester report, analyst Ted Schadler emphasizes this point saying, “Digital has been the only reasonable response to the COVID-19 crisis. And it’s the only reasonable response to the pandemic recession.”1 Many PMO leaders and project managers have learned and lived the power of the pivot and the importance it plays on business today. But the truth is, pivots and change happen all the time and your IT PPM strategy needs to allow for that. Embracing a change culture and instilling measures to support change – rather than reject it – will provide business returns from your project investments.

Technology can be credited with saving thousands of businesses and helping them to pivot during recent shutdowns and dramatic shifts to the way we all do business. In the realm of PPM, technology helps PMOs anticipate, plan for, and quickly roll with the proverbial punches. IT can be leveraged to monitor changes in needs, changes in goals and changes in alignment to make the right changes at the right time in the right way 

4. Control

Oversight and governance without slowing performance.

A common theme of the past three elements is visibility. By providing your PMO the ability to see and understand what is going on in all areas of operation, you are providing them with one of their greatest assets in supporting your business goals: control. IT PPM is automation-driven and results-oriented. Instead of parsing through stacks and stacks of spreadsheets, personnel files and creative briefs, information is gathered digitally and then sorted effectively.

No matter how brilliant your PMO and PMs might be, there is no substitute for the power of technology when it comes to compiling thousands of bits of information, not only making it easily accessible, but contextualizing it into meaningful reports. In short, your PMO can provide effective management that is driven by contextualized insight.

PPM is an excellent way to improve your business and maximize its effectiveness, profitability and positive outcomes. By adding in the benefits of IT PPM, your organization can achieve next-level performance that will help you ensure rock solid footing, even in uncertain times.

1 The Pandemic Recession Demands A Digital Response. Schadler, Ted. 25, June, 2020. https://www.forrester.com/report/The+Pandemic+Recession+Demands+A+Digital+Response/-/E-RES159643?objectid=RES159643

Portfolio Management Trends Heading into 2021

As we close the books on the chaotic year that was 2020, it seems we are all taking a collective sigh of relief.

But before we try to wipe the slate clean and start anew, it is important to reflect on what happened and how we can adjust and improve. Let’s take a look at what happened within the Project Management Office (PMO) and discern how it impacted roles and businesses and reactions to those changes. 

Here are the findings of a survey recently conducted by KeyedIn of more than 200 project and portfolio management professionals.

The State of the Industry

What are the biggest challenges PMO leaders faced in 2020? The survey results revealed that 37% of project practitioners agree resource management is the biggest challenge to their PMO, 30% say that prioritizing which projects should be invested in, while 21% responded visibility and reporting of the portfolio, and finally 12% reported project financial management as the biggest challenge to their PMO.

While these results are not so different from those we have seen in the past, it reinforces the notion that what the PMO is doing is helping the business – they just need to do more of it.  This is evidenced by the results of the question, “What is the biggest challenge you face today with managing your portfolio of projects” –and 45% cited capacity planning, followed by resource allocation (28%), utilization (13%), skills tracking (8%) and managing contractors (5%) as top challenges. Capacity planning is a very mature practice that organizations, especially in times of uncertainty and risk, benefit greatly from the information and services of the PMO that are able to provide this level of planning.

What is the biggest challenge you face today with managing your portfolio of projects?  Resource Management 
Capacity Planning

45%

Managing Contractors 5%
Resource Allocation 28%
Resource Utilization  13%
Tracking Resource Skill  8%

Another key finding that provides insight into PMOs of 2020 and beyond is how they define and measure success. This survey was a first-of-its-kind so it will be interesting to see if this data changes in the coming year, but this year the highest reported metric of success for PMOs was based on delivering on-time and on-budget (30%). This was higher than those delivering the most valuable projects (20%), achieving or exceeding stakeholder expectations (12%), achieving agreed upon “soft” benefits (12%) and driving the business forward (27%).

What was interesting about this piece of information was the disparity between responses from different levels of the organization. While 45% of executive level cited driving business forward as the metric of success and an additional 27% said delivering the most valuable projects with only 18% reporting success defined as delivering on-time and on-budget; PMO leaders were more split on responses with 27% reporting driving business forward as their metric of success, followed by delivering on-time and on-budget (25%) and delivering the most valuable projects (25%). As we look at the project manager level, most respondents (41%) report they are measured based on delivering on-time and on-budget, while few (16%) reported driving business forward as their metric of success. This tells us that many project managers likely focused on delivering projects rather than the impact they had on the overall business.

Executive

Achieving/exceeding stakeholder expectations  9%
Delivering on-time and on-budget  18%
Delivering the most valuable projects  27%
Driving business forward (e.g. revenue growth, cost cutting, etc.) 45% 

PMO/Portfolio Leader

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Achieving agreed-upon “soft” benefits (user feedback, improved efficiency, etc.) 10%
Achieving/exceeding stakeholder expectations  8%
Delivering on-time and on-budget  25%
Delivering the most valuable projects  25%
Driving business forward (e.g. revenue growth, cost cutting, etc.)  27%
(blank) 3%

Project Manager

Achieving agreed-upon “soft” benefits (user feedback, improved efficiency, etc.)  3%
Achieving/exceeding stakeholder expectations 19%
Delivering on-time and on-budget  41%
Delivering the most valuable projects  19%
 Driving business forward (e.g. revenue growth, cost cutting, etc.) 16%
(blank)  3%

One final indicator from the survey of the “state of PMO” can be gleaned from how projects are being prioritized today. As we saw over the last year, the need to have a prioritized list of projects and workload, that can change and be reprioritized quickly, was a strong indicator of success. The agility to pivot when business needs change and contract or expand the number of projects in flight based on changing resource capacity was a high demand for PMO leaders. While in concept this sounds fairly simple, in practice it is very difficult to execute as there are a number of moving pieces and gathering this level of data is not easy, especially for those that had previously operated on a reactive or as needed basis. This level of intel takes months to gather, of course rendering it useless by the time it is ready to be acted on. 

The survey also polled what the common methods of scoring are within PMOs learning that the biggest determining factor of what is most important to work on was — executive order (39% of responses) followed by a basic scoring model (27% of responses), then no official prioritization at all (19%).  For 16% of organizations, a sophisticated scoring model was deployed. When cross referenced with the percentage of projects within the portfolio are failing, there are some interesting trends.  For those that responded that less than 50% of their portfolio was failing, and then their prioritization method evaluated, the results show that those with better scoring models have a greater chance of having more than half of their portfolio considered successful.

Basic high, medium, low priority  89%
In no official capacity – just what needs to get done 52%
Mostly by executive order 77%
We have a sophisticated prioritization method with value-based scoring 96%

The PPM Impact

While the responses of this survey were anonymous and based on PMO leaders of the industry and not KeyedIn customers, we did want to evaluate what the impact a PPM solution might have on some of these organizations. Majority of the responses came from companies that have a formal PMO established (57%) and we were able to evaluate responses based on whether they reported having a PPM solution in place or not. Here are the few critical areas we saw PPM makes a significant impact:

ppm impact

Taking a look as some of the areas that the PMO can make an impact on the business at large, does having a solution can significantly move any levers? Those with a PPM solution report significantly higher levels of alignment of their projects and portfolio with strategic business objectives – 56% to 80% as noted above. The failure at the portfolio level also decreases significantly with the use of a PPM solution from 43% to 14%. 

When looking at prioritization, even with the implementation of a basic model, there was a significant impact on success rates (from 51% reporting success on at least half of the portfolio to 84%), and a higher number of PMOs using scoring among the respondents that have a formal PPM solution. When evaluating how PMOs measured success, organizations that seek to drive business objectives or those delivering on benefits (as opposed to simply delivering on-time and on-budget) was more prevalent among those organizations with a PPM solution present – assuming it is easier to define those business driving metrics and capture data to support those key milestones with a system in place. 

The last key area that was compared was around project failure, taking a look at not just how many projects fail (from 49% reporting less than half of the portfolio is failing with those using anything but formal PPM, up to 78% with less than half failing for those with PPM), but also the reason for project failure which reduced the projects reporting failure due to no clear objectives, no executive support, and not enough resources (common project problems that can be avoided with proper solutions in place) from 68% to 53% among those without PPM and those with it.

2021 and Beyond

As we head into a new year with new outlook and learnings, there is a lot at stake for portfolio leaders and a great opportunity as business is both relying on their services and the impact has never been greater. The full report on the survey findings can be accessed here: https://go.keyedin.com/projects/the-2021-pmo-outlook-report