Jan 3, 2013

Dust Off Your Brain - It's the Finest PPM Software Ever Invented

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin in Culture & Change Management, Portfolio Management, Strategy Execution | 1 Comment

When is PPM software like an exercise machine?

In a conversation with colleagues the other day, it was noted that in many companies where project portfolio management (PPM) has been established, there is still frustration and confusion regarding analysis and reporting. The flow of data collected by the software and the variety of reporting options can apparently be overwhelming. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I proposed that this might be the result of trying to start a PPM implementation with a tool, instead of starting with the intellectual framework.

Improving portfolio management by purchasing software is kind of like improving your health by buying an exercise machine. Exercise machines work well if you use them correctly, of course. But many people use them as coatracks, a purpose for which they also serve quite well, although the effect on your health in that case will be negligible!

Lots of research has shown that getting in shape is more a project of the mind, than of any technology you can throw at it. You have to analyze your habits – what you eat, how you spend leisure time, daily patterns, ways you mislead yourself (“I know I’m on a diet but THESE cupcakes are low-fat!”). Then you have to reconstruct the framework of those daily habits to include enough exercise and less-than-enough of the habits that erode your health. Once you’ve wrapped your mind around eating right, reducing stress, and increasing exercise, THEN you are ready to apply any tools that make sense, from a juicer to a rowing machine. You’re set for success.

Similarly, the adoption of a tool for PPM can sometimes initially cause more problems than it solves IF the hard questions have not yet been asked and answered. Some of those might be:

  • Do we have an achievable strategy?
  • Have we figured out how to put it into action, via projects or programs that directly link to strategic goals?
  • For each of those projects or programs, do we know what metrics to gather so that the numbers tell the story that will help us make good business decisions?
  • Just as important, do we understand which metrics are “red herrings” that we either don’t want to gather or can ignore because knowing them does not result in any useful understanding?
  • Is everyone, from strategy planners to the project admin, on the same playing field, working toward the same goalpost – and communicating with each other?

Some of the communication mentioned in that last item can be in the form of reports, of course. But reporting for the sake of using the report function in the software – even if it drives your audience nuts – isn’t really communication.

Remember, in the phrase “PPM Software” management comes before software. Otherwise you end up managing the software (or really, letting it manage you) instead of the portfolio. Questions that require judgment (“What’s more important to our company: Speed or quality?”) cannot be answered by software.  You have to wrap your mind around them before you apply a tool.

(And, as in dieting, you have to avoid the treat trap: “I know it’s not in the budget, but this one project is ‘the boss’s cupcake’!”)

 Happy and prosperous New Year wishes to you ... and your entire portofolio ... from all of us at PM Solutions.


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1 Comment on Is Better PPM Among Your 2013 Resolutions?

Samir Penkar says:

How true Jeannette! So many folks jump to the tool faster than the blink of an eye. PMOs spend millions trying to implement a tool and yet don’t make that mind shift as you are saying.

Samir Penkar

Posted on January 12, 2013 at 8:42 pm

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