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Andy Parsons

Andy Parsons

September 2018

PPM

That age old question - why is it so difficult to get people to engage with a PPM tool?

Of course, PPM is the answer to all (nearly!) of our problems because it provides a structure and a set of modules that enable us to do everything, all in one go: Project planning, resource management, risk & issue management, portfolio planning. Oh yes, and all of our Executive reporting. Or maybe not.

I have worked in many different companies over a long career and seen endless companies battling with a perception of poor value and low adoption with their PPM tool and normally I see them cursing the tool and the PMO.

So what's the problem? Is it the PPM tool? Is it the processes the tool is supporting? Or is it the people?

In my experience, the PPM tool normally 'does what it says on the tin,’ but the problem is often a combination of symptoms that are simply facts of life. So, to get people using your PPM tool, follow our five-step guide:

1. Prioritise your customers of the PPM tool outputs

Think through who your audiences for the outputs are, then identify your priority ‘customers’ of the PPM tool? You won’t be able to do everything for everyone so be decisive about where your priorities lie. For example:

  • Executive team (Priority 1): visibility of the portfolio, promote strong accountability and decision making, and good engagement with the portfolio
  • Portfolio Managers (Priority 2): Prioritise the portfolio, capacity plan and manage the effective delivery of the portfolio
  • Delivery Team (Priority 3): drive the projects, reduce time spent on and automate regular reporting

2. Give priority customers what they want and focus on outcomes

Spend time analysing your priority customers and the outcomes that will give the audience what they want. As an example, if your priority customer is the exec team of sponsors and stakeholders, remember they don’t like or want text book project artefacts, so their requirements are likely to be:

  • “Keep project information concise, consistent and visual”
  • “Give me simple access to the data (on my iPad) and an easy user interface”
  • “Let me view the data in multiple different cuts based on what I want/need”

3. Ensure physical engagement with the PPM tool itself

It's important to run meetings directly off the platform rather than relying on the usual PowerPoint slides. It focuses the mind on the quality of input when you have to stand in front of your own data and qualify it. But remember, it doesn’t look great when someone stands up in front of an exec member in a review meeting with a section of the platform that hasn’t been filled in, and it shouldn’t happen twice.

Also, send proactive update alerts that ask execs to click a URL that will take them straight through to the right place where the information is sitting.

4. Keep processes and input requirements simple

Don’t over complicate the PMO processes and requirements – keep them simple and manageable for both your pool of trained PMs and operational people who aren’t project trained. Also ensure the input user interface is simple and user friendly to avoid negative feedback about the level of difficulty and time it takes to input data.

5. Accept the facts of life…. and adapt

You will always have some external PMs who don’t know your PPM and therefore don’t fill it in. You'll also always have a percentage of normal operational people running projects who aren't project trained. Your team will always have preferred tools that they feel help them successfully deliver projects, and you won’t change their preferences easily.

It's important not to get trapped between the promises on the outside of the PPM box and the actual operating environment you have in your business. Concentrating on the principles of keeping things simple and pragmatic and prioritising who you are trying to please is the key to success with a PPM tool.

Remember that you can’t do everything. Far too many expectations of PPM tools are over-engineered and try to conform to textbook portfolio methodologies rather than what the Exec want or the business really needs. It's therefore crucial to keep it simple and make everyones' lives easier.

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