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Andy Parsons

Andy Parsons

May 2019

PPM| Blog

PPM Implementation – Choose the fast lane or the slow lane?

When it comes to Project Portfolio Management (PPM) tools, you have no shortage of choices. There are many vendors with viable products out there, and they all have enticing features displayed on the box. But how do you decide which one will work best in your organisation and which will best enable you to quickly implement a really valuable set of features? Do you, for example, try and capture perfection before you start, by defining a full set of requirements in every detail? Or do you let speed and urgency dictate your choice, and steam right ahead? After all, you can always change things later. They are two very different approaches. And they can present a dilemma.

There are pros and cons to both options. Take, for example, the steaming-right-ahead approach. While speed of implementation is high on the priority list with most portfolios, moving ahead too quickly can lead to problems. Not taking the time, for instance, to form a clear understanding of what you need from your PPM solution (PM Functionality, Exec Reporting, Decision Making etc.) and what you want to achieve in terms of success criteria, can easily result in starting off on the wrong foot. And putting the situation right, in terms of users’ perceptions of a tool, can be time consuming. Furthermore, some PPM solutions do not offer the flexibility to adapt dynamically to new criteria.

To adopt the other approach, can also be self-defeating. It can be very easy to make the common mistake of over-complicating your requirements at the expense of forgetting what outcomes you and your executive team really need to add value. Success criteria can be much simpler than you might think. It’s important to challenge yourselves over what outcomes you really need from a tool in your environment - don’t get seduced by functionality and features that you may never use for whatever reason.

Of course, it can be tempting to look for perfection from the very start. But to do so means that you are very likely – unless you work in a very mature organisation – to condemn the PPM tool implementation to a future of permanently defining requirements, re-analysing options and slow (or zero) progress. It was once famously said of military planning that “no plan ever survives contact with the enemy’, and it’s true in implementing PPM tools too – the first steps of implementation almost always result in a need to revise and evolve the solution. So, it makes sense not to spend too much time in the planning phase.

So, what's the answer? Well, there is a middle way: a way which, almost always, delivers optimum results, quickly and efficiently. It’s an adaptive, flexible approach, in which you learn as you go. At Kivue, we call this the TLE (Try, Learn, Evolve) methodology and it releases value and benefits from the tool to the business in an agile (with a small ‘a’) way. As a guide, you should be aiming to release the first phase of tangible benefits within 2-4 weeks.  This gives momentum to the tool’s rollout and forms a high level of perceived value in the PMO because results are visible, and the executive(s) who authorised the investment can see the value for themselves.  In our experience, confirmed by what we hear from other sources, most clients find that this approach yields a final set up that’s significantly different to what they might have initially sketched out on paper – but actually produces a much better result.

If flexibility is to be integral to your project methodology, you obviously need to use tools which support that flexibility.  Our own Project Management tool, Perform, has earned a reputation for helping change leaders delivery portfolios easily and successfully. By supporting fast, easy implementation and simple reconfiguration, it means that PMO leaders no longer have to define/refine processes before selecting a tool – they can start their change journey whenever they like and reconfigure Perform dynamically as understanding and the needs of the business evolves.

Of course, Perform offers much more than this, such as a radically new and innovative approach to reporting and decision-making support. But here isn’t the place to describe the tool in detail – if you’d like to know more, you can find it here. For now, we’ll simply reiterate the main theme of this post:

  • Make sure you understand what you want to achieve
  • Don’t over-plan.
  • Choose a solution that will easily adapt as your project evolves
  • Learn as you go.

There is a saying that fortune favours the brave. You’ll find that it's certainly true in the world of Project Management tools.  

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