Andy Parsons

Andy Parsons

September 2018


PPM is not the problem

We have been delivering change in all sorts of organisations for over 15 years and not discovered one PPM deployment (yet!) that enables businesses to roll up portfolio information quickly and effectively. That means businesses are wasting vital time and failing to satisfy the executive team’s need for visibility of the performance of their portfolio.

How many PPM deployments have reverted back to little more functionality than timesheet recording? My observation is that it is not the PPM tool at fault, but a series of practical facts of life:

  • Most companies have a significant transient element of the project delivery team who need training on the PPM tool to make it work
  • PPM tools will 'do what it says on the tin' but getting all the inputs in at the bottom end is difficult across a programme, more so across a function/division, and virtually impossible across a large organisation
  • Most project managers have their preferred project planning tools and they will always revert to what they know and like best
  • Many project managers will define a project plan well but not keep it current and up to date

Rather than spending too much time worrying about this, put your focus into improving the engagement your PPM solution allows, and keep it simple.

1. Increased exec visibility increases value

My view....there are certain 'facts of life' which are endemic and if you don't work around them, you can end up spending vast sums of money, energy and resource with limited return on investment and a lot of frustration - explore alternatives! 

It's important to ensure that portfolio information is available to your exec team on the devices they always have with them with no more than one click, wherever they are in the world. You then need to ensure the data presented is visually engaging rather than text based, is concise and dynamic, allowing them to drill into deeper layers of detail as and when.

2. Adopt a visual style that compliments the detail in your PPM tool

Most execs want to ‘get the gist’ in 20 seconds, not 2 hours. Delivering this is reliant on simple graphics that represent performance and generate more discussion.

People generating reports can prefer to try to report progress as 'green,' presenting the image that 'all is rosy in the garden.' However, execs generally want to know what is 'red' and what they need to worry about. So focus on what the exec wants to see, not what you want to tell them. 

Furthermore, most execs are turned off by two-page text-based project reports, so instead give them simple dashboards but enable them to drill into the detail if they want to. Good visual formats enable them to determine the areas of the portfolio they are interested in within seconds - without searching through the detail initially.

3. Run exec-level meetings directly off your portfolio reporting platform

Running meetings directly off a reporting platform drives better quality input into not only the platform itself but also, and much more importantly, the PPM tool. 

Presenting to an Exec off a portfolio report with blank spaces is not good for a project manager’s health, and normally only happens once! Running meetings directly off the reporting platform will help you kill off the 'slide and spreadsheet industry’ that tends to frustrate exec members.   

4. Simplify the exec-level user interface for a ‘high level’ view of portfolio performance

One touch access to portfolio information on execs' preferred devices is crucial, so look to cloud-based systems with appropriate security to enable easy access anywhere, anytime. Ensure you bookmark the URL for your reporting platform on your execs' laptop or iPad so the data is there for them anytime without having to think about it.

5. Separate ‘driving portfolio and projects’ from ‘performance tracking'

Ensure you drive projects using your existing PPM tool or standard project management tools/templates. Also adopt a solution that doesn’t rely on all project managers filling all the detail in to get sensible portfolio information to the Exec. It’s a good idea in principle - but often almost impossible in practice - to work on portfolios of more than 20-30 projects.

Furthermore, cutting and pasting information from the PPM tool into slide templates doesn’t make sense, so you need to find a better solution and potentially integrate with your PPM tool.

For an overview of an exec portfolio performance tracking solution that complements PPM tools, watch the video below:


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