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Maturing PPM to Improve PMO Confidence

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Application software today is in a state of constant evolution. Project Portfolio Management (PPM) Solutions demand an engaged state of mind both to maintain the configuration, and to ensure alignment of the tool to the evolving practices of the PMO. When these fall out of sync the impacts are felt throughout the business. MI-GSO | PCUBED was engaged by a Public Sector client, to mature and improve the organization’s confidence in their PPM capability. Key question to be answered was “How do we get more value out of our investment?”.

MI-GSO | PCUBED, a Microsoft Gold Level Partner since 2002, has a proven track record of successful PPM implementations, also referred to as Enterprise Project Management (EPM). Over the years we have established a deep understanding of the unique people, process, organizational and technological challenges posed. Our flexible, yet pragmatic approach to defining and implementing EPM solutions, is based on finding the best solution to match the client’s business objectives. The key for success – right sizing the solution to the organization’s program and project management maturity level.

The Background

One of the first steps in setting up your PPM Solution is establishing a clear starting point. The main question posed at the start of any project, even one in flight is “What are you looking to achieve from your PPM Solution?”. For many, “the promise of a PPM platform is that it would consolidate project information into a single repository, improving project planning, reporting and decision making. The right PPM platform could shrink that two-day reporting project into a couple of hours.” But what if it didn’t?

Two people working closely

This was the main challenge faced by our client. So much so that it lead them to recommend the discontinued use of the tool set. So while our team was engaged to mature and improve the organization’s confidence in their PPM capability, our actual starting point was to establish a working solution.

Step 1: Improve Confidence in Existing PPM Solution

The MI-GSO | PCUBED team began by evaluating current configuration compared to the desired usage of the existing system. See related article on managing risk on your PPM deployment – this is number #6. The current Microsoft Project Server deployment suffered from a critical failure and a lack of skills or knowledge to understand next steps in fixing it. The tool was also approaching end-of-life support for Microsoft Project Server 2010, with the team uncertain as to how-to-migrate to future versions. As such, the PMO had recommended to discontinue the use of the tool set.

MS Project Server Project Migration Approach

In its assessment MI-GSO | PCUBED determined that the issues were related to quality of technical delivery and the gaps in change/ release management. Rather than launch additional investment in a new tool, along with the people and process impact with the technology change, the team recommended a Recovery, Proof of Concept and Release approach. If the team could demonstrate with a Proof of Concept (POC) how best practice techniques could successfully deliver the desired functionality, the PMO would be able to get more value out of their existing PPM investment.

Fast forward just a bit and the POC worked. The team developed a comprehensive ‘smart migration’ plan over the next 6 months to capture additional critical functionality. They also cleaned old artifacts and processes, while embedding new ones. To foster early adoption and to ensure the success of the 1st release, the MI-GSO | PCUBED team designed artifacts that were simple to use. This reducing complexity for the existing Microsoft Project Server users. In addition to this, MI-GSO | PCUBED delivered a singular report that allowed detailed visibility of a project status and the ability to access data in real-time.

The Results

  • Restored organisational confidence in Microsoft Project Server and restarted the AGILE cycle of shaping artifacts with a simple 1st release
  • PMO team successfully delivered mandated funding information to the state government, securing funding for critical services
  • Reporting timelines reduced by approx. 50%, and
  • Reduced ongoing demand from PMs to correct or rework data for projects, as Microsoft Project Server artifacts were recording and retaining correct information.

Step 2: Mature PPM capability via Uplift Roadmaps

With a working solution established and confidence restored, MI-GSO | PCUBED was next engaged to create and implement a long term capability improvement roadmap for the PMO. PMI’s Introduction to a Project Portfolio Management Maturity Model highlights that “organizations cannot jump into high levels of EPM, without first executing the steps required to build a firm foundation… or the essential building blocks to support their growth, such as effective scheduling practices and team competency development.”

Key challenges still faced by the client included:

  • Absence of workflows for governance – a lack of decision gates & project information made planning at a PMO level ineffective.
  • Disjointed schedule and resource management – optional resource management created a lack of visibility of capacity & demand at the enterprise resourcing level, driving recruiting and costs
  • Ad-hoc reporting practices – created delays and rework in reporting cycles and affected business intelligence at all levels of the business.

Uplift roadmaps provide a structured approach for PMOs to understand how to phase out the implementation of essential building blocks when undertaking capability development programs. Based on the initial data gathered during the previous engagement, the team was able to quickly agree on a 3 phased approach.

The 3 phases – Visibility, Insights and Control – were designed to tackle some of those key challenges still faced by the client. Over the maturity roadmap, the team would design and release improved artifacts into the Microsoft Project Server PPM Solution and organization, thereby improving the overall performance of the PMO team.

PPM 3 Phased Maturity Approach

PPM Solution Maturity Roadmap

The team then ran several workshops with the client team to scope out and define improvements to the tool set. These enhancements were then broken out in the PPM Solution Maturity roadmap against 4 areas: Functional Scope, Technical Scope, People Scope and Business Change Management.

As one of the failure modes identified during the first engagement was the lack of skills or knowledge regarding the PPM Solution, the team setup a separate workstream for Business Change Management. This workstream was focused on awareness on the capabilities of the solution and the knowledge transferred for people to be able to sufficiently utilized the toolset.

PPM Maturity Roadmap
PPM Maturity Roadmap

During the initial phases of maturation the objective was to further align project registers to processes. The team also sought to introduce workflow driven artifacts for improved governance. The PMO was then equipped with modular reports in PowerBI and SSRS. This introduced 3 tiered reporting that allowed a clearer assessment and planning for project inter dependencies, and also enabled enterprise resource management. Finally, the PMO reduced the paper-printing impact for the agency by creating a portal driven (real-time) access to information and reports.

Step 3: Delivering PMO business intelligence via Power BI Reporting

The next major focus area for the MI-GSO | PCUBED team was to provide expertise to deliver Business Intelligence (BI) capabilities for the PMO.
Changing business dynamics and inter agency relationships required Business Intelligence to drive information to stakeholders and provide real-time access to information. Businesses need access to the right metrics to analyse data, identify issues and implement changes required. Data shows a Business where it has been, while BI enables it to predict where it is going, and to introduce control.

The key objective of this phase was to strengthen sponsorship and remove dependencies on manual analytics and 3rd party tools. Organisational change created an environment where the PMO needed to strengthen support in Townhall meetings and increase the visibility of reports to secure stakeholder buy-in. Presence of new technological enablers from the PPM Solution Maturity Roadmap enhancements for reporting allowed the team to address these new challenges.

PowerBI Dashboard
PowerBI Dashboard

Based on the experience of using Agile approaches to deliver enhancements to the PPM solution in the earlier phases, the delivery team introduced Scaled AGILE techniques for managing this phase of work. Several PowerBI Dashboards were released with key results highlighted below. The team is still releasing additional enhancements with the client.

The Results

  • Tailored maturity improvements via Agile methodology, where a roadmap builds upon each preceding set of artifacts to provide more value to the PMO
  • Improved adoption rate for Microsoft Project Server artifacts due to stakeholder consultation
  • Enterprise visibility of project inter dependencies and impacts on deliverables and outcomes
  • Reduction in PMOs paper based forms and processes by converting simple project registers into intelligent-linked artifacts, and
  • Reduction in PMO FTEs for end of month reporting by leveraging embedded engines to validate and generate reports with minimal intervention.

For more information about this article and MI-GSO | PCUBED



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