Five Steps Towards PMO Success

Ideally, it’s a centralized hub for organizing processes; managing special projects; and facilitating the free flow of information across your enterprise. The ultimate Project Management Office (PMO) is a model of defined and aligned processes, with results tracking and transparency to match. Try these tips for project management success.

ONE:  Make business processes defined—and repeatable. Bringing in a project on-time and on-budget once is a combination of good project management and a little bit of luck; consistently executing projects successfully, time after time, is a hallmark of PMO perfection. Take an opportunity to explicitly define your processes as they stand today. Often, things are simply done the way they’ve always been done, without defining the steps and desired outcomes. Worse, and possibly more commonly, different people do different things in different ways, each time.

Get a handle on what happens and how, then weed out those that don’t work consistently. Finally, ensure that the rest are truly replicable. In doing so, you’ll join good company; a growing number of businesses now have formal Project Portfolio Management (PPM) processes in place, rising from 64% in 2003 to 71% in 2013. (Source: 1. The State of Project Portfolio Management PPM 2013 PM Solutions Research)

TWOBreak down departmental silos. A second mark of PMO maturity is the ability to look antagonistically at the needs of the business as a whole, rather than view projects solely thorough disparate departmental lenses. Are your business processes truly aligned with supporting the way your company runs today? Even more importantly, will those processes support the growth and innovation required to take the business to the next level tomorrow.

Make a renewed effort to examine when and where projects cross organizational lines. For example, how should efforts to implement and leverage CRM or digital marketing initiatives intersect to create a more effective outcome for all departments involved? Taking a broader view can help open your eyes—and demonstrate to leadership—how important the PMO’s efforts are to the business as a whole.

THREE: Maximize effective technology. Even the best project manager can’t be everywhere all the time. Moving beyond spreadsheets or traditional project management software to a cloud-based solution can provide governance controls, facilitate communication between project managers and corporate stakeholders, and promote consistency in methodology and best practices.

In addition, the ability to track metrics more transparently than ever before will pay dividends when you’re called on to demonstrate results and value.

FOUR:  Be a traffic director rather than a bottleneck. The centralization of information within the PMO provides the possibility of developing organization-wide performance indicators and operational figures. Yet that accumulation of information can mean that project managers become bottle-necks rather than information facilitators.

Think of new ways to channel the right information to the right people at the right time, and your perceived value to the organization will increase dramatically.

FIVE:  Position project management as a source of competitive advantage. With reliable and replicable processes in place; the transparency to see projects and progress from an organization-wide perspective; and the tools to demonstrate results and value, you have everything you need to elevate the visibility of the PMO and position it as a source of competitive advantage for your company.

Imagine giving leadership the confidence to pursue new innovation strategies, retire costly legacy systems or kick-start new organizational processes that will reduce cost or drive organic growth. A corporate culture that recognizes the value of project management and treats it as a critical core capability is a stronger organization than one that views project management as a transactional function.

While the old adage that “practice makes perfect” may be true, by following these tips, you can make your project management function that much more successful.

 

 

Different is Better

By Kevin Kern, CEO of Innotas

dare to be different resized 600 One of the questions that “C level” executives often get asked is what keeps them up at night? What are the addressable critical components for the role that ostensibly determine success or failure? Careers are made or vaporized if these questions aren’t contemplated, answered, planned, and then executed. The question that keeps me up at night is how we can be different and stand out in a crowded marketplace.

I read a fantastic article by Christopher Lochhead on behalf of Sandhill.com

In the high- tech business, it’s always easy to rely on the conventional fallback position of feature/ function, or who builds the better mouse trap. Clearly, a defensive position, but not always the right strategy for success. If that were all there was to it, Sequent, DEC, Wang, and Pyramid Technologies would certainly still be in business. They were fantastic technologies loaded with rich functionality. Unfortunately, each of them perhaps failed to realize that the basic problem they were solving was not simply speeds and feeds but the creation of a new paradigm for computing technologies. Technologies that shouldn’t simply cater to the Fortune 500 firms, but to all markets.

Pardon the over simplification, but they failed at becoming different instead they focused on being better. They sold to the same companies that HP, IBM et.al tried to sell to in the same fashion. The world of the mouse trap was enticing.

The real challenge becomes how to market and sell any disrupting technology and vision, rather than simply the company or a product. Lead and you will find followers. Today, with so many choices for IT to evaluate, how can any “C level” executive determine which move to make unless the choice is positioned differently?

From our earliest days here at Innotas, we have been consistent with our belief that IT Governance was a concept that that was different from simple PPM or APM. Project management was one stop on the road to IT Governance and this concept is non-negotiable to IT personnel if they wish to revel in the accolades that the business users want to garner them with.

The Innotas market perspective from our beginnings was always to be different, relevant, and supportive of the process for IT Governance. Our multi-tenant architecture was disruptive; our support model and subject matter expertise culture is known throughout our industry. We have always, and will continue to understand the challenges of working towards the holy grail of IT governance. This is what keeps us awake at night.

Now you can sleep.

The changing role of the CIO – From Technologist to Business Strategist

An article published by CIO.com about the modern day CIO and the challenges that they face resonated with us for several reasons.  First, the talent pool for the position as ascribed in the article differs a bit from years past.  Secondly, the characteristics and requirements for this role are shifting and lastly, the expectations for the modern day CIO, by business leaders has evolved prompting a new paradigm for staffing the position.

The CIO requirements for today’s IT leaders consist of stronger business acumen versus the traditional technical proficiencies required in past years. It’s not good enough to be a guru in technology given the business demands and decisions that CIO’s are responsible for in today’s fluctuating environment.  Consider the impact on IT with the new cloud computing offerings that are being introduced into the marketplace.  If you believe that most of the sustaining, non strategic work that CIO’s were chartered with managing in past years is now being outsourced then it follows that the skill set would probably demand modification.

One of the past challenges for CIO’s was always to have a “seat at the table” when it came to impacting business strategy and direction but often could take years to gain the trust of senior management.  Things have changed.

Today’s executives are far more tech savvy and don’t require as much hand holding.  The technology skill set once required to source CIO’s will continue to shift from traditional technology backgrounds to other management functions.  The importance of connecting the advantages of technology to real business problems is now a critical characteristic of the makeup of the modern day CIO.  Buying and using technology for the sake of it is a dead thought process in 2011.  Connecting the dots between the tools and the value to users is here to stay.

The impact of globalization, recession, cloud computing, and IT governance requirements on CIO’s today are impacting the role and the skill set for the better.  IT should always have a “seat at the table” to ensure that the available technologies are impacting the business in the right ways.

Big changes ahead to be sure, but the one thing that won’t change is the importance of the CIO role to any organization regardless of the shifting demands of the position.

Resource Management: It’s Not About Saying “No” …It’s About Saying a Strong “Yes!”

Let’s face it, we are all being asked to do more with less.  Yet, most organizations do not take the proper resource planning steps for their IT departments.  The result – misalignment with corporate or organization goals and IT becoming the bottleneck.  Don’t worry, you aren’t the only one. According to a survey posted on ProjectManagement.com, 51% of organizations feel that resource allocation is their single biggest challenge.  This is not a surprise, I have never come across an organization that has enough resources to manage their entire project demand.  As markets evolve, customers change, and organizations pivot, it is impossible to forecast the number of requests that you may get throughout the year.  These requests range from change orders, to infrastructure improvements, to new projects, all adding to your organization’s bottom line.

Although there is not a simple, quick fix solution, there are several steps that you can take.  For example, an IT executive or IT management should be looking at the entire project portfolio while focusing on prioritizing requests and resourcing projects. By exercising Project Portfolio Management (PPM) on the organization as a whole, one is able to get a bird’s eye view on resource capacity and demand.  This is valuable when you are trying to assess “what if” scenarios and make key strategic decisions. Typically, most organizations will ask the question: “What if I move Bob off of Project A, what will happen to the timeline of the project?”  This may be the correct question to ask, but only provides limited value.  What are you going to do with Bob? How will Bob affect his new project?  A more strategic way of looking at your resource (Bob) would be to ask the following: “What if I move Bob from Project A to Project B? What will happen to both project timelines, Bob’s overall capacity, and the overall resource capacity for my organization?  Will I have a better chance of hitting my demand?” By asking these questions and taking control of your entire portfolio, one is able to make better and more informed decisions – adding more value to your organization.

So how specifically will a Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solution help with your resource management challenges? A good PPM solution will assist in performing the following analysis:

Capacity Planning
Much like financial models depend on having good data, so does effective Resource Management.  Starting off by understanding what the “true capacity” of your team is imperative.  It is easy to say 40 hours per week per person, but this does not take into account holidays, administrative time, or out of office time (due to travel, sick days, customer engagements, etc).  Although hard to measure, true capacity should also take into the type of resource (FT vs. PT), role (project manager vs. developer), skills, and experience.  By understanding the availability and the profile of each resource, you can accurately analyze capacity.

Demand Planning
Demand is best categorized as “true workload.”  This means quantifying project workload and adding it to the overall operational workload.  This is where many organizations stumble – underestimating the operational workload portion of the overall demand.  More often than not, as managers we tend to focus on the “new” projects and marginalize the workload requirements for keeping the business running (operations).

Resource Optimization
Optimization is realized when capacity and demand is aligned, humming in tune.  Your projects are in line with the organization’s strategy, your team is busy and not overcommitted, you are upholding commitments to the business, and you are able to point to how your team is adding value to the organization (i.e. working on that important project).  Optimization needs to be looked at constantly as the variables (capacity and demand) change or evolve.  Having tools that allow you to see different project scenarios and outcomes as you toggle, push out, or change resources and projects is vital.  Creating these “what if” scenarios will help in further optimizing your resources and project portfolio – are your resources working on strategic projects that progress the company or stuck on maintenance or legacy type projects for soon to be end-of-life systems?

Resource management is a tough nut to crack and you will never have enough resources to keep up with your demand.  At some point, you will have to say “no” to something and prove that your resources are working on the most important and strategic projects.  The best way to handle saying “no” is with a stronger “yes.”  A high quality Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solution will enable yourself and your team to say stronger “yes’s” by seeing the entire project portfolio – not just individual project capacity and demand – and engaging in more strategic discussions about resource management.

 

 

Key Project Management Trends to Watch in 2014

Last year, we predicted that in 2013 we would see the three Cs: Consolidation, Change and Collaboration—and we most certainly did. These forces will no doubt continue to shape the project management landscape in the year ahead. Yet trends on the horizon point to a renewed focus on the alignment of IT operations and strategic business goals. In addition, competition in all markets will continue to place pressure on both optimization and innovation. Savvy professionals can stay ahead of the curve by keeping the following project management (PM) trend predictions in mind as they craft strategies for 2014 and beyond: 

  • Business Value and Business Technology Optimization: Enterprises will continue to increase focus on the value that IT and PMOs bring to the business—not solely what these departments are costing the company. Rather than cost-cutting, we’ll start to see more companies invest IT dollars more effectively, by moving away from legacy, on-premise Project Portfolio Management (PPM) and Application Portfolio Management (APM) solutions, and into the Cloud.
  • Relevant Metrics and Analytics: As PM becomes even more sophisticated and critical to companies’ success, it will no longer be enough to create reports and dashboards to share with key stakeholders. The value of the PMO and the work that IT does will be micro-analyzed; measurable results will be essential to validating the PMO and IT as valued partners who contribute to the success of the business overall. Therefore, investing in solutions that provide relevant, detailed visibility and transparency will become “table stakes”—a required investment—in determining the value of these departments.
  • Project, Application and Resource Management will be viewed as a trio: There will continue to be  less tolerance for failed projects. In this environment, the PMO must do more than just manage applications or projects. A key driver will be leveraging smart resource allocation to allow executive teams to drive innovation to create competitive advantage in the marketplace.
  • Integrating Critical Business Systems with existing solutions will be key to companies’ success: It seems a simple credo, but it’s challenging to achieve in practice: People should be allowed to work in environments that enable the most productivity. A necessary step toward creating this ideal environment is integration between systems. A nice perk when it worked in the past, integration among PM and critical business systems such as Agile Solutions and ERP systems is now a significant requirement, particularly given the plethora of mergers and acquisitions that took place last year.
  • The rise of the Application-Centric World and the Knowledge Worker: We’ve moved from an era of homogeneity to heterogeneity. In the post-PC era, the focus is no longer on hardware and operating systems; it’s all about applications. Our lives are run now by applications, not restricted by platforms. At the same time, this increased mobility will continue to drive a new definition of a “Knowledge Worker”.  Entire industries will also be redefined, as the post-PC era will create 1.3 billion Knowledge Workers in the next five years alone. We are in an exploding phase, and new application-based technologies are creating untold opportunities we can all take advantage of—including IT departments.
  • The role of the CIO continues to evolve: Because business processes are becoming increasingly complex and applications are composites of many interdependent IT applications and services, CIOs must become shamans leading the right development for the right business reasons. In a dramatic and strategic shift, they will move from being optimizers of processes to managers of Portfolios. They will be accountable for the return on investments by Portfolio—not simply the successful execution of individual projects or application work. 
  • Enterprise Applications will be significantly influenced by the demand for easier-to-use and faster-to-deploy requirements: Amazon, Apple, Google and many others have changed the way we consume applications. These visionary companies incited a new wave of user-friendliness demands, which are now translating into similar demand for requirements in IT enterprise offerings.  Complex is out, simple is in. These new mandates will certainly put pressure on both IT departments and vendors who sell to IT, to evolve to survive and thrive.

As these trends illustrate, in the next three to five years project management professionals will witness some of the most challenging and innovative opportunities that technology and the business environment have to offer. Those who are ready to take advantage of the new paradigms and realities will be inspired by the challenges, and driven to make the most of the opportunities, that lie ahead. Fortunately, awareness of how the world is changing around us is the first step to getting there. By keeping an eye on the key trends, 2014 can be a year of improved efficiency, value and impact for you and your organization. 

Trends in the Cloud: What 2014 Will Bring

While cloud computing ostensibly makes us more efficient, it has yet to make us omniscient. However, key trends are emerging that merit attention in 2014 to fully leverage the power of the cloud, particularly by effectively managing project and application portfolios. Those organizations that can capitalize on the potential that these trends promise for businesses will be ahead of the curve going into 2014 and beyond.

Optimization, Innovation and Integration

The year ahead is likely to bring a continued and renewed focus on the alignment of application development and strategic business goals. As competition in all industries and markets continues to intensify, smart businesses will recognize the value that IT and Portfolio Management functions bring to the organization, rather than focusing on solely on costs. In lieu of reduced spending, companies will once again focus more investments around cloud application offerings like Application Portfolio and Project portfolio solutions. We also believe that by implementing projects, resource management, and portfolio management solutions within the cloud, companies will continue to prosecute increased visibility and meaningful operational views to run the business.  Nothing earth shattering here. We think it will be more of the same but with a laser focus on process improvements

Finally, while it seems like a simple idea, achieving these outputs can be elusive amidst multiple mergers and acquisitions: Knowledge workers should be allowed to work in environments that enable the most productivity. Integrating critical business systems such as Agile Solutions and ERP systems with existing solutions in the cloud will be a key ingredient in improving efficiency and productivity, contributing significantly to companies’ overall success.

Apps and Mobile Redefining IT

We’ve moved from an era of homogeneity to heterogeneity. The focus is no longer on hardware and operating systems; our lives are run now by applications, and the platform delivery is secondary. Visionary companies like Amazon, Apple and Google have changed the way we consume applications, creating a wave of demand for intuitive user-friendliness. This expectation is now translating into similar requirements for easier-to-use, faster-to-deploy IT enterprise offerings. Complex is out, simple is in, and the cloud is the place where common platforms, security, storage and functionality can converge to meet these demands.

At the same time, the increased mobility generated by our app-centric culture is driving a new definition of a “Knowledge Worker”.  Eventually, entire industries will be redefined, as the post-PC era results in the creation of 1.3 billion Knowledge Workers in the next five years alone. We are currently in an explosive phase which we believe will continue for many years. The new application-based technologies that are being developed to take advantage of knowledge worker’s skills and the power of the cloud will create abundant opportunities we can all take advantage of—including IT departments.

The Role of the CIO Continues to Evolve

Business processes are becoming increasingly complex. Applications are no longer stand-alone solutions, but composites of many interdependent IT applications and services. To effectively navigate this environment, CIOs will have to act as shamans, leading the right development for the right business reasons. This will be a continued area of focus and improvement.

In a dramatic and strategic shift, they will move from being optimizers of processes to managers of portfolios. Cloud-based solutions will be an important component in providing the transparency and visibility into interdependencies, progress and metrics that CIOs will demand. The stakes are high, because CIOs will not only be held accountable for the successful execution of projects or application work, but also for the return on IT investments by portfolio. We see this event as a major shift over the next several years.

Exciting Trends, Extraordinary Opportunities

As these trends illustrate, 2014 and the next three to five years will bring some of the most challenging and innovative opportunities that technology and marketplaces have to offer. They will almost certainly put pressure on both IT departments, (and vendors who sell to IT), to evolve in order to survive and thrive. Those who are ready to take advantage of the new paradigms will be inspired by these challenges to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead. Those who don’t risk compromising their competitive edge in an environment where it’s more important now to compete effectively..

Fortunately, cultivating an awareness of how the world is changing around us, and an appreciation for the almost infinite possibilities and answers to challenges that the future holds, are the beginnings of achieving great accomplishments. By keeping an eye on these key trends, 2014 can be a year of improved efficiency, value, and impact of increased productivity for organizations.

Finding the Silver Lining in IT

After recently reading a compelling article posted by Jack Rosenberger at CIO Insight, it occurred to me that there hasn’t been a material change within Information Technology Departments over the course of the last several years.  Certainly the technology and skill sets have evolved, but not the core tenets of how IT operates and the challenges they continue to wrestle with on a regular basis.

The article refers to Michelle Baily’s (of the 451 research firm) interesting observation, that while the economy is improving IT spending hasn’t matched the growth.  Additionally, the return to IT spending of days gone by hasn’t yet materialized which has cannibalized to a certain extent, innovation.  She further implies, and we agree, that many of the major projects today are based on cost cutting and consolidation of IT, or often politely referred to as optimization of the business.

She correctly points out that IT usually measures itself on costs which inevitably lead to IT being viewed as a cost center.  We at Innotas have repeatedly pointed out to our prospects and customer base that our mission is to drive IT from being viewed strictly as a cost center and evolving into a “value center” many times in the past.

There have been many articles written about the value of applying the same rigor to maintenance activities as applied to strategic projects, and while we think that’s a good start, and we support that paradigm with our application portfolio tool, we are of the belief that innovation happens when there is a shift from optimization or cost controls, to value creation with strategic projects that impact the business and move it forward.  It takes a strong CIO and team to make that argument.  We don’t always see that and agree that the time is now while money is cheap and the economy recovers.

All too often we hear that IT staff is swamped and cannot spend the time deploying a system which helps them prioritize, rationalize, catalogue score and deliver work on time and on budget.  This remains one of the great mysteries today.  So much has been written about why IT projects fail because of a lack of shared goals, vision, objectives, executive support and quantifying business value that it makes one’s head spin.  These are not new concepts and have been around for a very long time.

So the question is why not begin again?  If you want to fill your bottle up with lightning you have to stand in the rain.  Time to step up.  We will be waiting.

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Herding Cats and Other Epic Challenges: The Project Manager’s Guide to Life

Has simply managing your projects become a major hassle? Without proper visibility, analytics, and goal alignment, no great feat can be accomplished. And once a project manager is no longer able to actually manage your projects, it can quickly seem as if your entire job has become a bit of a cliché. Take a look at the challenges you’re bound to deal with, and see how easily your struggles can be resolved.

Innotas_Herding-Cats-and-other-Epic-Challenges-lh

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If you would like to read the eBook, click here

Rethinking Your Flight Plan: Air Traffic Control Provides a Model for Successful IT Portfolio Management

Nearly 30,000 planes safely navigate the United States airspace daily. It isn’t sheer luck that’s keeping our skies friendly-it’s a highly complex system known as Air Traffic Control (ATC), designed to monitor and manage the countries moving elements to ensure the safety of all passengers and aircrafts. Proper visibility and communication are key components keeping air travelers from potential disaster. So how, you might ask, does ATC relate to IT Portfolio Management?

Infographic_FlightPlan3

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If you would like to read the eBook, click here

How IT Can Ensure the Transition from Cost Center to Value Center

A recent article in Computer World asks ten questions of IT on how to stimulate discussions about technology creating and adding value to the business.  One of those questions resonated with us and speaks to why IT Portfolio management can be such a critical step in achieving the desired outcomes of business alignment. This was the question:

Do our business plans reflect the full potential of technology to improve performance?

Often technology expenses can be considered too high by the business partially because they don’t always understand the relationship between cost and value.  In reality, if those expenses are compared to the potential for performance improvement to the business, we are fairly certain that the expense woes would be mitigated by the “ROI” of the investment.

Easier said than done but you’ve got to start somewhere.  Planning work and allocating resources to the requests that align with the business goals is what PPM/APM was built for.  We often hear that companies and departments are “too busy” and there are “other competing priorities” to plan for a process and a tool that supports visibility to all the work IT is challenged with.   While we have no doubt this is true we also believe that history repeats itself if it’s not studied and challenged.  The old way of tactically approaching work has shifted by using Portfolio Management tools.

The article states that” on average, large IT projects run 45 percent over budget and 7 percent over time, while delivering 56 percent less value than predicted”  There are many other studies that support this notion.

Performance improvement comes in a variety of ways with several data points and metrics.  The key is to start with the end in mind.  Understand what the desired outcome of any project is and be specific, how much time is required to build or develop, keep a sharp eye on costs and report on all of it. In short, understand the problems, and then begin to solve with defined quick wins.

Technology alone delivers no value. It’s the combination of a clear strategy, the right technology, high-quality data, appropriate skills, and lean processes that adds up to create value. Any weak link in this chain will lead to poor value delivery from IT.

All of this thought process is known and standard within the industry, but the challenge is real time visibility into all of the above. As the character Morpheus recounts in the movie the Matrix, “knowing the path and walking the path are two entirely different things”.  We see a lot of knowing and not enough walking in our industry.

APM/PPM tools are essentially an IT pipeline management tool for companies.  Today, very few firms would argue that real time visibility into the sales pipeline didn’t become beneficial to the way they forecast, market, and execute on the top line.  Why wouldn’t we apply the same rigor to the IT projects and work with a similar tool?

Innotas provides the application to help CIO’s turn their departments into value centers because by providing required visibility and accountability metrics with stated, managed, and proven performance indicators they will win the battles of uncertainty and poor perceptions of value add to the business.

We are certain that the time to act is now.