Key Takeaways from the Gartner PPM Summit

| , SVP of Marketing

The Gartner PPM Summit was busier than I imagined.  The industry is really taking off and organizations are seeing the value of PPM.  I wanted to share some highlights and my key takeaways from the conference.  Please share your comments and thoughts.

#1 Your organization must become bi-modal

Bi-modal is an organization’s ability to run a marathon AND a sprint at the same time.  This means that you have must have systems and processes to support both sequential and iterative enterprise work.  You can split work into two modes.

Mode 1: Sequential work that is relatively stable and predictable. These projects will typically use a waterfall methodology and have reliable processes that are tried and true.  Typically these projects require heavy up-front planning and are considered to be “directive.”  The types of projects that come to mind are more traditional in nature, such as, larger infrastructure projects or applications maintenance.

Mode 2: Iterative work that is more exploratory and agile in nature.  These projects are sometimes referred to as “enterprise work” and would use an agile methodology for execution; the driving force behind mode 2 work is what Gartner calls the “Nexus of Forces” – social, mobile, cloud, and big data.  These forces are pushing organizations to become more flexible, have faster response times to the business stakeholders, and think in a more “adaptive” approach.  The PMOs ability to adapt to the changing business environment is crucial.  The typical projects that might fall into this mode could be related to customer satisfaction, competitive positioning, business transformation, product development, or adoption of new and experimental technologies.

If you think of these modes in terms of PACE layering, then mode 1 projects would naturally fit with “systems of record” and mode 2 work would naturally fit with “systems of innovation” – meeting somewhere in the middle is project work that is considered “systems of differentiation.”  The enterprise of the future will have multiple work streams requiring PMOs to embrace both modes, and therefore should be developing a strategy to become bi-modal.

#2 CIOs are still struggling with business value

I asked several Gartner analysts what the biggest challenge is for CIOs – the summary is that CIOs are still struggling with connecting their work to the business.  Showing their projects or initiatives are creating business value, aligned with strategic goals, and impacting the top line is still a lacking skillset for most CIOs.  This is not surprising as most CIOs today come from a very technical background.  Don’t believe me? Check out these statistics:

  •  37% of the enterprise spending on IT is decided and spent outside of IT
  • Gartner expects this number to reach 50% within the next few years
  • 39% of North American CIOs do some type of benefits realization, only 6% are consistently quantitative

The business is increasing influence on IT spending.  IT has the opportunity to really create business value for their organizations by focusing on work that contributes to the organizational goals.  If IT (or the CIO) cannot clearly communicate how their spending will do as such, then their sphere of influence will decrease over time.  Remember, just because the spending decisions are trending to be made outside of IT doesn’t mean it will happen everywhere.  The CIOs and IT Executives who can be more strategic and connect their work to quantitative business outcomes (benefits) will continue to be in the driver’s seat. Strive to be in the 6%.

#3 Agile has arrived in IT and it’s here to stay

It used to be that agile was popular among developers making products.  Well, that has changed.  At Innotas, over the past year we have consistently seen an increase in IT teams adopting agile methodologies for their projects.  Almost everyone I spoke with – from enterprises to analysts – had agile top of mind.  This is somewhat comforting to hear as we know that enterprises will need to become bi-modal and agile is just a by-product of that.

#4 It’s all about people (resources)

Nothing new here.  We have always known that people are our #1 asset.  Our resources are not only limited, but in most organizations they are the highest expense line item in any major initiative.  Compound this with the effects of opportunity cost and resources become really expensive – especially if they are working on the wrong things.  Hiring and retaining top talent will become more important, but more importantly, training project management professionals to embrace the digital transformations happening around them will be critical for success.  Here is a direct quote from a presentation I attended: “Third-era skills will drive out obsolete project management skills, standards, and certifications, forcing organizations to invest in and reinvent their human capital.”  Invest in your project managers and help them focus on outcomes, not just execution.

#5 Focus on outcomes, not just activities

This is related to the point above about investing in your people to support the future state of the enterprise.  Organizations should focus on measuring the outcomes of their activities, not just their completion of activities.  A famous quote about a doctor comes to mind: “The surgery was a success, but the patient died.” This is a classic example of focusing on activities and not the overall desired outcome.  PMOs should focus on the achievement of strategic goals, not completion of tasks and projects. The core mission should be coherent execution of strategy.

#6 Predictive is a game changer

One of the sessions I attended forecasted that “in the future anything that can be automated, will.”  Definitely believable as we live in a world with high power computation at our fingertips. As it relates to project portfolio management (PPM), I do believe predictive technologies and complex algorithms will have the ability to automate some of our work.  In fact, we have already begun to see this. Today, we can already automate project selection by maximizing the value contributed to the organization.  More importantly, this automation takes into account your resource capacity and budget constraints.  Predictive technologies are already scheduling the optimal portfolio based on what you can realistically accomplish with the resources that are available to you.  Over the next 12 months, predictive technologies will help organizations achieve more – simply because automating the planning and scheduling frees up project management professionals to work on other high value initiatives.

All in all, I enjoyed my time in Texas at the Gartner PPM Summit.  It was a great opportunity to connect with the analysts, customers, and future customers.

To learn more about Innotas, download a complimentary copy of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for IT PPM Services.

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