Project Portfolio in Action – Q & A with Lewis Fowler

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Recently we had the chance to get some insight from the field in a discussion with our partner at Lewis Fowler and a great chance to speak with Amy Fowler Stadler, principal at Lewis Fowler. In our recent partner webinar, Project Portfolio Management in Action, Lewis Fowler covered common use cases for PPM including resource time tracking, project inventory and tracking, managing portfolios, reporting, and resource management, while sharing first hand experience working with companies to implement our PPM solution. Below are some of the questions and answers from the event. The responses help get a sense of what PPM can do for many organizations and best practices to get the most value out of a PPM solution.

To watch the full event on-demand, you can access the webinar recording.

What advice can you give to anyone selecting a PPM tool and the implementation of that tool?

Understand your maturity level, what the major business capabilities you are trying to achieve and gather your requirements first (so you know what issues you are trying to tackle), then match the requirements to the tools. Make sure you develop a roadmap that ties the people, process and the solution together.

What are the recommended criteria for selecting projects for a specific portfolio?

While the criteria is specific to your organization, we do have some general principles that can be applied. We recommend having the business goals drive your project selection, and portfolios should mirror closely to the organizational structure or reporting, so projects related to one department will likely roll up into a single portfolio.

We also recommend project scoring to help you determine which projects best support the goals of the organization, and allow you to rank projects against each other, because they essentially are competing for the same resources if there is a constraint. Common scoring criteria include ROI, business alignment, resource availability, and executive sponsorship.

How is resource information, such as availability and cost, accessed by Innotas?

Resources are assigned to work efforts (could be projects or operational support). For example, let’s say Jim spends 50% of his time on support. That leaves him 50% available to work on projects. If he is only assigned to work 10hrs/week on a project, then he still has availability. This can be shown when looking at resource availability in the Resources tab within Innotas, and aggregated across resource skill, need, etc.

Do you recommend time tracking on a daily or weekly basis? How much time should be spent on time tracking?

Based on my experience, time tracking is best “submitted” on a weekly basis. I, personally, enter my time every day and just “submit” at the end of the week. It is easier for me to track my time daily than to try to figure out what I have worked on at the end of the week. If done daily, time tracking should take no longer than 5 minutes. If done weekly, it should take no longer than 30 minutes. Tracking time is well worth 5 minutes of time daily for the information it provides.

Our technology groups are built using the agile team approach. Resource availability is determined by priorities in a back log. How does the use case of Resource Management change using this team approach to resource availability?

Resources are tied to skillsets in Innotas, so method does not affect the flow. One of the agile teams I worked with, the PM assigned the skillset that was needed in a given window – the Resource Manager then assigned the given resource based upon availability at the required time. There is an element of coordination between the resource manager and the project manager, especially for agile teams, but Innotas facilitates that by showing availability, utilization, and what-if scenarios in the system.

Can the PPM tool be implemented in a hybrid environment supporting both Waterfall and Agile?

Yes, Innotas is method agnostic; it supports agile, waterfall or hybrid methods. What is important is the setup of reporting to facilitate status updates at a cadence of preference.

Does Innotas offer a governance model to support its implementation? What are the typical difficulties in obtaining client adherence to governance schemes?

There is not an established governance model within the system. If the processes are not being followed, the implementation team will know right away based on the gap within the data. (If people are not entering information or maintaining it, you would be able to see it right away via reports.)  Based on my experience, the biggest challenge  comes when the client is not trained on the process changes as well as the PPM system. They are separate trainings – both of equal importance.

What are the logical groupings and best practices of use cases for Innotas?

The use cases include resource time tracking, project inventory and tracking, managing portfolios, reporting, and resource management. All of the use cases interweave to create a PPM platform. Based on my experience, organizations usually start with either projects or time keeping. You can grow either way from there based on where the organization is feeling the most pain. Design with the end in mind to build your roadmap!

I work for a company that has no stomach for detailed time tracking. We simply use a percentage of time available for project work. Does Innotas handle this type of use case for resource management?

Yes. As a matter of fact, I recommend starting off tracking time at a very high level, and then “tweaking” as the organization progresses and identifies what changes they would like to make. Starting to show the value of the metrics and business objectives you can solve with time tracking data is a must. Once you can establish value from it, it is much easier to modify the level of data needed.

What size business is a solution like Innotas suited for in regards to SMBs?

Innotas is flexible and has several models to support large and small customers. It depends on the specific use case, but definitely recommended for organizations supporting multiple projects and resources.

How practical is it to upload data from an existing system into Innotas? Does this work for integrating financial or agile systems?

While working with a customer, we uploaded all of their project information from a massive spreadsheet at the beginning of the project. This was done very easily. Additionally, Innotas can import data through the Integration Platform, which is highly flexible to meet most customer needs. The Integration Platform can be leveraged to integrate with most on-premise and cloud applications that provide an open API. Innotas commonly integrates with ServiceNow and JIRA, along with other helpdesk, agile and financial systems.

Do you have separate tool for Project Portfolio Management, Resource Management and Application Portfolio Management?

All of these are pieces of Innotas. They are not separate tools, but all part of the Innotas PPM product. Separate or “add-ons” include system integration and the predictive planning module.

Specific product question how much “out of the box” reporting does the Innotas, in particular provide?

There are many “canned” reports. They are the typical reports that most organizations are looking for. Based on how much configuration / customization you do to the system, you will then need to develop new, more extensive reports – based on your organization’s requirements.

Does Innotas have workflows pre setup?
Innotas supports workflows out of the box. They will need to be configured to match your organization since all organizations are different and have defined their workflows internally, but require minimal setup within Innotas.

About the Author:

Amy Fowler Stadler is a Managing Partner at Lewis Fowler. Amy co-founded Lewis Fowler in 2002. Today, our clients benefit from her 25-plus years in the business and technology industry and her love of strategy, technology solutions, IT performance measurement and program recovery. In her words, “I intimately care about every aspect of these connections—from problem solving and supporting our customers’ career growth to overseeing our delivery.” Amy earned her B.S. in Computer Science from Illinois State University and has advanced studies in technology management. Prior to launching Lewis Fowler, she directed Qwest’s $100M E-Commerce Program Management Office and consulted with $3 billion Perot Systems (now Dell), helping develop their PMO practice, rebrand the firm, and implement PMOs for Fortune 500 companies. Beyond work, she invests her time in her family, fitness and service as a board member/supporter of several philanthropic organizations.

About Lewis Fowler:

Lewis Fowler is a Colorado-based consulting firm focused on creating IT business solutions through strategy, performance management, business process, and the delivery of programs and project solutions. Lewis Fowler is a trusted advisor, source of industry knowledge, expertise, and a respected business partner.