Adopting a Project Portfolio Management System

Technology is a small piece of the project portfolio management (PPM) system puzzle. As with the deployment of any new system or technology, organizational change management is a critical success factor. I’m not going to go in depth into organizational change management, as there are others much more skilled and experienced on this topic. I would like to, however, provide the perspective from a user and project manager of PPM systems.

Is your organization ready for the change? Who are the key stakeholders? How are you communicating with them? Do they welcome the change? Will they resist it? Will they adopt it? These are questions that any organizational change manager will ask.

In the context of a project portfolio management system, you have various key stakeholders you need to make sure are on board.

Project sponsors are the primary consumers of the data from this system. Is the data accurate and timely? Is it presented in a concise, useful and succinct format? Is it being used as an input into strategic decision making? A negative answer to any of these questions jeopardizes adoption.

Project managers are on the front line. They are making projects happen. No portfolio has any hope of being managed if it is not delivering value to the business. Project managers are the leaders of the different components of the portfolio. They will provide key inputs into the PPM system.

Project teams – If project managers are on the front line, project teams ARE the front line. By providing a compelling and useful online collaboration system, you ease the input of real time project status data. You can shift from email to online repositories where not only can teams collaborate, but project outputs gain visibility and transparency, allowing opportunities for data aggregation and analysis.

So from project teams to project managers to project sponsors. Is the data flowing in both directions? Not only are sponsors getting the data they need, but project teams should be getting feedback and direction. Are teams following a standard delivery methodology? Are project outputs producing consistent results that can be aggregated?

If every project reinvents the wheel in terms of outputs and reporting, producing a portfolio report would be as difficult as assembling a puzzle blindfolded. And there are few things as demoralizing to a project team than producing outputs that no one uses or appreciates. Project sponsors play a key role in not only consuming the data, but in giving project teams feedback and encouragement.

The usual suspects of durable training, quick reference guides, an effective support model, all need to make their mandatory appearances to contribute to the success of the deployment. The principles of organizational change management are very applicable and effective, and critical to this effort.

The choice of technology needs to match the level of organizational maturity, technology skill, and come with strong vendor and user community support. Add to this a clear understanding of your key stakeholder groups, and a strong message from your organization’s leadership about the importance of project reporting, and you will have the key ingredients for the successful deployment of a PPM solution.

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