Enterprise project and portfolio management (PPM) software tools have been gaining momentum and expanding their capabilities over the last couple decades.
In the early 2000s, the majority of companies would have described themselves as having ad hoc PPM processes that were not used consistently within select groups, much less enterprise-wide. The prescription for improvement was often focused on establishing a PMO, creating a project management methodology and providing project management training to those managing projects. An enterprise PPM software tool was seen as a later-stage initiative after the people, organization and process considerations were addressed.
While this was a sound prescription at the time, enterprise PPM software tools have matured to the point where their introduction at an earlier stage in the process can help accelerate organizational maturity. PEX Network’s Special Report titled Shift Business Excellence Into High Gear states that “…supporting technologies in this day and age are lowering the barriers between planning and results. This may mean learning to adapt to new ways of thinking, but the upside is better relationships with employees, customers, and partners as core processes and systems are better aligned to keep up with the pace of change.”
We have all heard the statement that “it’s not all about the software”, but much of what is contained in PPM methodologies are now embedded in enterprise software tools, making it easier for those managing projects and portfolios to gather the information needed at the appropriate time with real-time visibility by all users and consumers. In addition, enterprise platforms can expand as your organization matures allowing for easier adoption at the beginning with expanded capabilities over time. As companies begin to capture cross-portfolio relationships and make investment allocation decisions by business capability, enterprise software solutions become a requirement.
While there are a host of enterprise software options for project and portfolio management, one of the most commonly used solutions is Microsoft Project Server. Four, brief examples of how it can enable improved performance appear below.
1. Enterprise Project Types (EPTs) to support Project Classification
Many project management methodologies call for projects to be classified as a Type A, B or C. The project type (sometimes based on budget, duration, risk, or some combination of the three) determines the templates, or information, that are required. For example, a low risk, short duration project may not require a detailed risk or communication plan. With Project Server/Online, a set number of EPTs are created for each project type. Project types may be small, medium or large projects but can also be classified in other ways such as New Product Development, Software Development, Marketing Campaign, etc. Once an EPT is selected, the Project Manager is prompted for the information needed at the appropriate time.
2. Project Detail Pages (PDPs) to serve as Templates
Word, Excel or PowerPoint templates are replaced with PDPs that contain all of the required information in fields that are part of an enterprise system rather than a stand-alone document. The project type determines the EPT that is used, and the chosen EPT determines the PDPs that are required.
3. SharePoint Project Site as the Project Workbook
Many project-related artifacts need a home where the project manager, sponsor, stakeholders and team members can gain access. Project Server/Online automatically creates a SharePoint Project Site when a new project is created to allow easy access to these artifacts as well as other useful tools including a team calendar.
4. Workflows to support Governance
Having a workflow that outlines the steps and decision points from initiation through closure, by project type, allows each team member to understand the exact stage of each project and allows leadership to make key decisions along the way. The ultimate goal with establishing an organizational project, program and/or portfolio management methodology is to gain consistency and ultimately institutionalize its use. By investing in an enterprise tool that guides project managers through the process, from project initiation through project closure with online templates and visual workflows, organizations are better able to achieve the desired level of standardization and set the stage for understanding cross-portfolio relationships where Strategy cascades to Business Capabilities that are supported by projects and programs.