PPM Implementation: A Marathon, Not a Sprint

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7-20 marathon
3 steps to follow to plan for a successful project & portfolio management journey.

Upon finishing my first marathon and receiving a medal, complimentary Goose Island Honkers Ale, and post-race Cliff Bar  – I took some time to reflect on how I was able to go from fearing “mile day” in gym class to touring 26.2 miles of Chicago’s neighborhoods by foot.

To ultimately reach my target of running a marathon, it took many months of goal setting, planning, and changing of daily habits. Many of these same principles are critical in my work helping clients complete PPM implementations successfully.

Goal Setting

It was important for me to establish realistic goals for my first marathon around how much time I would need to train, what pace I would be training at, and how much time I was going to need to reach these goals. In a PPM implementation it makes sense to first determine priorities for which capability areas to focus on in initially, evaluate the current maturity of the organization within those areas, determine goals for the end of the engagement, and establish a realistic timeline to achieve them. Not dedicating enough time to this step may cause organizations to take on more capabilities than they can handle, which can lead to confusion, low adoption, and failure to reach the PPM implementation’s full potential.


Successfully training for a marathon depended on my keeping a daily and monthly “project plan” of when to run short, when to run long, when to cross train, what to eat, etc. In my PPM implementations it has also been important to have a road map and to stick to it. Taking in to account the processes that will be impacted, technology that needs to be implemented, and the training that needs to take place for the new capabilities are all critical to the success of a new PPM solution.

Changing Daily Habits

Accomplishing lofty goals requires a shift in day to day behavior. In the context of preparing for a marathon, that might mean reallocating that hour of Netflix viewing to getting in an evening run or changing some eating habits to supply the extra energy needed to complete training. In a PPM implementation it is important to consider that many people’s daily activities will be impacted. This may mean moving away from using a familiar Excel-based project management tool and learning a new tool such as Project Professional. It may mean doing away with ad hoc project selection and moving to a formal process based on organizational strategic drivers. It is important to identify whose day to day will be impacted and come up with a plan to help them with this transition.

I encourage those organizations that are embarking on a PPM journey to think about these three principles. For those organizations that have completed a recent PPM implementation – feel free to reflect back on where you were and just how far you’ve come!