EPM and PPM Archives

June 24, 2008

The Cashmere Bikini

There once was a King who asked his two tailors for the finest materials in the land... Oh forget it...

Recently a couple of EPM research reports have crossed my inbox. The first is Gartner's Magic Quadrant for IT Project and Portfolio Management and the second, The Changing Face of Project Management based on research done by Loudhouse Research and promoted by CA. Both of these reports rubbed me the wrong way as they seem to be missing the obvious and recommending that the "best" choice is the most fully-featured.

Gartner's summary contains the statement: "The value of PPM lies in the relatedness of the functions supported". Their Magic Quadrant (tm) has "completeness of vision" on one axis and "ability to execute" on the other. The best place to be in this chart is in the upper right, high on both axes. I tried to figure out why this bothered me and came to the realization that "vision" is really not something that I'd invest in.

What is the value of "vision"? How much would you pay for it? Would you pay more for "results" than you would for "vision"? For those of you without the document in front of you, "ability to execute" does not refer to results of the tool, but rather the ability of the company supplying the tool to execute their vision. I think that "vision" is a great starting point, but it is not always the best vision which is successful and valuable. Dreams of more features may fill the CIO's head, but it is only realized vision which fills the coffers.

In a highly integrated PPM environment, successful integration requires tailoring the system to the organizations specific needs. Perhaps a simpler or more targeted solution would be better. And the skill of those implementing it is critical to success. You can make terrible clothes from wonderful fabric.

The CA report was much more irritating as it contained a basic flaw - a willful ignorance of the research data. The data was gathered from a large swath of IT organizations and the answers given to the question "why projects do not come in on budget" were overwhelmingly scope related. The results were:

  • Inaccurate scoping/forecasting (50%)
  • Scope creep (39%)
  • Project interdependencies (36%)
  • Lack of skilled resources (28%)
  • Poorly defined scope (26%)
  • Other (2%)

So with scope being the root cause of most project management issues, one would think that the summary would mention it. How surprised would you be to find that scope management was not mentioned? It wasn't. Not at all. Rather the conclusions focus on having IT Directors have better visibility over their portfolio, Better reporting and better forecasting and better "visibility" are the recommended solution to this state of affairs. In my opinion, this is like saying a better dashboard will make your car run better - and saying this with a straight face while there are loud banging noises and smoke issuing from under the hood. The problem with "vision" is that it involves the eyes only and does not include the smells, sounds, shaking and heat coming from your organization.

I don't mean to rant about industry analysts. There is really good stuff to think about in the reports and the analysts are just a reflection of what their clients are interested in so they are not to blame.

But I can't help wondering where is the focus on delivering business value? Where is the attention to fixing the root causes that the research plainly exposes? How does this research and these recommendations actually help an organization do better? Is it up to the tool vendors to supply the vision? Or do IT managers and CIO's need to really look at their organization and determine what will help them?

Something is missing here and I'm still trying to put my finger on exactly what it is.

January 23, 2009

Project Management Office and the Monorail


With the current economic situation examples of government public works projects such as the WPA (Works Progress Administration) are in the air and it got me thinking about what the biggest benefits of such projects are. It seems to me that the most lasting impact is on public infrastructure, things like dams and roads that enable everyone to progress, but which would not be possible unless some central organization provided them.

I think the same thing is true of PMO's. The biggest value they can provide is infrastructure, whether that be well-trained people, processes or technologies which will enable projects to progress smoothly and efficiently.

However, the comparison between PMO's and government agencies brings up the inevitable question of bureaucracy and efficiency. What is the right size of a PMO? Too large and it creates its own gravitational field. Too small and it is not capable of building essential infrastructure. I think the solution to this project is to keep as much of the PMO work project-based, with the projects it is undertaking being defined by the organization it is supporting.

The PMO needs to be able to grow and shrink as needs change and needs to be vigilant that they are not just doing projects to have something to do. They have to be aware of the fine line of providing lasting value rather than just making work. Look at what your PMO is doing and see which activities it is undertaking which will actually help the organizations you support. The PMO should build and maintain infrastructure. Nothing more. Nothing less.

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