Fixing a Broken or Underperforming Project Management System
You don’t need to look far to find examples of underperforming or failed Enterprise Project Management (EPM), Project Portfolio Management (PPM) and Earned Value Management (EVM) Systems. Studies show that 30-40% of senior management view their current Enterprise Project Management as being unsuccessful, or not delivering the expected Return on Investment.
There are a number of factors that contribute to this and we have listed 7 of the more common problem areas. Some of these we have broken down into different contributing areas. For all of them we have provided tips on how to resolve these issues and get more out of your EPM, PPM and EVM solution.
Our users have not fully adopted the new EPM / PPM / EVM solution
This is one of the most common implementation shortfalls. You need to determine what is really keeping end users from adopting your Project Management or Portfolio Management solution. Many of the contributing factors are covered below. We’ll focus on two likely and basic reasons that people don’t adopt a new system.
Often the only training is for the EPM software tools.
This can leave users stranded trying to figure out how they should do their job using the new tool. This can lead to a great deal of frustration and resistance. They may revert to other tools and techniques they were using before the implementation. Solutions for this are to:
- Combine PM tool training with PM process training that is specific to your company’s processes.
- Make the training role-specific and focus on the work products, information or actions each role is responsible for.
- Combine training with coaching. When a Project Manager builds a new project plan and schedule, have an experienced coach help them out with their tasks.
Some critical functional groups were not involved in selecting the Project Management tools
“One size fits all” solutions often don’t work across departmental boundaries or across different sites and locations. You can build an Enterprise solution and still support site-specific or department-specific localizations.
- Ask representatives from the resistant groups to participate in facilitated sessions. Make sure that the original implementers leave their egos at the door.
- Have outside facilitators with experience in localizing PM solutions guide these sessions.
- Get Senior Management from the other functional groups to stress the importance of the Project Management solution and its benefits.
We implemented the EPM / PPM / EVM software but people are still working the way they were before
Often Project Management systems are implemented using what we describe as a little “s” approach. These are typically run as software implementations and not cultural change or adoption efforts. To get to a Big “S” implementation, you need to implement and gain Adoption for a solution that encompasses processes, tools, work products and measurable successes. Consider the following:
- As mentioned above, look to Contextual training as a first step
- Strive to eliminate overlapping systems that the Project Management community is using for reporting or managing projects. Do this in a measured way and ensure that you replace the reporting capabilities already in place. Duplicate systems often cause double entry and will drive down adoption.
- Review Four Critical Areas for Enterprise Project Management Implementation Success for ideas about more comprehensive ways to overhaul your implementation.
Executive Sponsorship is lacking
There are many problems that can cause this, and a variety of techniques to resolve it.
We implemented project management because it is just the "right thing to do”
This is a typical reason that sponsorship is lacking or might disappear. You may need to build a business case to re-invigorate their interest. Express your gains or potential shortfalls in terms that Executives respect and understand. These need to be very specific to your business. Some examples might be:
- Increased number of billable days for a Consulting group
- Number of person-days saved by cancelling low value projects for a New Product Development group
- Faster recognition of revenue for Earned Value users
- Better control of scope and revenue associated with scope changes
- Specific information required by contracts or by outside customers, or internal customers who are key to your Executives success.
A great source of insight into solving this problem is Executive Management or Senior Management folks who are sympathetic to your cause and are willing to mentor your team.
We had Executive Support but the Execs have been replaced
Tough one. Our own experience has shown us many EPM efforts fail because a new management team moves in and doesn’t recognize the value of the solution. Be prepared with real numbers showing cost savings, improved productivity etc. Hopefully you are so tightly integrated with the rest of the Enterprise functions that killing off your Project Management implementation is not possible. See the next section below about integrating from an Enterprise perspective.
We see the value inside our group but others don’t recognize the importance of EPM, PPM, or EVM.
If you are an Engineering, R&D, or development group and your problems are with Finance, Accounting, Product Marketing, or Operations
You might not have implemented with an integrated Enterprise perspective. Many EPM and PPM implementations are done with a parochial or narrow view. You need to see where you can tie into the other major organizational processes and integrate with them.
- Look to see where projects are first started. They often are initiated outside Engineering. If Finance initiates projects in an ERP system or through an Executive Management committee see how you can provide Finance or Accounting with key information and how you can tie into their initiation processes.
- See how your projects flow into other groups like Operations. In large IT or Telecom operations this flow is probably a given. See what information you have in your EPM system that will be of value to these other groups. Make it accessible and bring them into the fold.
- Look at other groups like Product Marketing and see what information you can provide to them. See how you can integrate with not only their release cycles, but also their Ideation flow.
- In general, see how you can integrate your EPM / PPM into other Enterprise Processes and Systems. See where you can provide value to, and derive value from, other group’s silos.
If you are the PMO or an Early Adopter group and others are pushing back on your solution
Tout your successes. Publish your gains. Make your information visible to senior management. Some techniques we see are:
- Provide information that goes beyond the required reporting standards.
- Consult with key stakeholders and ask them what information is of value to them and then include it with your management reports.
- Turn information requests around quickly and publish them
- Explain savings or top line benefits you have achieved from your Project Management successes
- We have seen the “Wall of Shame” work quite effectively when Executive Management is a sponsor. Execs publicly display reports during meetings or in common rooms that show which groups are adopting the new standards or producing the required reports, and more importantly, who is failing to.
We have done all the right things but we still have a backlog of poorly performing projects
When EPM and some PPM systems are implemented they often only take on new projects. This may leave you with a considerable backlog of projects that were initiated under the old rules. Consider a Portfolio Scrubbing.
- Take a sample set of existing projects and run them through the new estimating, planning or scheduling processes. Document the deltas between the original estimates especially. We often see quite a large difference and one that illustrates the need to review most of the portfolio.
- Try and establish a peer review to build the new estimates and plans. This should ensure some significant variances from the originals.
- Make sure that these differences are examined for scope creep and use this for opportunities like negotiations with external (possibly internal) clients.
We produce the right information but it is not used to manage the portfolio or projects. We suffer a great deal of churn caused by management juggling.
You may just need to illustrate to management the impacts of their decision changes. Unfortunately this is often caused by power struggles at levels that the Project Management community just can’t get to.
- You might be able to gather enough metrics around changes in resource allocation and changing project priorities to make your point.
- See if you can gain access to the Financial Execs and explain the situation while showing them the cost of change.
- Start with one sympathetic Exec, or one who is suffering from the pain and ask them to champion the cause.
- Show slips or missed goals in projects and make it apparent that these were caused by churn. Make sure the end customer understands the reasons.
The system we have is working and producing results, but different user groups are constantly asking for a different software solution
Your real issue might be user adoption and, potentially, lack of executive sponsorship. Blaming the Project Management software is often caused by implementation issues, especially the exclusion of groups or roles during implementation.
- Try bringing in different groups, roles or specific individuals that are pushing back and get them involved. Take their input seriously and make some level of changes to at least their portion of the implementation. Localization of Project Management solutions is a great way to bring others on line.
- Consider whether you implemented a “one size fits all” approach and look for opportunities to tailor your implementation while still retaining the Enterprise needs.
- If Executive Management takes these complaints seriously then face them head on. You may be required to review other products. Enlist the help of your software vendor and get them to do the legwork of competitive analysis. They will be motivated to keep a client who is paying maintenance.
- If Executive Management does not take these complaints seriously then ask them to restate the gains already made, the original goals, and the time being wasted by these distractions.