What does enterprise project management mean to an organization? On any given day, organizations face decision points on how to best manage their business. It is a daily attempt to measure risk, weigh outcomes, balance the budget, meet deadlines, and measure return on investment. Whether your business functions are in terms of projects, initiatives, to-do lists, or objectives, there is a "body of work" that needs to be accomplished. How do you evaluate and weigh the decisions that cross your desk daily? The impacts on an organization are many and varied.
New Ways to Communicate
Organizations are living in a sea of information, both relevant and irrelevant, that comes at you in a variety of ways, at a rapid rate of speed. The lines of communication and collaboration are blurred. Although technology provides numerous communication options, when dealing with projects, employee productivity can quickly become tied to a paper process. Making sure that project team members, contractors, subcontractors, and so on have copies of materials related to the project can quickly become time consuming. Emailing project team members documents can also become cumbersome due to revisions and versioning. Making sure that information is available and current is also difficult due to iterations and keeping track of who has received what documents.
With the dawning of computers and multiple file formats the mantra was that we are moving to a "paperless environment." Is paper going away? Not necessarily, but the way in which we access and reference information is ever-changing. You may receive an email with an attached .pdf file, access a collaborative web page workspace, look up information via a search mechanism through a portal, or search past archives for keywords to find information or documents.
Running effective projects requires dynamic communication and increased agility. By nature, projects have iterations and cycles where information is updated or modified. Technology has opened the door to options now available to disseminate that information designed to enhance the way we work and collaborate.
EPM technology offers an alternative way to share and view information. Many technologies enable users to share, view, access, and store documents. EPM technology focuses on how project teams collaborate to access and share project documentation with executives, stakeholders, clients, team members, and partners. The following items are examples of how project data can now be shared:
A virtual workspace is now at your fingertips. Although, you may still opt to print a document, you don't have to.
Technology is a vast horizon. Every day we face challenges with new solutions, but the art of communication is still thatan art. Technology expands our options for communication but is not a replacement for communication and collaboration. In its purest form, collaboration is comprised of two or more people working together to achieve a common goal, or to create mutual value.
Communication is not a one-way street. Many people send an email and assume that because it was received, something is going to happen. For a variety of reasons, people tend to hide behind technology and do not effectively communicate. But if you look behind a successful project, you will find a project team and manager who have successfully figured out how to communicate and collaborate with each other, with project stakeholders, with executives, with partners, and with other contractors or vendors. They have also figured out how to move relevant information effectively across the team.
EPM encompasses how work is defined, who is identified to do the work, how work is managed, when work is to be done, how work is progressing, and what issues or possibilities are on the horizon. EPM impacts organizations through processes, people (resources), tools, and work (projects). All these elements working together create an organizational solution.
When an EPM solution is implemented, you see the following types of benefits:
Microsoft has stated that "companies are transforming from environments with inconsistent project management practices and tools to managing a portfolio of project with integrated, organization-wide tools. Industry forecasts consistently show growing demand for enterprise project management applications as companies recognize the importance of project management to reduce costs, improve processes, and maintain their competitive advantage. With increased economic and competitive pressures…a range of organizations are now adopting EPM to gain process and collaborative efficiencies throughout their organizations." (Microsoft, Microsoft Office ProjectEnterprise Project Management Solution, "Microsoft Leadership in Enterprise Project Management, Microsoft Office EPM Solution Customer Research Report," November, 2003.)
Leadership Team Capabilities
As business leaders, you need to have a view of the work going on within your organization and how that work is accomplished across a variety of levels. An EPM solution helps business leaders make informed decisions for their organizations. The data available can help them do the following:
EPM can assist Leadership Teams in drawing focus through dashboard views, reports, and metrics, enabling you to respond to changes in business direction. According to "New Problems, New Solutions: Making Portfolio Management More Effective" (published in Research Technology Management Volume 43, Number 2, Cooper, Edgett, and Kleinschmidt, 2000), some of the questions addressed by EPM through project and portfolio management include the following:
The ability to be agile in the day-to-day work environment and improve business performance is addressed through EPM. Consistent business metrics and the ability to align work with strategic priorities is a step forward in understanding and maximizing the value to your business.
Project Manager and Project Team Interaction
The project manager and the project team need the ability to interact with each other, their stakeholders, and their clients. Some of the benefits for this group include
A project team that is functioning smoothly has mastered effective ways to communicate and to facilitate information sharing. EPM can make their work that much easier.
Focus on Project Management Skills
Organizations look at the role of project manager in different ways. In general, a project manager is responsible for managing the overall delivery of a project. The primary role of the project manager is to guide the project team to successful delivery of a project based on quality, time, budget, and scope. This includes communicating the project business objectives and having a clear vision of how to achieve those objectives. Project managers must resolve conflict among the differing objectives and individuals across their projects. They also communicate key information to sponsors and stakeholders regarding the project.
Project managers build schedules and typically use a tool such as Microsoft Project to do so. With an EPM tool, there are many more functions that a project manager can perform in an automated fashion using the tools. The tool itself is a framework. Within that framework, it is possible to standardize processes and promote project best practices regarding the use of the tool and the process of project management. The tool can be used to enhance project communication and coordination, but it is not a replacement for a strong project manager. When projects fail, it is almost never the fault of a project management tool. The reasons are many and varied but directly dependent on the skills of the individual project manager.
Project management is more than Gantt charts, team coordination, and status reports. It is a disciplined approach to getting "work" donecompleting projects that translate business strategies into results. Although an EPM tool can assist project managers, it cannot guarantee successful projects.
Project management is a recognized discipline that crosses industries from manufacturing to aerospace to retail, and numerous businesses from small to global in scale. People, organizations, and industries arrive at the role of project manager through different paths. If you've traveled down the path of accidental project manager, seek out resources and training to guide you.
Project management success is a balance across time, resources, results, and perceptions. It is a skilled project manager that orchestrates and guides a successful project.
Set Realistic Expectations for Your EPM Implementation
EPM is a dynamic decision process. As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day. The same can be said for your organizational approach to EPM. It takes time to visualize, plan, and implement an EPM solution.
The Gartner Group has stated "through 2005, 40% of enterprise-level projects will be stalled at some point to address problems caused by team members providing duplicate skills, and team member roles being too vaguely defined. (Pat Phelan, Ned Fray, Gartner, Inc., "Avoiding Failure in Large IT Projects: New Risk and Project Management Imperatives," July 18, 2002.)
Giga, a wholly owned subsidiary of Forrester Research, Inc., expects to see an annual 15% per year increase in formal project management practices during the next five years. (Margo Visitacion, "Project Management Best Practices: Key Processes and Common Sense," January 2003.)
As these industry analysts have predicted, QuantumPM has seen a great deal of energy around the concept of EPM over the past several years. The interest intensified when Microsoft entered the EPM tool space in 2002 with its initial release of Project Server. For project management specialists such as QuantumPM, this attention was gratifying even though it was accompanied by unreasonable expectations that the software would eliminate all the pain that organizations were feeling in project management.
The organizations that have been most successful with their EPM deployments have had one important thing in common. All of them set reasonable goals based on their individual project management maturity levels and their ability to adapt to change. They formed the goals into an evolutionary set of plans, executed the plans, and established a sustainable continuous improvement process.
One of the most successful organizations began its journey at the lowest level of maturity. None of its work was managed via projects; the organization had no project managers on staff and had never used a scheduling tool. Its customers were angry about missed deadlines and runaway costs.
Three years later, this same organization has a clear picture of its entire portfolio of work. The organization meets its deadlines and has excellent communications set up with customers to manage any problems. The organization is confident enough in its plans and data to allow its customers to have direct access to view the projects.
It was not an easy journey for this organization, but it was realistic about what is possible and has worked tirelessly to reach its goals.
The starting point for organizations will vary, but the formula for success is the same for all. Understand and plan for incremental successes. Plan and run your EPM implementation as a project using project management processes and best practices. Project management maturity is developed over time. Take a realistic look at your organization, assess where your organization is today, and plan the roadmap for your outcome.