I recently did a presentation at a user conference covering the broad topic of Enterprise Project Portfolio Management (PPM). Much of what I had to say would read like “Mom and apple pie” to anyone who has attempted to institutionalize a PPM process within their organization. However, there was one particular slide that I titled Going from “No data” to “Knowledge & Understanding” that seemed to turn on a few light bulbs for folks so I thought I’d share that here.
One of the key success factors of deploying an enterprise PPM process revolves around collecting data, turning that data into knowledge and ultimately making decisions based on that knowledge. The challenge is that for many organizations this process has a tendency to illuminate some rather unpleasant facts about inefficiencies or other wasteful practices. If you’re a change agent in your organization, this will immediately translate to “strong resistance” in your mind. It’s a natural reaction for most managers to initial question the legitimacy of the data when it doesn’t fit their perception of reality. Fortunately the process of collecting and understanding the data tends to follow a predictable path.
I’m going to loosely describe this path in the context of building up a project portfolio but it can really be applied to just about any organizational change that involves collecting and analyzing data for decision making purposes.
Phase 1 – Data collection
Your data will likely be incomplete. There will be a lack of ownership – many executives will distance themselves from the data if it doesn’t support their perceptions. The validity of the data will be challenged.
At this stage, you need to continue to collect data, constantly improving the accuracy, and continue to put it in front of the eyes of your executives. If they point out that something looks inaccurate, go back and fix the source and show it to them again. Eventually people will run out of ways to poke any significant holes in the data and then you’re ready to move to the next phase.
Phase 2 – Information
At this point, managers are starting to accept the validity of the data and it’s taking on some real meaning. Getting to this point is likely to be one of the most challenging periods of time if you’re the change agent. It’s at this point where you begin to really shine a light on some of the dark recesses of your organization. You’re going to find projects in your portfolio that don’t make any sense; expenditures of resources that aren’t aligned with the corporate strategy; expose differences between well ran departments and poorly ran departments; etc. It will be shocking for some managers and a pleasant surprise for others. The good news is that it invariable creates an immediate thirst for more information.
Phase 3 – Knowledge & Understanding
If you’ve made it this far, you’re doing well and the rest of the ride is pretty much downhill. At this point, most managers are accepting of the data and information being presented to them and are starting to ask “How and why?” It’s at this point where high-value decision start to be made. You’ll see fact-based prioritization decisions made; better alignment of projects with corporate strategy; changes in resource allocation; and changes in the behaviors of the organization.
Phase 4 – Growth & Expansion
Ok, so really if you’ve gotten to phase 3 (see above) you can legitimately claim success. Phase 4 is really a natural fallout of that success -- provided you are able to maintain what you’ve worked so hard to achieve. It’s pretty common for organizations, at this point, to look for ways to take your success and attempt to apply it to other parts of the organization. For example, if you implemented a PPM process within your Technology department you may find yourself asked to do the same thing for the rest of the company. Great! More work for you!