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Is PPM Enough?

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In order to have a good executive information system, it is imperative that the …

In order to have a good executive information system, it is imperative that the
operational processes are cleaned up and automated through a good set of execution/ operational tools. In the world of IT Projects and Applications, products and software, ALM tools do precisely that. Organizations would do well to consider a bottom-up approach or a holistic approach that ensures that their PPM goals are met.

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  • 1. A white paper from Digité, Inc. Is PPM Enough? Digite, Inc. om Lessons from Discussions and Deliberations with Digité customers and partners Author: Mahesh Singh, Co-founder, Sr. Vice President – Product Digité, Inc. 82 Pioneer Way, Suite 102 Mountain View, CA 94041 Phone: 650.210.3929 www.digite.com www.twitter.com/digite sales@digite.com © Digite, Inc.
  • 2. Is PPM Enough? Over the last 10 years, a large number of IT organizations have moved away from the “traditional” methods of managing software projects to a more centralized and “institutional” method of managing software projects. An overwhelmingly large number of these companies have evaluated Project Portfolio Management (PPM) tools as their first option for moving away from their existing ways of managing projects, which usually was through a combination of using MS Project, email and spreadsheet. The promise of PPM tools is enticing! From the ability of management dashboards to unambiguously tell you whether projects are in Green, Yellow or Red status, to being able to smoothly make Fund/ Kill or Go/ No Go decisions about a project that is not exactly meeting its objectives, the case for PPM appears crystal clear. Who would not want such capability? The reality however has been somewhat different for a number of companies. Dealing with Organizational Change When organizations and project teams attempt to move away from managing projects using desktop tools, office productivity tools and other point solutions, they are not just switching tools, they are very often changing fundamental processes of how they work and how they manage their work at all levels – strategic, tactical and operational levels. Traditional tools at a large number of companies managing IT projects and applications have ranged from spreadsheets, desktop tools and a few departmental applications. These have spawned a number of business practices for managing and executing projects and reviewing project and application portfolios that have been less than adequate. Organizations struggle to execute projects successfully in this environment more than they realize or are willing to admit. Skills ranging from basic project planning and monitoring to moderately challenging areas such as using MS Project effectively to much more complex tasks such as estimating the effort and cost of a software project, are hard to come by. Even with skilled/ trained people on staff, without having adequate tools and integration between them to provide reliable data from project execution to the project management layer or from project management to portfolio management, the overall task of delivering projects and application successfully becomes a herculean Figure 1. The IT Information Pyramid task. Managing work at any level, without reliable information, is simply not easy. The change that is needed involves skills, processes and tools at all levels of the IT Project/ Application Information pyramid. © Digite, Inc. Page 2
  • 3. Do you start at the Top or the Bottom? There may be no ‘silver-bullet’ answer to this – after all, if organizations have been able to function so far with sophisticated spreadsheets, why not get in a PPM tool to do the same? Many organizations have chosen to go the top-down way; however, evidence suggests that that has not always worked. Direction of Information Flow By their very nature as a decision support tool of the Fund/ Kill type, PPM tools demand a significant level of data reliability. This translates to process maturity at the ‘operational’ level, as well as automation to ensure that all aspects of project effort are being considered as well as accurately reported. As we have seen at numerous Digite customers, looking at a MS Project file for status is simply not enough. A Project Manager typically spends between 15-25% of their time simply collating information and trying to accurately determine project status. Not only task status, but a variety of project level (or application level) effort simply does not get captured through manual reporting/ tracking processes. Spread across the entire organization, this effort rapidly expands and deteriorates the overall quality of data being collected, collated and reported! To feed PM systems accurate, reliable data, that data must originate from accurate, reliable systems and processes. This means that execution/ operational level processes need to be automated so they can feed reliable data to the PPM solution. A majority of cases where a PPM Figure 2. The "Traditional" PPM Implementation implementation has gone wrong have suffered from this problem – of not establishing processes and/ or automating project execution systems first. The fundamental problem has remained, and the spreadsheets got replaced by more expensive spreadsheets! Lack of Organizational Involvement A different challenge arises from the fact that the PPM tools typically become available to senior management and PMOs without a wider participation from project teams in both IT and Business. This has further fueled the data consolidation and accuracy problems. A lot of PPM efforts have resulted in failure due to this fundamental problem of lack of automation at the operational level for the project teams and lack of project team buy in. Organizational leadership needs to focus on these critical aspects of successfully implementing PPM solutions that ensures that there is broader participation of the organization and greater focus on organization change management and process improvement at all levels, especially at the operational level. Effective Portfolio Monitoring and Analysis Is Project Portfolio Management just a set of tools? Is it a process? Is it an entire discipline? Having worked with a number of IT and Hi-tech organizations and their leadership, we have seen the more serious/ mature organizations treat PPM as an entire discipline by itself. © Digite, Inc. Page 3
  • 4. Broadly, PPM can be represented as shown in the chart below: Figure 3. The Project Portfolio Management Discipline The critical task in Portfolio Management is of Portfolio Monitoring and Analysis. This is a cyclical task that repeats every month, quarter, 6 months or a year, depending on the portfolio criticality and the company’s business practices – and relies on the portfolio analysis team or committee being able to accurately make decisions on each of the portfolio components. Portfolio Analysis will typically take inputs of multiple types from standard project performance metrics such as Earned Value and Budget vs. Actual Costs, Effort and Schedule, but also related engineering data on application/ product quality, business fit, completeness of vision and so on. Portfolio analysts may also want to look at financial and market data, when necessary, to decide on the fate of a project or an application. In the typical Corporate IT environment, Projects and Applications Portfolio Analysis requires a wide range of project execution and application lifecycle management data such as total effort being spent on managing an application, number of defects being reported, the number of enhancements being requested per month, the release schedule and the total cost for managing that application. Unless this data is available reliably and in an online, integrated manner, doing accurate Portfolio Analysis on any frequency will require significant effort to pull cost, effort and time data from a variety of project management, software engineering and financial/ timekeeping systems (or spreadsheets) – and a large number of companies continue to struggle with that. Figure 4. The "Integrated" Approach to PPM © Digite, Inc. Page 4
  • 5. Application Lifecycle Management tools that provide an integrated and an integrating environment to manage the execution/ operation of projects and applications are thus an imperative for effective and successful Project and Application Portfolio Management for IT Organizations. The Promise of Application Lifecycle Management Based on the experience of a majority of our customers and prospects, it is clear that the discipline of PPM needs effective processes and automation at the operational level in order to be effective and successful. While a PPM implementation may survive, for it to thrive and truly meet the organizational objectives of real Portfolio Management, it needs real-time, continuous data input from operational systems such as Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) systems that help organizations manage the actual work of executing a project or managing an application. “Are we in control of the Requirements?” Project execution in IT projects is all about Requirements and Change management – one of the most challenging areas for almost all project teams. Integrated/ integrating ALM tools that provide an end- to-end visibility and traceability truly put the project team in command over this challenging aspect of managing projects and applications. Figure 5. End-to-end Integration with ALM A fully integrated ALM solution should provide a single interface view to Requirements, Design, Code and Test artifacts, besides Defects and Change Requests with appropriate levels of Traceability needed for the specific development method being followed by the project team. An ALM tool thus provides complete visibility to all stake-holders of requirements and impact on requirements due to change. It helps IT discuss and work with Business to analyze impact of change and do course corrections without the usual acrimony that can easily creep into such situations. In case of Outsourced projects, it becomes an invaluable tool for managing contract changes and vendor performance! The value of an integrated repository for all project artifacts cannot be measured. We have seen project teams struggle with the simple task of managing all the information and artifacts of their work across a combination of email, point solutions, portals, network directories, configuration management © Digite, Inc. Page 5
  • 6. systems and team members’ desktops – resulting in horrendous loss of productive hours and project delays. Just to be able to go to a single place for all of that – makes team productivity go up by as much as 20-35%! PPM tools do not address this crucial business need. “How can this Task be done when it still has Open Issues against it?” “Is that project really green? Why are such a large number of requirements still not approved?” Or, for that matter, “Is the testing task really completed? Then why are all the defects still open?” The ability to drill down into a project’s ‘real’ status is most important for portfolio management teams. PPM tools by themselves, do not and cannot provide this visibility and still continue to rely on the abilities of the project manager and project to ensure that they collect data from all sources and tools manually before providing that update. ALM tools with integrated PPM capability make the project managers far more effective by one, providing the PM a comprehensive view of the project and in fact, proactively alerting them of potential red-flags; and two, by dramatically reducing the overhead of collecting data from myriad sources and putting it all together for status reporting, resulting in as much as 40-55% increase in Project Manager productivity. “How do I manage Unplanned Work?” One of the basic challenges of project execution is dealing with unplanned work. Project teams routinely deal with it in the form of Issues or Change Requests or what might best be termed as ‘Action Items’ – think of all those emails you get making small requests of your team members! It is humanly impossible for a project manager to put down every last bit of work as part of their WBS. On the other hand, filing time in a common “Miscellaneous” task means losing visibility to where 15- 20% of the project effort might be being spent, so that one could plan better in the future! Very often, PPM tools miss out on all the effort being spent on unplanned work in projects and thus relying on incomplete data for providing management status update. An ALM tool can allow project teams to easily track unplanned work based on the actual work done – be it an issue resolved, a change request fulfilled or an action item carried out. All such effort can get rolled up and shown against the project budgets for accurate analysis of project costs. Integrated ALM tools help by focusing on the project team and making them more productive rather than just providing a dashboard for senior management which may not be fully reliable. Summary We believe PPM tools are great management tools for executive decision making. However, they do not focus on or deal with the operational processes that need to be in place so that PPM tools get reliable data. In order to have a good executive information system, it is imperative that the operational processes are cleaned up and automated through a good set of execution/ operational tools. In the world of IT Projects and Applications, products and software, ALM tools do precisely that. Organizations would do well to consider a bottom-up approach or a holistic approach that ensures that their PPM goals are met. ALM Tools provide organizations the glue between operational and strategic systems through an integrated/ integrating platform that enables project and application teams deliver much more effectively both at the Project/ Application level and for the Portfolio. © Digite, Inc. Page 6