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Implementing a Project and Portfolio Management IT System Across the Enterprise

Posted on June 10th, 2016 by in Chemical R&D

steve toton may post

With today’s demand on real time information, the Business Unit executives and the C-Suite are asking for more data and analytics on the R&D / Innovation investment and project status. So, before you think about implementing a sophisticated Project & Portfolio Management  (PPM) IT tool, make sure you’ve established standards in project information, portfolio categories, stage gating, financial models and resource allocation.

Now, I’m a firm believer that businesses processes need to be established first. But I’ve seen the opposite – where a new IT tool is forced through the enterprise, resulting in frustration and a loss in productivity.


If you have your businesses processes established, there are PPM systems out there today that are very powerful, easy to use, and provide an increased productivity in tracking project information (schedules, resources, time, and financial information).


These systems also provide a visualization tool to help guide Decision Boards through the development of a portfolio prioritization process.  What adds to the power of these systems is that they can be leveraged across multiple business units and functions, which allows the information and analytics to be rolled up at a corporate level. If you believe you’re ready to start the journey of implementing an enterprise PPM system, here are a few items to consider.


  • First, you need to analyze the current state. Here are some common problems you may encounter:
    • Data collection and analysis is manual and time intensive
    • Too many iterations with mistakes
    • High maintenance costs of custom systems
    • Inconsistencies in project management reporting
    • Lack of big picture analysis
    • Lack of standardization
    • Lack of common vocabulary
    • Not leveraging best practices between businesses


I’d also take the time to map the current state in each business and function against the current systems used internally to collect project and portfolio information across the enterprise, i.e. Excel, MS Project, Custom DB. You’ll be surprised how manual-intensive it is.


  • Next, develop at least one high level sponsor in this endeavor. Is it the CTO, CIO, or a key Business Executive? Trust me; you’ll need a high level sponsor to open some doors. But to make your case, you need the following information:


What’s the value proposition for implementing a PPM system?  Does it increase productivity, reduce time, or maybe improve better decision making. Your sponsors will want to see the current state and a visualization of the future state. Of course, you’ll need a very rough estimate of capital and expense.


  • If you get the nod to take the first step to evaluate PPM vendors, I would recommend forming an evaluation team. For example:


    • Each Business Unit – planning resource managers
    • Corporate IT – IT Architects
    • Sales & Marketing
    • Corporate Technology – planning and strategy
    • Finance


  • Evaluating vendor PPM systems is not an easy task. Here are a few tips:
    • Avoid the lengthy vendor “dog and pony shows.” On the surface, every vendor will be professional and the system will look great. To avoid these long sales sessions, develop a script for the vendor to follow. Have each vendor demonstrate key capabilities in the areas you’re most interested in. E.g. project scheduling, portfolio visualization, financial reporting, time and resource allocation, stage gate decision reports, email capability.


  • Provide the vendor simulated data sets ahead of time. Make it to close to what you use today.


  • Conduct 4-hour work sessions with the vendor and evaluation team.


  • Develop key criteria to score the PPM system. For example: ease of use, interoperability, and cost of ownership (licenses and consulting).


  • The evaluation process will run a few months. When the Evaluation Team has made a recommendation, you need approval from your Decision Board to move to the pilot stage. I would recommend having the CTO and CIO as key members of this board, especially if this is an enterprise project.


They’ll want to see an implementation plan and estimated cost and capital over the next 5 years – and at least one business or function signed up to be a pilot.  Remember, no one is going to mandate a standard PPM system without a full demonstration in a business or function. A pilot program could run 6 to 12 months.


  • At this time, I’d advise assigning an enterprise Project Manager to the Implementation team – someone who has an IT and Project Management background with experience in R&D or Marketing.


  • If the pilot program is successful, I’d suggest starting small by creating a base model PPM system – something that’s easy to use and would create a lower hurdle for the business or function to adopt. Make sure you’ve developed an internal application expert and some internal training programs.


Customization and vendor consulting costs could be very expensive. You may want to consider giving the other businesses or functions a financial incentive, such a paying for the initial license cost from a corporate IT or R&D budget.


  • Even with incentives and successes stories, it may take a year or two for other businesses and functions to see the value. But with good sponsors, demonstrated results and a solid implementation plan, you should see adoption across the enterprise.


Remember, being able to provide real time PPM information across the enterprise will improve portfolio and project decision making, optimize resource allocation and reduce the waste in manual data collection and analytics.

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