Insight from Agora Consultants

Agora’s Express for Project Online announced as a finalist for the 2016 Microsoft Impact Awards

Agora’s Express for Project Online announced as a finalist for the 2016 Microsoft Impact Awards  [More]

Are your reports hurting project success?

I read a very interesting piece from Harvard Business about blindly trusting reports. I still rememb [More]

Learn about EPM best practices from Ontario Public Sector leaders

Agora and Microsoft were pleased to host a panel discussion on Oct 20, 2010 of PMO leaders from the Ontario public sector including the Community Services Cluster, LCBO and the Labour and Transportation Cluster. These leaders fielded questions about using Project Management tools within their organization and provided insightful discussion on what worked, what didn’t and what they would do differently. Below is a summary of the various themes that bubbled up from the discussion. Why EPM Tools? The panel was asked “why did you embark on an EPM tool deployment in the first place?”. The common answer was “single source of project information”. Prior to EPM being deployed there was no easy way of even knowing which projects were ongoing – let alone calibrating and reporting on the status of each. By deploying EPM not only did it result in consistency of project information but also forced the organizations to align their project processes (which was not easy – more on that later). Resource Management. Many questions from the audience centred around using Project Server to plan and manage resource allocation. Each member of the panel had different levels of maturity in their organization for resource management. One member of the panel had reached the point where resource allocation was fully implemented within the organization. This has led to team members proactively being able to raise awareness of being overbooked based on facts from the project system. As well, it also enabled managers to secure additional resources to meet project delivery deadlines by demonstrating resource gaps highlighted by Project Server. Adoption of the Platform Adoption of the EPM platform by impacted users is key to the long term success of the solution. Not only is it a new tool but there will be process changes as well. Some tips from the panel included: Ensure you have Executive commitment Ensure impacted users understand what is in it for them Word of mouth is a powerful to spread the EPM message – use it to your advantage Difficulties Along the Journey The open and honest approach of the panel members was revealed when they were asked “what were the difficulties you encountered with the EPM deployment?”. There was overwhelming agreement that the people change management portion of the equation was the most difficult – the technical implementation went smoothly. Each panel member mentioned they underestimated the people change management effort. Continued diligence and pressure to ensure adoption must be kept up. As one panel member said, “you can’t just implement it and walk away”. Some other lessons learned from various panel members included: Would have been more forceful and assertive up front about the EPM initiative Didn’t always engage stakeholders early enough Would have had more resources and focus on the project up front Overall Recommendations In summary, the panel had the following recommendations: Get people excited about the system, use white papers and demonstrations to educate them on how it can improve their work Keep up the pressure and have patience from the Executive on down to continue through the difficult portions of the journey Leverage other organizations using EPM. Not only can you learn from them but it helps socialization within your organization by showing proof points from other organizations. Interested in learning more? Please Contact Paul Estabrooks, VP Sales and EPM Practice Lead to learn about Project Server and the work we are doing in the Ontario Public Sector.

Does forecast status make sense?

  Within the project management industry we often see people include “forecast status” as an element of project status reports along with current status and previous status. The expectation is Project Managers will include a status of what they think the status will be for the next reporting period. For instance, the Project Manager would forecast if finances will be red, yellow or green. Status is defined as “state or condition of affairs”. It is a measurement of where things are right now. Previous status makes sense. Previous status is the condition of affairs measured at a previous point in time. Forecast status does not make sense. It is not possible to measure something in the future. The intent of forecast status is “what do you think the condition of affairs will be at the next reporting period”. In order to make this forecast, a project manager will (should) base it on something measured today. By reporting that measurement as the indicator of predicted status, it is a truer representation of the information. Instead of trying to measure into the future, measure something today that is a predictor of future status. Some people refer to this as a leading indicator. For instance, if it is financial status, the number of pending change requests may be an indicator that the finance status may change. Moving towards metrics that are based on current information rather than an opinion of the future eventually results in better decision making since the information is more accurate.

Is your organization inefficient with your project information?

From inception through to deployment how efficient is your organization with its information about projects? As a project goes through its lifecycle a multitude of information is collected, stored and reported on. Often this grows organically as different groups involved in a project collect and store different information. The diagram below shows this process both for an efficient and an inefficient organization.   Typically what happens in an organization is different groups are responsible for the different steps along the project lifecycle. They develop or find their own tools to fit their own specific needs. This leads to islands of information all about the same topic – projects. Problems that occur in this situation include: The same type of information stored in multiple places leads to data quality issues. An update in one place isn’t necessarily reflected in another. Information stored in different places leads to different reports being generated.  This leads to confusion as the format and interpretation of reports can be different. There is an exposure to institutional knowledge risk. Localized point solutions are often “home-grown” leading to a difficultly in supporting them if key resources leave. Data needs to be re-entered into different systems along the way. It is difficult to have traceability of a project through the lifecycle. A centralized platform address these problems and introduce additional benefits: Provides a common user experience. An organization grows with the platform. As features are added with upgrades the entire organization gets a lift. Reduces the support requirements. Agora has assisted organizations with moving from data islands to a common platform. Drop me a line if your are interested in hearing about options for your organization.

Metrics for Successful Project Delivery

With the start of the New Year I’ll be kicking off a series of related posts. Through January, the Business Intelligence posts will be focused on going deep with the key metrics required for delivering projects. As a start, you can read the web article on Performance Management for the PMO or you can read the full whitepaper. The difference between these posts and the content in the article is that for each metric discussed, I will provide some guidance on setting the targets for your organization. The strategy map below provides the model which I will follow. I’ll take some of the key objectives from the strategy map and outline the metrics different roles in an organization need to support the objectives.   Why bothering measuring? By having metrics in place your organization will have greater transparency and understanding of how well resources (financial and people) are being utilized in your organization. Through this understanding better decisions can be made leading to increased company value.