Organizational maturity is extremely important, and no company can afford to be ignorant of where they fall along the spectrum. According to the Project Management Institute, “Companies with greater maturity should expect to see tangible benefits that include better-performing project portfolios, efficiencies that come with better resource allocation, and increased process stability and repeatability.” Without this level of maturity, however, companies are so busy putting out fires that they are unable to strategically plan and execute their projects. They generally have groups of people working in their own silos, so there is no centralized view of resource availability or project status. Project managers cannot prioritize projects or even schedule them with accuracy, leading to lost opportunities and failure. In fact, a recent study has confirmed the need for defined repeatable processes, finding that companies who use them have a much higher project success rate than those who do not.
Yet, as you may know, the roadmap to maturity is often drawn out and complicated. Your organization might not have the budget, time or inclination to implement an enormous project portfolio management solution and force everyone to use it. So how can you begin the process and see results more quickly without all of the heartache? In a recent article, talent management consultant Gina Abudi recommends a central system or “portal” as a means to implement best practices and improve project results. Instead of an overwhelming PPM solution, many companies opt for a simple, easy-to-use system to interface between time tracking, resource management and project scheduling. This allows them to retain processes that are currently in use while still benefiting from increased visibility to crucial data. Here are three easy steps for introducing such a portal and ensuring that your team uses it effectively.
Step 1: Research Your Critical Business Issue
We all know that open communication solves a number of problems, and this case is no different. One of the first things you will need to discover is the critical business issue you are facing as a result of a lack of maturity. For example, one company might find that they are losing out on opportunities or their competitive advantage because they do not have consistent, repeatable processes to ensure project success. Another company might be yielding to pressure from their clients. Regardless of your specific reason, you will have to isolate it in order to plan which direction to take and engage in creative problem solving.
Step 2: Choose a System
Adding transparency, visibility and collaboration to your projects is integral to achieving better organizational performance. While software alone will not solve your critical business issue, the right system can provide that one “pane of glass view” for all processes throughout the organization. A few important requirements to consider are:
- Visibility of resource allocation, including project work, administrative work and vacation time;
- Integration between work requests, schedules, resource management, project roadmap and prioritization; and
- Real-time status information across all projects with warning indicators and alerts.
A system that provides these benefits will enable project managers to focus scarce resources on the projects that are most profitable and keep track of which projects are on time and which ones are not. Not only that, but they will not run the risk of scheduling projects under the assumption that certain resources will work on them, only to find out later that the resources are already allocated or will be out of the office.
Step 3: Decide Which Processes to Keep
Starting out on the road to increased maturity does not necessarily require you to blow up everything you currently have and start from scratch. You probably have processes in place that are working well, and you should leverage these to get you to the next level. For example, you might find that people throughout your organization feel comfortable using Microsoft Project and Microsoft Excel. A “rip and replace” approach where you force everyone to stop using these tools and start using a different system could have very adverse effects. We all know how hard it is to change corporate culture, so choose your battles wisely. One alternative would be to look at how you can enhance and extend the tools, allowing people to keep the processes they are comfortable with while maximizing benefits and value.
Communication also helps if and when you encounter employees who are resistant to change. Many might be suspicious of your efforts to improve processes when they feel that the status quo is already “good enough.” (Remember what Jim Collins wrote: “Good is the enemy of great.”) Use your interpersonal skills to instill trust in them so they understand that you are not looking to take away their processes. Buy-in from your team is necessary in order to achieve success because they are the ones who will be helping you to reach your goals.
Be sure to understand how much change the organization and team can take at any given time and be mindful of that. There is no silver bullet, and something that worked for one company may not be a good fit for another. Through in-depth research and communication, you will know what your needs are, what will and will not be adopted by the organization, and how much time and money the organization is willing to spend on this. Also, do not rely solely on software to fix the problem. It is imperative that you integrate your processes and people, and manage them well. Your software solution will help you to do so by empowering team members and facilitating their work.
Organizations can successfully evaluate their processes, replace or improve the weaker ones and maintain the stronger ones for increased maturity and better project results. Integrating these processes in such a way that everyone involved in a project is on the same page provides a way to learn from your failures as opposed to repeating them.
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