Project Partners Blog

Beyond Scheduling: How to Make the Most of Your Enterprise Project Portfolio Management System

By Jason Ames, PMP and Kimberly McDonald Baker

Too often organizations make an investment in an Enterprise Project Portfolio Management (EPPM) system but they fail to recognize the full benefits. One of the reasons is that people fail to see an enterprise PPM solution as more than just a scheduling tool.

When used properly, however, an EPPM system can be a critical factor in driving business value, not only by making sure a project stays on schedule but also via ensuring that the right projects are selected, resources are used efficiently and decision makers have the information they need to drive corporate strategy.

Key Drivers of EPPM Success

1. Top down commitment, bottom up participation
2. All business systems talk to each other
3. Measuring what’s important
4. Determining which projects to start and when to shut them down
5. Finding the bottlenecks
6. Constant learning

This series of blog articles will address each of the above success factors.

Top Down Commitment, Bottom Up Participation

We all know the story: a week, month or even longer is spent putting together the perfect program schedule. The entire management chain has signed off, the customer has accepted the plan and everyone is happy… until the actual work starts and everything is thrown out the window.

What happens next is extremely important for the course of the program. Too often functional organizations create their own “pocket schedules” that have little in common with the official program schedule. You’ve probably been in meetings where a manager says “that’s not my schedule” and pulls out a spreadsheet with their new operating plan on it.

The purpose of a program schedule is to ensure the entire program team is on the same page, and that each group gets what they need when they need it. Everyone needs to be working in concert to ensure project success but if individual functions start working to their own schedule who knows what will happen? Imagine a wedding where the bride, groom and minister are all expecting the ceremony to take place on different separate days.

How can this be resolved?

1. The Project Management Office (PMO)or program office needs to own the schedule; no other single function should have authority to enforce schedule control. Other groups should indeed raise concerns but the PMO should be the ultimate authority for all program related decisions which include the schedule. With the PMO in control of the schedule all functions are accountable to work to the plan until the PMO or program office determines changes are needed.

2. Once the PMO takes ownership of the schedule they need to share it with everyone on the project. If the PMO expects everyone to work to the same schedule, they must allow every team member, even the most junior members, to have access. For small projects weekly emails communicating schedules will probably work fine, but for large complex projects, Enabling team members to access a live, online version of the schedule is far better. Many EPPM tools provide this functionality natively but too often it is under utilized.

3. Once team members have access to the schedule, they should be responsible for updating the status of their activities. Too often the project manager or scheduler is forced to chase down activity status information, reducing their ability to assist program management in finding ways to optimize the project and reduce risk. Team members should be able to update the status of their activities as well as charge time to each activity. Without active participation in the updating cycle, team members become detached from the project plan and operate in the proverbial silo.

4. Lastly, suppliers must be involved. Many projects include external team members. This is especially prevalent in government contracting. How do you incorporate your suppliers’ schedules? How do you communicate status back to your suppliers? As projects grow in size and complexity, so do the number of suppliers and partners. It is easy to forget that these partners are as critical to your project’s success as your internal team. When possible, suppliers should be treated just as you would treat your own team members: with role-based access. Provide suppliers access to the overall program schedule and their own detailed schedule and make them responsible for updating their status.

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