Implementation

Why project portfolio management software implementations struggle to deliver – Is it a 3 legged stool with 2 wonky legs?

When you notice that similar projects are going off the rails again and again you start to wonder what you are doing wrong. They all kick off bravely with high ideals and achievable outcomes. The business drivers are laudable (praiseworthy even) and the KPIs are set. But something always seems to go awry.

Any time you make an assumption you are creating a risk; what if the assumption is faulty. What are some of the assumptions that have a detrimental impact on the outcome of a project portfolio management implementation? In my opinion there is really only one. When implementing a commercial-off-the-shelf solution the erroneous assumption is that the new software will drive the expected outcomes from the project.

Let’s take a look at these outcomes. The purpose of any software implementation is to improve an organisation’s capability in a particular area. The corollary is that the organisation has realised its higher goals. At an early stage in most implementations of a project portfolio management solution I find myself drawing some version of the following diagram on a stained white board in a stark meeting room somewhere.

Building capability through people process and technology
Building capability through people process and technology

There is wide acceptance that a technology solution needs to be supported by its sister pillars; people and process. This three legged stool is included in most discussions about Enterprise Architecture. And like a three legged stool it is most stable, most effective, when all three legs have the same length and bear the same weight.

Commonsense tells us that you don’t make a technology change that sticks by ignoring people and process along the way.

So if the principle is so well understood what goes wrong? My personal view is that there is a world of difference between understanding something and acting on that knowledge. I understand that more consistent exercise will significantly improve the quality of my life. But I don’t exercise more consistently.

The push to improve capability in the 21st Century is often driven by the acquisition of some new software. But people need to accept the new software and an organisation’s processes need to adapt, particularly when you have purchased a best of breed, industry best practice product, not a custom solution build to support your existing process.

The risk, as I mentioned at the beginning, is that the implementation project will over-focus on the technology to the detriment of the other legs of the stool. But you know about the risk now, so this won’t happen to your implementation project. Or will it?

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One thought on “Why project portfolio management software implementations struggle to deliver – Is it a 3 legged stool with 2 wonky legs?

  1. Clare,

    I like this post, it is amazing how many engagements I have been involved with where the group has focused on the tangible technology to the detriment of process and people. This can be a very expensive exercise resulting in restrictive software licenses, low utilisation and subsequently a diminished ROI.

    I wonder how many other people have experienced this.

    Cheers

    Andrew

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