Hello, PPM Practitioners. Our roles are multi-faceted, and it’s easy to get trapped by seemingly competing forces. We focus on at least three levers: Technical and Functional as well as Business Value. In earlier posts, I discussed the Value Enablement Layer; here, we will dive deeper into balancing our PPM maturity initiatives as to move our organizations toward their desired outcomes. The model below illustrates our investment in these levers.
You may have seen similar models for project cost, quality and risk. I’ve re-purposed the model for PPM solution success. In this realm, focusing only on Technical tasks (enhancements, upgrades, etc.) without considering their impact on Functional measures (organizational readiness, usability, etc.) and Business Value (desired outcomes, KPIs, etc.) can produce less than stellar results.
In this model, it seems impossible to make headway, since positive movement on one lever produces negative movement on the others - there is only so much liquid. This is often the challenge we face. Do we need to make a trade-off on Business Value and focus on the Technical? Or should we take on more Functional activities at the detriment of the others? If our edict is “faster, better, cheaper,” neither of those options is attractive.
What we need to do is increase the volume of liquid in the tubes to allow positive direction for all three levers. We can do this by finding opportunities to innovate and do things differently. To achieve this, we must identify root causes of our problems (which is what limits the liquid in the tubes) and offer ways to eliminate them.
Generally, we know our organizational objectives are responses to perceived environmental challenges and constraints:
Most organizations that have been around for more than a few years will encounter resistance to change. The constraints shown above can inhibit an organization’s ability to achieve the objectives of PPM maturity. Even worse, lack of finances or stakeholder negativity create constraints on investments; allocations come under greater scrutiny, which delays or prevents project starts. We’ve all heard that we need to do more with less; that’s where PPM Practitioners add value, whether it’s ROI, Operational Efficiency or Governance/Compliance within the PPM ecosystem.
I have found a few key (standard) steps that allow us to increase the volume of liquid and pull the right levers at the right time:
|1. Identify Problems and Constraints|
Problem statements are extremely useful, as they communicate the value of overcoming, and ensure delivery criteria is aligned. Properly framed problem statements describe the impact of the current situation. For example:
- A lack of consistent project status is causing higher overhead and misunderstanding of escalations to PMO leaders.
- Resource availability is inhibiting delivery of strategic projects.
- Testing is becoming a significant constraint on the speed of adapting services to prevent further loss of market share.
|2. Define Objective(s) and Desired Outcomes|
Here's an example of how we derive PPM objectives from the customer’s desired outcomes and their problems or constraints:
- Desired Outcomes: Improve business efficiency by aligning IT resource management to better meet business demand.
- Problem Statements:
- Data quality is low and inhibits business agility.
- Operational spending is to high on non-core activity and inhibits us from investing in gaining market share with new offerings.
- PPM Objective: Validate business demand and identify how improvements to IT resource management would increase agility. Identify cost optimization opportunities through improvements to IT capacity planning.
|3. Form Hypotheses and Prioritize|
We must map a set of hypotheses to each problem we are investigating and how this mapping process allows us to identify key questions. Answers to those questions will prove or disprove the hypotheses. A good hypothesis is a clear and assertive statement that is:
Because a hypothesis needs to be worth investigating, we must prioritize. Just because a hypothesis meets the criteria above doesn't mean it is suitable for investigation. Other aspects to consider when creating and prioritizing hypotheses include:
- Make sure we don't have more hypotheses than we need to investigate the issue, as this would be an inefficient use of time.
- Conversely, make sure we don't have gaps in our investigation that aren't covered by a relevant hypothesis, as this will undermine your recommendations.
Note: Avoid creating hypotheses that require unavailable data.
|4. Gather and Analyze Data|
Drawing the right conclusions depends on the quality of collected data and its synthesis into accurate findings. To do this we need a structured approach for data gathering. Once we collate the data we need to check its accuracy and whether it conflicts with other data points.
In the planning stage, we should consider creating a data-gathering matrix to help understand how best to collect data and correlate it with hypotheses we are investigating.
|5. Establish Findings||Findings are statements about the situation we are investigating supported by multiple data points. They form the basis for appropriate conclusions.|
|6. Develop Conclusions|
This is a very important step. If our findings demonstrate what we have discovered about the challenges, the conclusions need to answer the “so what?” question. Conclusions should provide insight into the root cause of the problems. Good conclusions:
- Make inferences from several findings to provide insight and a fresh perspective.
- Are a logical deduction from the findings.
- Are the only possible conclusion we can draw from the data (if we conclude that the problem could be caused by either X or Y, we need to gather more data to determine which one it is).
|7. Make Recommendations||The wording of recommendations is very important; they must be emphatic, specific, relevant and practical. They must be action based (e.g., “Integrate X with Z”) and aligned to appropriate outcomes.|
|8. Create Roadmap and Define KPIs|
Lastly, we must prioritize and sequence the recommendations. Common practice is to focus on the highest impact items, but I favor the “low-hanging fruit” approach. It is imperative to have incremental (often small) successes that show value and build trust.
One way to do this is to plot our recommendations on a chart with Priority on one axis and Effort on the other. This allows us to factor in the fact that some tasks are easier than others.
Anything that is High Priority and Low Effort is a candidate for a quick win. Low Priority and High Effort activity should be put aside in the short term to prevent it from distracting us. High Priority and High Effort items are likely to need senior executive sponsorship and proper commitment at all levels to be successful, so they may spawn prerequisite activity before progress can be made. Low Priority and Low Effort should be considered for a “back log” or “parking lot” - if some value can be fit into a delivery cycle without affecting the higher priority investments, do it.
Considering prerequisites gives us another perspective to apply to the logical sequencing of our plan.
Upon defining our problems, desired outcomes, solutions and roadmap, we can invest in the PPM initiatives that give us the greatest impact, and operationally track KPIs while reporting on maturity. As described in the PPM Focus diagram, we reviewed how to gain the greatest volume of liquid by identifying and prioritizing problems and sequencing the appropriate levers at the right time per our roadmap.
For readers interested in similar content, check out my . I encourage you to participate in the best-in-class site, where we have access to our peers, events and support. You can also reach out to CA Services for individualized business outcome references and analysis. Feel free to post in the comments section of this blog or contact me directly via email and @PPMWarrior.