Archive for January, 2007

The Project-Centric Approach, Part 2

Deliverables and Outcomes are Well Defined
by R. David Hofferberth, Service Performance Insight

In my last post, I explained that businesses are starting to think more and more in terms of “projects” instead of just “work.” The first key benefit of this approach is that when deliverables and outcomes are better known, the ROI on “work” is much better understood.

Prior to project approval and initiation, executives must have all of the information necessary to determine whether a project should be considered and funded.  At a minimum each project in consideration must provide:

  • Strategic and/or tactical importance of the project
  • People and skills required to complete the work
  • Project schedules with delivery dates
  • Costs with pre-determined budgets and specific times of fund allocations
  • Potential risks to the project and their associated impact
  • The probable project benefits (qualitative and quantitative)
  • A project return on investment (ROI)

This detail will help establish the framework by which projects should be considered. Executives will now be able to consider each project as part of a portfolio of work, and thus determine which projects can be funded and their associated priority and anticipated delivery date.

This information highlights gaps in staffing, financial resources, and strategy, which can then be addressed by the executive team.

In my next post, we will go into more detail about the strategic benefits of the project-centric approach.


Take A Project-Centric Approach To Running Your Business

Part 1: “Projects” are Hot
by R. David Hofferberth, Service Performance Insight

Organizations of all types have begun to take a project-centric approach to running their business. Competitive pressures, shareholder demands and regulatory scrutiny are merely the tip of the iceberg in explaining why this is occurring.  Executives are utilizing project management discipline to manage and control their business with greater precision. Articles printed in every leading business publication affirm that the demand for project management skills is on the rise.

This new tactic is not just about classifying work as “projects” as some arbitrary metric used to show the amount of work undertaken. It really means taking a standardized and structured approach to work, with a suite of evaluation criteria used to determine the relative importance and priority of the potential work—prior to any allocation of resources.

In the next few posts on this topic, I’ll explain some of the specific benefits that a project-centric approach has for businesses.


Automation Offers the Elegant Solution

In a blog post, consultant Kevan Hall (who specializes in speeding up complex companies) asks the question, are we drowning in cooperation? As an alternative to oceans of emails, endless meetings, micromanagement, and meaningless corporate values, he advocates smaller teams, more localized controls, and implementing faster and simpler ways of working: what others might call agility.

Certainly more agile business practices will continue to prevail in large organizations. But globalization and the increasing scopes of projects cause teams to span across geographies, with multiple currencies, languages, and cultures. Organizations are moving more towards a project-driven approach that requires broader teamwork and collaboration, for the sake of satisfying a large scope of work, meeting compliance requirements, streamlining enormous accounting problems, and allowing businesses to compete in global marketplaces.

Although we would love to see fewer emails and shorter meetings, we work with companies for whom avoiding the complexity is not the answer–these companies need elegant solutions to complex problems.

In his manifesto, “Elegant Solutions: Breakthrough Thinking the Toyota Way,” Matthew E.May writes:

Elegance is the simplicity found on the far side of complexity. An elegant solution is one in which the optimal outcome is achieved with the minimal expenditure of effort and expense.

We see the standardization of process as an elegant solution that is extremely effective. With Project Workforce Management, we can apply the most efficient best practices and enforce them through automation. Clearly define roles within the process (empower the workforce) and communication should become easier, help productivity and mitigate risk and issues, which will automatically cut down the number of meetings and emails.

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What is the difference between workflow and Business Process Management (BPM)?

Workflow is geared at routing business documents (requisition, expense forms, etc.) through a series of tasks in a predefined order. Workflows are application-specific and are somewhat departmental in scope. The workflow may involve a certain set of predefined documents or forms that a particular application manages and interacts with using a predefined set of roles within an organization.

For example, each week a new timesheet is sent to the team member for entering his/her time spent on a particular project. The workflow engine that sends this notification may also send a reminder if the timesheet is not completed by a particular time. Once the timesheet is entered, the workflow engine will send the information to the project manager(s) for approval before sending this information for payroll. Here a business rule, embedded in the workflow and based on the defined worksheet routing, alerts the human to do a certain work or sends notifications if some other threshold has been crossed.

BPM, on the other hand, is enterprise-wide in scope and spans departmental and application boundaries. When combined with commodity Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) and Business Rules Engine (BRE) technologies, BPM solutions can actually complete the tasks without any manual intervention. BPM-managed processes may impact several business entities such as project managers, sales people, customers, project team, contractors, help desk, accounting and HR departments. Automation of these processes must accommodate these entities and related business documents (timesheet, project plan, customer invoice, expense report, service request, etc.) stored and managed in multiple back-end systems.

Business Process Management also encapsulates modeling, analytics, simulation of business processes and a set of tools to view, control and change ‘run time’ process instances in real-time. Workflow technologies typically lack these features but still can be looked at as a subset of BPM without the ability to orchestrate processes across other applications and data silos.

In the BPM world, the above example may be extended by defining additional systems or human roles (or actors), which can take this automation to the next level. The approval process may be done by a rules engine where all timesheets based on certain conditions or rules are automatically evaluated and approved – with the exceptions going to the project manager. Under this approach none of the rules are ‘coded’ programmatically. Furthermore, the approved timesheet data is automatically routed to the Human Resource application (another actor) where vacation and other employee information is automatically adjusted. If the project work is billable, then a customer invoice is automatically created in the Billing or the ERP system when all the timesheets of the project team are completed (another business rule), in which a notification is sent to the account manager assigned to the customer – as defined in the company’s CRM system. Here the BPM will not only automate the process, it will also provide real-time visibility in managing and reducing billing delays which may impact the company’s ability to pay its own bills.

Tenrox Project Workforce Management System, with its highly configurable workflow and process engine, is specifically designed to manage business processes using a single system of records that unifies customer, project and workforce management and maintains all the relevant information in a centralized auditable database.