Archive for February, 2007

Microsoft Project: Where Does It Fit In?

A recent article on Projects@Work describes the new features of Microsoft Project 2007.

What’s New in Project 2007? by John Carroll http://www.projectsatwork.com/content/articles/234377.cfm
(Requires registration, but it’s easy and free.)

Microsoft Project is a great tool for scheduling and managing projects; but for users of Project Server 2003 who plan to standardize on the Microsoft solution platform, the new version does not offer a compelling reason to upgrade. Overall, Microsoft Project is one component of a great solution platform for Microsoft’s partners to build on:

  • Microsoft Project for project planning and management
  • Microsoft CRM for customer management
  • GreatPlains and AXAPTA for accounting and financial management
  • SharePoint for dashboarding, portals, and document management
  • Visio for designing processes (but not controls)
  • BizTalk Server for enterprise application integration
  • Reporting Services for reporting and analysis

The challenge is to integrate all of these applications with each other, and with the company’s workforce management and financial systems. Companies have the choice of either buying all these products and hiring consultants to put it all together, or working with an independent software vendor who offers a prepackaged application that leverages these platforms to provide a turnkey solution.

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You Get What You Pay For…And Pay For What You Get

When you pay a lot of money for something, doesn’t it give you a sense of comfort and control when you know exactly what you are paying for? This principle applies to chargebacks within a business just as much as it does in other transactions.

Many of our clients are implementing chargebacks in their IT organizations, or are considering it. A recent article on the Projects@Work site not only makes a great case for the value of chargebacks, but also for the itemization of services that a chargeback system enables.

“You Get What You Pay For” by Karen McIsaac, http://www.projectsatwork.com/content/Articles/235089.cfm
(Registration required, but it is free and easy.)

Itemization not only gives the customers who request IT services that comfortable feeling of control, it actually makes them more disciplined about their IT spending, and therefore helps the entire organization keep IT spending under control. It also gives everyone a crystal-clear picture of what IT is doing, where the priorities are, and where additional resources may be needed.

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The Project-Centric Approach, Part 4

Projects Help Everybody to Think Strategically
by R. David Hofferberth, Service Performance Insight

In the previous parts of this series, I’ve explained how businesses who think in terms of projects have better information from which to make strategic decisions. The strategic aspect of the project-centric approach doesn’t only help management make the big decisions—it also helps workers at all levels understand priorities and efficiencies better.

Too often project prioritization and funding is done in a vacuum, with very little apparent “rhyme or reason” as to why specific projects get funded, while other, perhaps seemingly more important work, is not. The project-centric approach shows everyone in the organization the relative threshold for project consideration, and therefore individuals with perceived project needs can efficiently analyze potential work to see if it could be deemed as fundable.

This approach to business will obviously compel people to carefully consider their own work. People who work on projects are more likely to think of their work as a series of investments (of their time and effort) and returns on those investments for the company—as opposed to a stream of activity with undetermined value. As project workers, they can better understand how to minimize variances, correctly state costs and benefits, and reduce risks to themselves, the work of their teammates, and the business as a whole.

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Counterpoint: PPM and the Project-Centric Approach

In response to our series on the Project-Centric Approach, Philip McGuin makes several interesting points in his blog post, Challenging the Project-Centric Approach. However, he seems to believe that most, if not all, organizations have already adopted a project-centric approach to their business. This could not be farther from the truth. After over ten years of research on this subject, I find that most organizations, unfortunately, do not view their work as “project-centric.” Taking a project-centric approach is just the first step in running a business more efficiently and effectively. And as Mr. McGuin states, “project portfolio management” is the end goal.

But before implementing PPM there are several other issues these organizations must address. The first is to develop a project-centric approach to organizational work, and have that thinking permeate throughout the organization. Taking this step also requires organizations to look at how they set up projects, and to standardize and structure projects so that they can be analyzed to determine their overall value to the organization. At a minimum, these organizations must organize projects and determine their:

  • Strategic and tactical value to the organization,
  • Risks associated with completion time, cost or not initiating the project at all,
  • Project cost,
  • Resource requirements,
  • Project schedule, and
  • Project return on investment.

It is with this basic information (and there is certainly much more that should be captured) that organizations can begin to evaluate their portfolio of projects using PPM.

The purpose of this counter-argument to Atlantic Global’s PPM Blog is to make what I believe is an essential point: A PPM solution can only be effective after the organization has taken a project-centric approach to its business. Then, they must use the information they gather from their project-centric practices in a structured and standardized way, so that PPM technology may truly add value to the organization. Companies that believe that PPM will cure what ails them, without changing the way they approach their business, are greatly misinformed.

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The Project-Centric Approach, Part 3

Projects Aid in Strategic Thinking
by R. David Hofferberth, Service Performance Insight

In Part 2, I explained that projects allow companies to do a much better job of prioritizing their investments. It follows naturally that the ability to prioritize work—just like prioritizing any other investment—has strategic benefits.

The detailed information that comes out of the project management process is critical for management and shareholders as well, because it shows how the organization invests resources, and how the investments align with the corporate strategy.

Taking a project-centric approach also provides the management team and staff throughout the organization with the information to show how the company is meeting its strategic goals, and other areas for potential improvement.

There could also be circumstances where the corporate strategy has changed just enough to reprioritize the project portfolio. By taking a project-centric approach to the work, executives can learn the impact the changes in strategy will have on funds and staffing, and ultimately the profitability of the organization. With this information available to all key decision makers, the organization can run more efficiently, and with greater commitment to meeting the overall goals and objectives of the company.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how the strategic thinking, enabled by a project-centric approach, helps the entire organization run more efficiently.

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