Archive for October, 2007

Project Workforce Management: Empower Horizontally with Dashboards

In an earlier post entitled "Empower Horizontally of Die," I described how we at Tenrox have pushed accountability downwards in our org chart, giving our business process and project managers the accountability and the authority to affect key metrics that are truly important to the organization. By empowering horizontally, we not only get more accomplished as a team, but we also keep our staff involved and energized.

Tracking the right metrics, and making those metrics visible on dashboards,  are critical tactics to our ability to empower horizontally. Without real time visibilty into what’s really going on no one can make good decisions. Like many companies, we used to spend a lot of time in status meetings. But when you add up the number of person-hours that status meetings require, and divide by what actually gets accomplished in those meetings, it is easy to see that they are not a great value to the organization.

In our case, I was based in California for 4 years along with our marketing and professional services teams, some of our R&D teams are in Montreal, and other teams and offices are scattered across the globe. Physical status meetings became as impractical as they were ineffective. When we did have meetings, people got defensive about having to explain their results in front of the group. Frankly, the meetings were boring, even for me.

Under our new approach, each manager has a simple dashboard that we have agreed upon. For example, as Mike McRae, our VP of Professional Services, explained recently, our project managers in professional services use dashboards that include both utilization rates and customer satisfaction metrics. In addition, managers also provide brief descriptions of what they have accomplished for the week and month.

The beauty of the system is that we can all look at these dashboards quickly and understand what needs to be done. A review or call between the accountable manager and his or her boss is rarely necessary. If metrics do not look positive, people generally know already what they need to do to improve their results–they don’t need a weekly one-hour meeting for me to tell them. When a meeting is needed, we meet in small groups to discuss very specific topics. This works out just fine for everyone!

Freedom from status meetings (part of the "MESS" of Meetings, Emails, and SpreadSheets) has saved Tenrox much valuable time, has empowered our workforce, and has liberated our managers, including myself, to do more productive work.

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What is the difference between BPM and a powerful ERP?

One of our readers commented on the post: What is the difference between workflow and Business Process Management (BPM)? asking the question, "What is the difference between BPM and a powerful ERP?" I will try to answer this question here and certainly look forward to getting your feedback on the topic.

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), powerful or not, is basically a suite of software applications from a single vendor that offers a complete solution for running a certain type of business. For example there are a number of ERPs for manufacturing companies, contractors, distributors, retailers, and many other vertical industries.

With ERP’s breadth of scope, it is logical to think that a particularly powerful one would be built upon a Business Process Management platform, and therefore actually help model and execute the business processes inherent in the industry it serves. I think that is the assumption underlying this reader’s question.

However, in practice, none of the ERP solutions available in the market today have taken a BPM-centric design approach. Instead, ERPs are generally a collection of disparate applications (for example: accounting, inventory control, order management, job costing and CRM) that have been put together by the ERP vendor, in many cases through acquisitions of smaller software companies or applications that were developed independant of each other.

A new generation of ERP applications can be built from the ground up with a BPM engine at its core. Such a solution would allow business users to visually design and manage workflows–the building blocks of the ERP’s business processes.  It would also include business process templates out-of-the-box, engineered to promote best practices for a particular process and industry.

Someday, when an ERP is rebuilt and not cobbled together from smaller suites of applications, this vision may become a reality.

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Gen Y in a Flat World: Another Example of the Project Workforce Trend

Here is another example of what we talked about at the Tenrox User Conference in September. Just last week, Workforce Management (www.workforce.com) reported on a Manpower study that says that 61% of the "Gen Y" workforce plans to stay in its first jobs for less than 3 years.

Here’s an excerpt from "Retaining Young Talent Won’t Be Easy," (or read the entire article here).

“There is a definite shift in mind-set taking place among employees,” says Shelly Funderburg, a regional practice leader for the Philadelphia-based talent training consultancy. “We are transitioning from a worker mentality of ‘Show me a reason to leave a company’—where people remained at their jobs for a long time—versus ‘Show me a reason to stay.’ ”

“Companies are going to have to put themselves in the shoes of Gen Y’ers so they can create programs that resonate with them,” she notes of the most recent wave of people joining the workforce.

“This is a young group of people that is driven and very eager to advance professionally,” Funderburg says.

Companies should delineate career paths for entry-level positions, she says, so these young workers won’t feel as if they’re stuck in a rut. She also recommends offering ample training and skills-development initiatives.

Gen Y’ers also are drawn to an employer that offers a positive work/life balance, the survey reveals.

“Work/life balance is not only for being able to spend time with a family,” Funderburg says. “This demographic wants time to pursue personal passions, whether it’s volunteering for an animal shelter or setting up a rock band.”

It sounds to me like Project Workforce Management is a great way to engage Gen Y’ers in their work and not "stuck in a rut." Project-driven organizations will give younger workers the projects they can get excited about, the variety they seek, the flexibility to balance work and "real life," and the ability to build skills and visualize their project paths (instead of the traditonal "career" path).

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Too Much “Process” in BPI: A Lesson for Project Workforce Managers in a Flat World

Gantthead has published a series of new articles related to Business Process Improvement (BPI). In particular, these articles are about aligning IT with business objectives.

Although these articles contain some useful information on a high level, they do not address one important aspect of BPI that I believe has the greatest impact on its effectiveness: complexity. One article in particular, "Alignment: The Next Evolution of BPI" by Michael R. Wood, lays out a complex model for BPI that looks like it evolved from a large organization.

Wood states:

Business Process Alignment begins in the boardroom with the basic premise that sustained success can only be achieved through an aligned organization. Next, this premise must become the mantra of management and be driven down into the culture so that everyone, everywhere is living and breathing the alignment philosophy. Of course this implies that the goals of the organization are stated in simple and operational terms, and communicated frequently and often to the workforce. It requires that processes be put in place to continuously collect, review and discuss alignment-related information.

This sounds empowering to the workforce, but Wood stops short of that. He then recommends a series of business planning and reporting mechanisms that can actually add weight to the organization, slow down decision making, and obscure the real objectives.

I can’t argue that GAP analysis, Business Process Oversight Groups, scorecards, and end-to-end processes work–Wood has a great deal of experience, and many businesses work this way. But I don’t believe that this is the way organizations will thrive in a flat world. It sounds empowering to the workforce, but when I read Wood’s list of business planning process components, I see a lot of documents, meetings and overhead. I see a lot of decisions moving up and down–not across–the organization, and I see a lot of potential for resistance to change. This is somewhat leaning towards project management by paperwork and bureaucracy.

Instead, I advocate a project-based, workflow-driven, "Hollywood"-based model IT organization. This is a much better approach to aligning IT with the business, simply because small, empowered teams can make decisions and get things done. I agree that the leadership of an organization needs to set objectives. Then, reward the workforce for meeting those objectives, give them the tools and the authority they need, and let them figure out the process. (We do this at Tenrox: here’s how.)

The more "official heavy process, review sessions, meetings and paperwork" an organization puts into Business Process Improvement, the less chance it has to really improve anything.

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Project Workforce Management: Empower Horizontally, or Die

I recently blogged about the younger, faster generation entering the project workforce. This is the generation that Jim Carroll has written about in his foreword to the book Rise of the Project Workforce, entitled "Don’t mess with my powder, dude." These people want to go snowboarding, or do whatever else they like to do—and they don’t have much patience for hierarchical “matrix” organizations that are not agile.

I use the term “horizontal empowerment” to describe how companies must push the decision-making processes “down the org chart” if they want to be agile and competitive. If decision making is slow, not only will the new project workforce lose patience and work somewhere else, but the new generation of extremely demanding and highly informed customers will lose patience, too.

At our user conference September 26, our own Mike McRae, VP of Professional Services, used the Tenrox service delivery teams as an example of “horizontal empowerment.” Mike described how we tie the compensation of our project managers to both utilization rates and customer satisfaction, and give the PMs full ownership of the team that delivers our services to the customer.

Before this change, we were in a never-ending cycle of "passing the buck": our support managers and staff would blame the consultants when things went wrong; and consultants and the consulting manager would blame the enterprise solutions team (who works on customizations, integration and reporting).

But today, Mike has implemented a new structure. The project manager directly manages a customer project team that consists of a business analyst, a technical consultant, an enterprise solutions developer, and a support representative. By creating cross-functional teams and empowering their managers, Mike was able to move the responsibility and decision-making down, where it belongs, in a flat world.

Mike said in his talk:

“I used to have to worry about customer satisfaction and billable utilization. Plus, I was constantly revising processes and controls to balance these two often conflicting metrics. Now, it’s up to our project managers to balance them for each project. As a result, Tenrox saw both utilization and customer satisfaction jump in the past year. And, by empowering the project managers and their teams they are more motivated and re-energized."

It is not enough to just push down the decision making authority: project managers need access to the right information for making informed decisions. In a future post, I will describe how we have accomplished this by replacing time-consuming meetings with informative dashboards.

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Webinar: Rise of the Project Workforce, October 18

The Rise of the Project Workforce will be presented in a live webinar on October 18, 10:00 am Pacific Time, 1:00 pm Eastern Time.

Register for the webinar here.

You will learn the disciplines, processes, and tools required to operate in today’s economy from Rudolf Melik, author of the new book, The Rise of the Project Workforce: Management People and Projects in a Flat World.

The Rise of the Project Workforce In this webinar, I will explain how you can compete effectively by embracing and adopting flat world principles. We will talk about how Tenrox, as a company, has adapted to changing times over the last ten years.

We will talk about how your company can:

  • Adjust to the changing economy using project-based solutions
  • Analyze project performance in real-time
  • Achieve optimal resource utilization levels
  • Standardize processes and implement best practices
  • Facilitate compliance and corporate governance

We will end with a 15 minute LIVE demo of Tenrox Project Workforce Management.

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Flat World Project Management – Should You Outsource the “Boring” Work?

In a recent Computerworld article, "Unlearn Outsourcing 101: Back to Basics," author Joe Hogan, VP of strategic outsourcing programs at Unisys, recommends that outsourcing decisions be based on a lot more than simply cost-cutting. He states:

Outsourcing is not about cost savings; it’s about cost savings over time – the time needed to build a relationship with the provider, streamline processes and innovate. In fact, roughly 70% of outsourcing agreements fail because they don’t take into account the long term. Those who enter them with false expectations become disillusioned and give up.

He also recommends the right tools for managing the relationship: a framework that links business processes to infrastructure; and "accountability tool" that shows the reporting structure, provides a de facto governance process, and accelerates resolution if issues arise; and comprehensive measurement. Of course a Project Workforce Management approach fits this work model quite well.

I would add to Hogan’s recommendations that companies should be sure to outsource the right work. I see too many companies make the mistakes of over-outsourcing, so that potentially strategic functions are handled by people who do not have the same vested interest in the long term success of the organization.

The first to be outsourced work should ideally be the commoditized, "boring" work that is not core to your company’s value proposition. Then, it should be definable in discrete projects with well defined deliverables. When outsourced work meets these criteria, and is managed with the proper Project Workforce Management tools and techniques, these company-vendor relationships will build value and drive business success over time, as Hogan suggests.

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Jim Carroll on Project Workforce Management: Faster is the New Fast

Jim Carroll, author of What I Learned from Frogs in Texas, gave an entertaining and informative keynote at the Tenrox User Conference last week. One of the biggest take-aways was: be ready for change–more of it and at a faster pace than we can yet imagine.

Jim talked about how young people don’t only bring about rapid change, but since they have grown up in a world where change is a given, change is simply part of their lives. Whatever the next wave of change is going to be, they won’t just be early adopters–they will be rapid adapters, and they will adapt without even giving it much thought.

His title to the foreword of the book Rise of the Project Workforce, "Don’t mess with my powder, dude," refers to a snowboarder’s response to a job offer. What many of us would call a "regular job" just gets in the way of what is really important to young people’s lives. In fact, over half of people under 25 consider self-employment to be more secure than full-time employment.

We are already seeing what this new attitude is doing to the project workforce. First of all, it is making it more possible–there is a new batch of project workers for whom the "Hollywood Model" will fit like a glove. Second of all, it will force those of us ahead of this curve in experience, but behind in and adaptability (i.e., older) to take a hard look at the "innovation killers" we habitually put into place that could slow down the process of teams becoming more agile, flexible, and less constrained to the home office.

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