As we bid farewell to another year, I look back with immense pride at our team and the progress we’ve made. 2023 was a year that we chose to focus on accelerating our product roadmap to improve and enhance PPO with two key goals:
- Adoption of simplified ways of work; and
- Improved user customisation and visualisation of their portfolio, programme and project management data.
Due to the pace at which we wanted to move and the pressure we put ourselves under, another key goal and focus was the managing well-being of our team and promoting an active and healthy workforce.
Empowering Client Success Through Enhanced Functionality
We embarked on an ambitious plan to accelerate our product roadmap 18 months ago. Our aim was to provide our clients with an unparalleled system to manage their project and portfolios efficiently. While the market has embraced new ways of work PPO has remained a simple to use, effective Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) tool. PPO’s strength has always been in its ability to store and manage portfolio and project management in a strong, structured yet highly configurable database. We’ve also been fortunate to work in all sectors, with clients both large and small and all project types. In addition, PPO is not a new tool, we have a proven track record and experience of approaching 1000s of implementations – we know how to do it and we keep doing it every day.
Core to our success this year was deployments of the following enhancements for our clients (this is not the full list, that’s available on our Blog under the Product News category):
Widgets where initially introduced in 2022 and we have continued to grow the library of widgets to allow clients to visually view their lists and data. Users can configure their own widgets on all list pages in PPO, select from the growing range of widget types. This laid the groundwork to make it possible for users to configure and customise their own dashboards and home pages on PPO.
With a change in the way users work and communicate, PPO introduced Conversations to allow users to interact in an informal and collaborative way but make interactions useful and meaningful and focused on a specific project, task, sprint or work item. We noticed as a team, we started making use of other communication tools, but they actually created a lot of noise, did not tie the applicable communication to a project or piece of work and typically included a large number of team members, which found the communication irrelevant. PPO’s conversations aimed to support that type of communication but focused on a piece of portfolio or project data. Using one tool has allowed our clients more focus, less noise and more traceability.
To support the conversations and allow users to move away from email notifications and alerts, the feed widget was introduced. It allows us to push conversations to the feed so that users can read, respond and/or dismiss conversations. This was further extended to allow the PPO administrators to retire email events and push updates and alerts on projects, risks, tasks, any work to the feed. This supports a shift in the newer ways of work and reduced the number of emails and clutter. That said, the email notifications in PPO remains and clients will always be able to use them where needed and appropriate. We’re offering users the best of both.
Traditionally projects lived and died by the schedule and to support the move to agile and hybrid delivery methods, a Calendar View was introduced to PPO. It has also enabled PMOs to improve maturity in the management of risks, dependencies, issues and actions with visual views of deadlines. This now allows the PMO to publish key portfolio and PMO deadlines, allows project managers to track and manage key dates on risks, dependencies and milestones, allows scrum masters to manage sprint timelines and planning and allows all team members to keep track of work items, tasks or any other work driven by dates and timelines, all in a single, simple to use calendar view.
Until now, users viewed data in a list on PPO and with reports and dashboards they could then visualise that data. The widgets put the power in the hands of the users to build their own widgets and dashboards on the home page, but the Board Views added a new dimension of visualisation to allow users to visualise their data in a board view. Whether it’s new demand, projects, risks or tasks the board views allow for Kanban views, sorting, grouping and filtering of any data in PPO. The latest release of interactivity of these views now allows users to drag and drop, update in one place and interact and manage their work in a much more interactive and collaborative way yet ensuring that the data maintains its integrity and can be easily reported on, something other board only tools lacks.
The My List feature built off the back of the feed feature to allow users to specifically flag and save specific items. Any changes or updates to these items now push notifications to the users feed, so they can follow, real time updates as they happen. It reduces the need to attach yourself to specific projects, risks, sprints or tasks and to flood your mailbox. In addition, embracing an agile way of work it has allowed us to manage our new ideas, grooming, sprint planning and sprint execution in a much more effective way, but one in a structured way as it relates to a specific sprint, project or piece of work. Users making use of the My Lists now have a much more control over what notifications they receive and see what they need to and don’t get bothered by what they don’t need to.
The work on the widgets and the focus to improve data visualisation meant we updated our charting component in PPO allowing users a much richer experience on all PPO dashboards, including drill down, click through, filtering, enhanced look and feel, new graph types (donuts, activity, gauges and more). We have a number of new graph types we will be releasing next year, and we’ve updated all the standard out of box PPO dashboards to make use of the new functionality. The reporting in PPO has made a huge improvement to the value that the reporting provides to our PPO users.
Customisable Home Pages
Most of these enhancements allowed us to eventually move to the customisable home page. PPO’s home page has been a very useful feature since we first launched the product, allowing users to focus on only their “work.” We’ve made minor changes over the years to allow the ability to decide what entities to see, what order to see it apply filtering, but this change is a massive improvement to allow users to create their own customisable dashboards and views, directly on their home page making use of all widgets. Users can implement Gantt charts, board views, calendars, traditional lists and widgets. That’s not all. For the first time, PPO has introduced tabs allowing users to create an unlimited number of tabs to see what they want to see. This is specifically useful in hybrid environments or for users that perform multiple functions, which we’ve discovered is actually a large portion of users. They would typically be a Project Manager on one project, a Scrum Master on another and team member / SME on others. More and more PMO’s staff are also performing project roles and they operate as team members, project managers and PMO staff. The customisable home page puts all the power in the hands of the users to build their own dashboards. In addition, the need to move around the rest of PPO has dramatically reduced, as most users now only interact with their home pages.
All of these enhancements have lead to us update our Features page on the PPO website to include our newer and enhanced features, Portfolio Management, Demand Management, Agile & Hybrid Delivery, KPI & Goal Tracking, improved APIs & Integration and more Analytics & Insight. All these enhancements are now included with every PPO instance, over and above the long standing traditional project management features of time, cost, risk, document and change management.
Championing an Active and Healthy Team
Beyond product enhancements, we recognised that our team’s dedication and well-being are the driving forces behind our success. Throughout the year, we prioritised initiatives aimed at fostering a vibrant and nurturing work culture:
Supporting Remote Work
Post the COVID period where our team were forced to stay at home, we engaged with all and took the decision to become a fully and forever remote company. We’ve spent time assisting the team to install and implement the necessary changes at home to allow for a happy and productive working environment, whether this was the provision of generators and alternative power solutions, workstations or the necessary equipment. We’ve seen staff take the opportunity to leave the cities where we traditionally had offices and move closer to family and friends or make lifestyle decisions to move to other areas that would previously not have been possible. I myself spent large portions of the year working outside my house from various cities and countries I had the fortune of visiting.
Focusing on Being Active
An ongoing focus at PPO has been promoting an active lifestyle. The risk of our type of work and being remote is that it’s possible for staff to spend many hours sitting and working and not moving enough. We actively run a number of multi week challenges during the year to promote well-being. Whether it’s a walk with kids and a pram, dog walks, team runs, individual yoga sessions or bike rides, anything counts, we just want our team to get out for 35-min a day, 3-4 times and week and be active. We provide additional leave and incentives during these competitions and promote being active with family, friends and colleagues for extra bonuses. Since starting this focus post COVID, we’ve seen a reduction in sick leave of 156% across the company. In addition, PPO sponsored team members to attend and compete in events from the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge to the Cape Town Marathon and even the 90km Comrades Ultra marathon this year. We look forward to support more of our team next year to remain active.
Reducing Meeting Fatigue & But Have Regular Team Check-Ins
During this year we focused on reducing our internal meetings such that two teams (Support and DevOps) have a single stand up for 20min a day and the whole team attend one weekly team session. This has allowed us to reduce meeting fatigue and crammed diaries, focus on spending as much time as possible developing and deploying new features and enhancements to our clients or spending time with our clients to adopt and entrench these improvements. The team wide check ins have been useful to keep us focused on our goals, maintain regular contact and interact across our different teams and geographies.
Encouraging In Person Get Togethers
One of the risks in being virtual is never seeing each other so we’ve specifically taken the opportunity a couple of times this year to get together. Whether that was attending the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge, doing a Murder Mystery Challenge, the DevOps team attending Amazon Web Service Conference together, the Support ninjas doing Friday afternoon braais (barbeques for our non-SA clients and partners) or the PPO running / walking team getting together from time to time on a Saturday for a parkrun or our regular team breakfasts (starting with a 5km walk) we ensure we get to see each other during the year. I look forward to more of these in 2024.
Clients & Partners: Thank You for your Unwavering Support
I’d like to extend our deepest appreciation to each and every one of our cherished clients and partners. Your unwavering support and trust in PPO have kept us focused and moving forward this year.
Your feedback, ideas, and commitment have not only motivated us but played an instrumental role in shaping our path and innovation this year.
Thank you, not just for this year, but for being an integral part of our journey, which started in 2004. Your support fuels our passion, and your partnership fuels our drive to excel.
Here’s to a prosperous and rewarding year ahead, our 20th!