Lessons learned – key to project management success

lessons learned-04A critical aspect of successful project management is to review completed projects, identify successes and failures, or “lessons learned”, and incorporate them to help deliver value for future projects.

“The recent implementation of PPO, Project Portfolio Office’s online project portfolio management (PPM) application, at one of Africa’s largest retailers of food, general merchandise and clothing, has reinforced certain steps within a project that should be seriously considered for greater success by other organisations considering the implementation of a PPM application,” explains Guy Jelley, Project Portfolio Office CEO.

Understanding the Project Management Office (PMO) function

“Prior to the implementation of PPO, one of the most important steps the organisation took was to gain a good understanding of the role of its PMO and, based on this, put together a well-defined plan on how the PPM tool would be rolled out to support this function,” he explains. “The project team understood that going this route meant they would be able to get the very best out of PPO.”

Use data loading to address change and ensure quality initial data

The next step, according to Jelley, was to eliminate bulk data loading shortcuts by manually entering data into the new system. “This approach ensures a higher standard of data quality that does not need to be changed or updated at a later stage. It also means that information pulled into reports is a true, real time reflection of projects and that the project managers and administrators have a clear understanding of the definitions of all data elements.”

During post solution training, project team members were provided with dedicated timeslots to perform scheduled and controlled data collection sessions. According to Jelley: “These gatherings were invaluable as they allowed us to assist the project team where needed while managing this critical activity closely.”

“This step was important in also addressing user adoption and change, as employees have varying levels of acceptance and understanding and even the most experienced project managers can struggle with change. Going this route allowed us to get to grips with the tool, change behaviour towards it as needed, and thrash out any issues there and then.”

In addition, the PMO launched an internal competition, where the top three candidates won sizable prizes based on the best quality data entered in the shortest time period. “It was important to create urgency during the initial implementation process to ensure that we could gain access to the project portfolio quickly,” says Jelley.

By manually entering the relevant project information – instead of bulk loading it – the users underwent the change management process at the same time, allowing for better results within a shorter timeframe, and gained a clearer understanding of the defined data elements required within the tool and related reporting.

Moreover, the organisation’s training and support sessions permitted the company to collectively agree on rules and data definitions, like reporting cycles, data filters and drop down menus for information classification. This collective agreement upfront is another critical step to take, he continues.

The importance of ensuring credible status reporting

Another lesson learned by the company was how to sustain the improved project status reporting being delivered post the PPO rollout. “While PPO quickly enabled our client to significantly improve its project visibility, the organisation knew that maintaining this level was its next goal,” Jelley explains. “In order to sustain this on an ongoing basis, quality checks and internal audits were introduced, where project managers review one another’s dashboards on a regular basis, plus the PMO performs periodic audit checks of the projects using only PPO information.”

Securing executive support

Jelley maintains that executive support is one of the most important success factors within project management. A May 2010 Economist Intelligence Unit report on project management in industrial manufacturing industries validates this belief, clearly stating that executive support and sponsorship for a strong project management discipline is directly linked to better project results. It also says that project managers answering to executive-level leadership, are almost twice as likely to bring projects in on schedule.

Due to the importance of executive support for the implementation of any tool, Jelley explains that that the company in question’s PMO needed to impress on its executives the significance of reporting content, as opposed to the “look and feel” of reports. “Once the executive team realised the quality of information presented was significantly improved, they understood that the format of the reports was not as important as previously thought and were completely on board.”

The implementation of PPO, which was completed by Cape Town-based PPO partner, Corporate Project Management (CPM), has been such a resounding success that the company has opted to apply its lessons learned to other software implementations. To this end, the PMO team is providing insight into the organisation’s current enterprise content management rollout.

“One of the most valuable lessons of this organisation’s PPO experience has been gaining the understanding of its processes prior to the project execution. This allowed it to customise PPO and establish rules as needs were realised, assisting in user digestion and acceptance,” he concludes.

About Project Portfolio Office

Project Portfolio Office (PPO) is an award-winning online project portfolio management (PPM) application that assists project teams within organisations of any size and across all industries to plan, manage, collaborate, execute and report on projects, programs and portfolios.  PPO is simple to use, can be implemented immediately, and is secure and affordable.

Try PPO free of charge at www.go2ppo.com

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Guy Jelley

Author: Guy Jelley

Guy is one of the founders of PPO and is the company’s CEO. He is very passionate about the Project Management industry, and through this also very driven. Guy is a husband & father of 2, loves jazz, soccer and is a huge Spurs fan.

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