Years ago I had the occasion to attend a fascinating seminar about getting what you really want in life.  As an object lesson at one point, the leader offered to dissipate the headache of anyone who had a headache and who wished to get rid of it.  I won’t bore you with the procedure although I did see the demonstration done multiple times and with 100% success each and every time.  I was reminded recently of one of the key elements of the demonstrations which, I think, is pertinent to anyone doing an enterprise project management systems implementation.  Once a willing volunteer had been selected, the leader made a special point of asking them if they were willing to have their headache disappear.  This wasn’t a casual question, they said.  This was critical to the demonstration’s success.   The volunteer was asked to think about it for a moment to be sure they were willing to rid themselves of this headache.

I’ve been thinking lately that I should be doing the same thing with some of the larger organizations I consult about deploying enterprise project management.  Given our business, we’re almost always talking about the more technical aspects of such a deployment; installing epm and enterprise timesheet systems and configuring them to match a corporate epm process.  The problem seems to come up time and time again as we get near the end of the deployment and the system and/or process is about to go live.  Suddenly there is a burst of resistance from different sources and a pause as the epm project team considers what they’ve gotten themselves into.

It’s not like epm systems and epm processes don’t work.  They do.  There is plenty of evidence in case study after case study.  The problem is more that these projects are inevitably considered technology projects rather than change-management projects and, despite the advice of everyone involved, changing behaviour and culture is infinitely more difficult than installing software.

Moving an organization to work together in any aspect of its business is a challenge.  This is certainly so when we talk about project management.  The benefits to management of having data all gathered together seem obvious but the costs are not always apparent.  There is no question that deploying epm will always be a trade off. 

Ok, that sounds perhaps strange coming from someone who has been an evangelist for epm for 20 years or so but it’s true nonetheless.  Sharing resources makes for a great demonstration and, in a perfect world, seems like an obvious solution but there may be a penalty as project managers who have been able to successfully hoard resources by flying under the radar are now pushed to work at the same level of effectiveness as less efficient project managers. 

Having everyone see global data may seem excellent until you find that there are some who will use the opportunity of more data access to spend more time lobbying by using the data of other project managers than working on their own. 

Left unmanaged, it is certain that an epm system has the potential to make an organization less efficient rather than more.  John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco Corp. had a study commissioned where the effects of automation and the effects of process change were studied.  In some cases, the study found, automating then changing the process actually caused decreases in efficiency of up to 9%!  On the other hand, adopting a new process and then automating it caused increases in efficiency of up to 21%. 

The lesson is really one for me and people like me who work with organizations who want to implement enterprise project management.  When an organization says they’re ready to solve their problem, I’ve got to ask: “Are you sure you want the solution?”