Where should you start as a Chief Project Officer?

It’s a dilemma for newly appointed Chief Project Officers.  Where does one start in implementing EPM?  There are answers of course, but the problem is not finding an answer, it is picking an answer from the many possible courses of direction.  One of the most common first actions by CPO’s often doesn’t deliver the most return on investment.  The most common action is to throw basic (or advanced) project management training at the staff with the hope that if they just knew more about project management, enterprise project management would somehow become easier.  Fortunately, most reputable epm-level project training suppliers will start by asking you what you’re trying to accomplish, thus bringing you right back to your first dilemma!


One of the more remarkable aspects of deploying enterprise project management is the phenomenal number of facets that can be considered.  The most obvious aspects are, of course, integrated schedules and portfolio management but think for a moment about some of the directions that an epm deployment could go to:


You could elect to focus on resources and develop the elusive Resource Capacity Planning model within which all work load and all resource availability is tracked for both current and proposed work.  This model would allow you to quickly determine the potential impact of new work on your existing schedule and staff and optimize the work load across the skill set of your resources.


You could decide that empowering virtual teams is where it’s at and focus instead, on creating a system with an outward facing interface so that geographically dispersed teams, teams made up of contractors, clients, internal and external staff, executives, sponsors and so on are all able to contribute their elements of the schedule.


You could decide that it’s all about document management and deploy a process and system that would allow you to instantly locate that always hard to find document.  (Speaking of which, where *did* I put that file?)


You could go the traditional route and work on creating a collection of project portfolios, managing projects at the macro level with metrics for evaluating the relative merits of the projects themselves and for determining the strategy of where to put your key resources.


Speaking of metrics, it could become about scoring things for you.  You could deploy a Balanced Scorecard method of tracking project information and displaying that information in at-a-glance dashboards for the managers who need it. 


If we’re talking about portfolios and balanced scorecards, it might be worthwhile to deploy a project stage-gating system.  This would allow us to categorize projects into distinct phases and to do a formal evaluation before authorizing expenditures on projects that don’t fit our corporate strategy.


Hmmm, scorecards, metrics, stage-gating.  We’re going to have to think about Risk Management.  We could deploy an enterprise-wide project evaluation and tracking system that focuses on the current and expected risks of projects.


How about collaboration?  Who could be against that?  We could work on the most common project management challenge, getting team members, executives, clients and sponsors to all be able to communicate and contribute their information to move the overall work forward.


We could forget about all of that and just implement a project issue tracking system.  After all, tracking issues, takes up a huge amount of time for the entire project team.   We could make the entire organization more effective if we did that!


If you’re a new CPO and you’re looking at this list and wondering which one you can’t be committed to, fear not.  We’re all in the same boat!  The most common challenge is realizing that you ultimately need all of these elements of an epm system.  When you look at many epm tools you can find elements of all of these aspects in the functionality those packages provide. 


The great news is that you don’t need to deploy everything at once.  In fact, the most common factor in failed epm deployments is trying to take on too much in the first wave.  The best chance you have to deploy epm successfully is found in the earliest days of the project.  Start by taking some highly leveraged time in the first few days and get a meeting facilitated by an outsider.  (There’s something about having to explain yourself to an outside pm expert that sharpens everyone’s thinking.)


Use this time to work through which short list of epm aspects will produce the most rapid and best return on investment.  When in doubt, go for the short win rather than the big win.  The smallest aspects of epm can sometimes produce the most remarkable improvements in efficiency.  For example, tracking issues seems like a tiny aspect of epm functionality but when you think about it for five minutes, it’s easy to imagine such a system deployed centrally and giving perspective to a tremendously wide range of users into the status of the project management process.  That tiny aspect alone might be worth the effort of an epm deployment!


You almost never have to deploy all aspects of your ultimate epm vision on the first day so think of your deployment as a series of stages with a requirement of the first stage being that sufficient ROI will be generated from that stage alone to justify the entire system.  It’s almost always possible to determine this and if you do, you’ve not only ensured the continued survival of epm as a corporate standard but you’ve laid a successful foundation and sufficient credibility to launch future (and perhaps more complex) stages.

 It’s not how much you do, but how much you do well that will count in the end.

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