A few years ago, a fellow banking consultant told me how he requested customer data when he started his training in the 1960s. He would fill in an application and submit it to his data management colleagues. The next day, the required customer file would be on his desk.
Today, data processing is a bit different. You know, digitization and such. Software helps us process more data in an ever shorter time period, all while making it flexibly available. Nowadays, I get a cramp in my hand when I write a shopping list. I‘m glad I don’t have to plan my project portfolio on a sticky note!
However, working with software is not always fun. It is often unclear, oversized, and complicated – or well defined and structured, but without any additional functionality. Sound familiar? Then maybe it’s time to look for an alternative. If you answer yes to one or more of the following questions, you are a candidate for a software spring cleaning.
#1 New Employee Training Takes Too Long
Do your employees spend more time learning software than on other regular daily tasks? Then you’re not using Lean PPM! If the software has too many functions, it only complicates the whole process. Even worse, it slows down your organization with useless tasks. It is better to concentrate on the essential issues.
#2 You Use Too Many Individual Tools for PPM
Do you use separate software for project portfolio planning, resource management, budget planning and report generation? Does half of your IT capacity go into maintaining interfaces? Then you are definitely doing something wrong! Project portfolio management means keeping track of all areas of the project landscape. It’s not just about selecting projects and then shuffling them around on your timeline. You also need to keep an eye on your resources and finances, and be able to generate clear evaluations or reports with just a few clicks. The only problem is getting used to the lack of data redundancy and more free time!
#3 Your Tool Can‘t Keep Up with Changes
Your organization is growing and changing. Your PPM tool should therefore not be specialized for small businesses or start-ups, but should be able to serve all sizes. Are you a small company and still paying the same price as the big ones? That’s not fair. Scalable tools like Meisterplan offer different rates based on the number of managed resources, not user licenses. So the cost is to your benefit, not that of the software manufacturer.
#4 You Have No Control Over Usage and Editing Rights
Are you planning your project portfolio in a spreadsheet saved on your desktop? Then it’s high time for a team solution! But: the more users using the software, the more dust there is to sweep. Unauthorized or even accidental data changes can increase the level of stress in preparation for the next portfolio board meeting.
Just as there are different hierarchies and responsibilities in your organization, so should be your ability to customize the usage rights of your software. Employees at the project level should be able to view, but not change information. In addition, managers should be able to work on and plan their individual sub-portfolio without having to scroll through the entire corporate portfolio. The PMO, in turn, needs the overall view to resolve resource conflicts.
#5 They Hold Too Many Meetings
Do you find yourself meeting with project managers and executives to discuss portfolio changes and allocate resources on a regular basis? If this is the case, your internal communication deserves an award. However, meetings that are just about tasks, deadlines, progress reports and employee capacity are superfluous and a sign that your PPM tool isn’t translating all of this information in an understandable way. Ideally, meetings are for discussing high-priority issues and conflict resolution.
In the following graphic, we have reduced the complexity of PPM meetings to a minimum.
#6 You Run Data Collection, But No Data Analysis
Once a PPM tool is filled with information, only a fraction of the work is done. After all, the goal is to analyze the facts and make smart decisions based on them. There are several possible reasons why you are spending too much time consolidating and updating data. Either you’re using Excel or another free application that is very input-intensive and rigid, or you have an overcomplicated software that requires an unnecessary amount of input. Who said that PPM shouldn‘t be fun?
#7 Your PPM Manages the Shortage
Do you tend to react instead of making forward-looking decisions? Then your PPM tool might be the wrong one. Your software must be able to react flexibly to changes in an agile environment, but it would be best for it to recognize changes in advance, and to act with foresight. This works best through a top-down approach: first project planning, then project actualization. Tools designed to sweep the floor in the Darwinian contest of projects, instead of allowing active and timely portfolio planning based on corporate strategy, enable bad planning and should be trashed.