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Key tips to getting it right


People, process, technology: if you haven’t got these operating in harmony, you will be operating at a disadvantage. And if you're managing a portfolio of initiatives or project and you still don't have a portfolio and project management (PPM) tool, you are most certainly at a disadvantage as you're lacking critical visibility and wasting valuable time chasing or re-entering information.

Implementing a PPM tool doesn't need to be expensive, complicated, nor take a long time. You can get started pretty much immediately self-guided using one of a variety of PPM tools readily available on the market.

Here are our tips to guide you to a successful PPM tool implementation:

• Clearly defined goals and outcomes - all successful projects need clearly defined goals and outcomes, and a PPM tool implementation is no different. You need to ensure everyone is clear and aligned on the goals and expected outcomes. While these will seem very obvious, they are still important to document so you have a record to look back on in the future to be sure that you have achieved them

• Clear understanding of current reality - you also need to be clear on the current situation: what are the existing processes, practices and ways of working, what is it that you are trying to improve so you can be clear on the action plan required to move you from here to the desired future state

• Clear understanding of what is needed to achieve the change - knowing where you are and where you are headed makes it much simpler to define your action plan. Implementing a PPM tool is in effect applying technology to your processes and people. Technology and automations will impact your processes and will have a positive impact on how people work, but so you can create a system to follow your processes, you need to be clear on them, what is fixed and what is flexible

• Select the right tool – the requirements of each organisation are different. Be clear on the requirements for your organisation, but also be clear what are critical requirements versus a future wishlist. Clearly you must ensure the tool meets your organisation’s budget and security requirements, but don’t over-spec a solution looking for functionality you won’t necessarily use, or not within the first 18 months at least. Look for a system that is flexible and scalable so it can adapt as your organisation and needs evolve. Most modern systems are constantly evolving with new functionality being added all the time

• Acknowledge it’s not a silver bullet – implementing a PPM tool won’t solve process, governance, or people issues. It is likely to highlight deficiencies, but like a car, if you have the wrong car for the terrain or the driver doesn’t know how to drive it, it will end badly. So understand it’s a journey and as you get used to the car the ride will become smoother and the driver and passengers more comfortable. It also needs commitment to stick the journey.

• Key stakeholder buy-in and management sponsorship – the most successful change is the change people own themselves, or at least feel like they own. If key stakeholder groups are resistant to change, you will have a trickier job to do. At a minimum, you need a business sponsor with appropriate authority who backs you and actively supports the implementation to ensure things get off on the right footing and are given time to bed in

• Treat it like a project – implementing a PPM tool is most likely being done by people familiar with running projects. Apply the same level of rigour you would to a normal project and apply good planning, communication and effective control, and break it down into appropriate phases [we have a template PPM Tool evaluation and implementation plan available on our website]

• Pilot and look for low-hanging fruit – don’t try to achieve everything in one go. Much better to go slowly at first and built momentum and speed. Seek out quick-wins and groups who will embrace and champion the change as they will become the best cheerleaders for the tool. When people see the early adopters are succeeding, they will want in. By starting with a pilot or small scale rollout, you will be able to tease out any initial issues and gather lots of learnings to carry forwards to the wider implementation. Given them a chance to influence the final design so they truly feel a level of ownership and accountability, and so will be much greater advocates.

• Apply effective change management – if you’ve followed the above guidance, you should be pretty well set. But the implementation is only ever as good as the adoption. So ensure you build in appropriate time to take the users and impacted people with you. Introduce them appropriately to the tool, help them understand how it positively impacts how they will work (if it’s making their work harder, something is wrong). And once you have started the initial implementation, ensure you continue to nurture it. Ensure you communicate success, capture learnings and feedback and continue to evolve the tool as people adapt to it so they feel true ownership of it

• Value your time and expertise – recognise that implementing a PPM tool requires time and dedication. The DIY self-guided approach can really suit those who have the time to dedicate to this. But be aware of the false economy – it will take longer and you don’t know what you don’t know. Leverage the right expertise and guidance to accelerate your time to value. It will cost you less in the long run – but make sure you are taking ownership as you go so that you are able to evolve the solution post implementation without being dependent on external support

Remember, effective execution is a balance between people, process and technology. Technology is a massive enabler, but people and process must always come first, yet remain flexible to be influenced by technology.

There are many PPM tools on the market and what most important is that you implement the one that is right for your organisation and you leverage the benefits technology can bring to improving project execution.

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