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Business Use Cases

Management Brief: Cases For Process Solutions

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This Management Brief discusses business use cases for the implementation and use of project management process solutions in the context of both large and small to medium sized companies. An explanation is also given on the differences between what is commonly referred to as a project management methodology compared to a process.

Business use cases for project management process solutions exist at many levels throughout an organization from the project management office and IT department to the line of businesses and field teams. The opportunity to improve performance is equally present for those who already have an established project management culture and use an enterprise project portfolio management system as well as those who manage projects on an ad hoc basis using whatever project management tools are available to them.

What is a project management process solution?

Many companies have a defined project management process. It exists in the form of a project management handbook, methodology manual, quick reference card, and the like. Sometimes these items and reference documents are placed on an intranet or department LAN for others to access along with examples of project management templates. Other times, these items are appended to an enterprise tool for those with access to the tool to find and use. In either case, it is up to the user to access the available information and follow the instructions as well as conclude how to go about employing resources, tools and techniques. While these items and approaches are helpful, they fall short of providing the value and usefulness of a project management process solution which is simply the logical next step to take.

A project management process solution, by way of comparison, is a solution that provides to users the "who, what, when, where, why, and how" of project management in the context of their workplace and need. It provides access to descriptions and definitions of the project management process that experts as well as occasional project managements can use. Included are scalable workflows, step by step guidance, project management tools or modules within an enterprise project portfolio management system to be used for the task at hand, templates, forms, and checklists, mentors, and resources resource suggestions to help not just the project managers but all those involved in the project management process.

For large corporations, the business use case for a project management process solution is threefold. First, these companies typically have complex enterprise project portfolio management systems in place. While these systems provide functional and transaction support for project management, they typically do not provide contextual support to the project manager regarding the project management process related to his department and area of need. For example, a capital improvement project may be quite different than an IT project. Though both projects are performed using the same enterprise project portfolio management system and the same project management process, there are significant differences in the project environment, scope, areas of unique domain knowledge required, as well as available resources and subject matter experts. Complementing the existing enterprise project portfolio management system, the project management process solution provides an easy to access and use "umbrella" for the definition of the project management process in which all things useful are shown and described.

Second, large corporations have thousands of project managers spread across dozens of countries. Supporting them are project management offices and teams of people responsible for ensuring training, usage, and compliance. Though the PMO support staff visit the field and provide training and workshops, regrettably the knowledge they have isn't fully transferred nor is it retained after they leave. What they need is " Bob , the expert" on demand. What they need is a project management process solution that provides step by step guidance and can be accessed, when and where needed. Since all information useful to the project management process is in the project management process solution, it becomes a key asset to complement PMO training and support to establish and promote project management skills.

Thirdly, in addition to the formally designated project managers, a large company will have five to ten times that number of workplace practitioners that from time to time manage projects. Typically, these occasional project managers do not have access to the enterprise project portfolio management system, their projects are not visible, and they have not had project management training.

The types of projects these practitioners manage are usually departmental in nature and usually shorter term - one to three months. Examples include such projects as a research project to perform a competitive analysis, a marketing project for the annual customer event, a sales operations project to examine the potential benefits of commission plan changes, a business development to recruit new partners, a customer support project to gain customer satisfaction feedback, etc. These workplace projects provide tremendous value to the business, yet they are performed on an ad hoc basis where much of the same errors are continually repeated resulting in rework, time wasted, and quality that may not meet stakeholder expectations. For these projects and the practitioners that manage them, a project management process solution enables them to access on demand the tools and information they need in the context of their workplace to get it right the first time.

For small and medium sized companies, the business case for a project management process solution can be quite compelling. Many of the same needs, previously discussed, that large companies have, small and medium sized companies have too. Adding to matters further, many small and medium sized companies are not able to justify or budget a dedicated staff to manage a project management office, the implementation of an enterprise project portfolio management system to improve the management of projects and resources, or an ongoing project management training program to develop and enhance project manager skill sets. Yet, these companies typically have experts and mentors that could be significantly leveraged, end user and project management tools sufficient to do the job, and existing infrastructure such as a local area networks or intranets to enable to organization to deliver applications and information.

For these companies, a project management process solution can be, in essence, a virtual project management office that can be setup and managed by a single individual. It provides all of the information the organization needs in order to know and use its project management processes and best use its already existing tools and resources. Common desktop applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Project can be used as directed by the project management process solution enabling users to use the right tool for the job and the right tool for them. The value of project management process descriptions, guidance, and mentors is significant as most small and medium size companies have difficulty finding both the time and money for outside project management training. Likewise, project management templates, forms, and checklists as well as examples of role model past projects represent tremendous time savers as well as ways to improve upon project quality and potentially project costs.

In addition to being benefactors of the project management process solution, practitioners - the users - are also custodians of the process. Hence, by way of the continuous improvement process steps, users of the virtual PMO identify their problem areas and submit improvement recommendations that can be reviewed, approved by management, and updated by an assigned "care-taker" for the project management process.

Summary

Business use cases for project management process solutions exist for both large and small to medium sized companies. As renown management expert, W. Edwards Deming, puts it, "95% of the problem is the process, only 5% is the people." Most organizations only improve performance by first examining and improving their processes. Whether a first step or a next step for an organization, a project management process solution will enable skilled project managers as well as occasional practitioners to follow processes and "best practices" with a useful and usable set of tools resulting in a number of benefits, such as:

  • Improved quality
  • Better use of existing tools and resources
  • Increased flexibility within context and tools
  • Reduced cycle time and waste
  • Reduction in 2nd time errors
  • Improved predictability and control

The above areas of benefit quantitatively provide a business case for a project management process solution. In addition, a project management process solution will foster a process-oriented mindset and culture of continuous improvement further supporting the business use case for project management process solutions.

About the author: Bernie Keh is the President and CEO of BOT International. Prior to founding BOT International, Ms. Keh had executive and management positions with IBM, Computer Associates, and Systems Union.

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