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Optimising your Project Data
Luke Camfield
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An introduction to Project Data and PPM tools

Project data is everything you track, plan for or record throughout your project. So that’s what we’re going to try to discuss. Optimising your project data, with a particular emphasis on PPM tools.

PPM tools

PPM tools (Project Portfolio Management tools) are applications that help you throughout your project and portfolio management process. There are many different categories that these tools can help you with, including:

    • Time and resources.

    • Finances through a project: being able to track at that portfolio level.

    • Individual planning at the project level.

    • Inputs and outputs: everything you record and produce as a part of your project.

Within the marketplace we have project management, we have portfolio management, and then a space in between. The most useful tools are that group in the middle, where project management and portfolio management meet. They have limitless functionality, so there is the potential to do everything you want to do and to configure it as much as you want.

That can be a great fit for a business who are brand new to change. Give them an application that does everything they want it to do. Start from the beginning and go all the way through, in one place, where everyone can access it.

A variety of choices are available

But what if you already have an embedded change function? What if all your resources know what they’re doing on a project-by-project level, but you struggle when it comes to communicating about higher levels? You may need to adopt a portfolio management approach, and there are tools that can come in and help you with that.

Meisterplan is great at that portfolio level. You can enter some basic information about the project, record it, and can categorise the value and the confidence level. By entering it into that portfolio planner, you can then prioritise your projects. This gives you the ability to see which resource is doing what, and then you can dynamically move things. You’ve got some priorities, but they might be using the same resources.

For example, you might have a high-priority project and a second-priority project with the same person leading for both: they can’t do both at the same time. But you may realise you’ve got another project, slightly lower down, where a different person is involved. Now you can do both of those things at the same time. It can work well in organisations with a previously embedded change function, but just need help at that higher level.

Then you got project management-specific tools. These could be useful in a situation where you’ve got a small organisation with a couple of projects on the go. You wouldn’t need to worry about the portfolio level. You just want some structure, some organisation, and some collaboration at that project level. In this case, a tool like Trello or Easy Project, which can work with agile and portable methodologies, could be ideal.

Inputs and Outputs

Inputs

In regards to inputs, what we look to do at the inception of a project, is understand exactly what these businesses are looking for. It may be that these companies are already using tools. What the tools can do is give you the ability to keep everything in one place. They give you all the templates that you might need. But you are also not limited to the templates that they’ve got available you can put your own in if you prefer.

Outputs

Then outputs. The main thing we’ve seen is that everyone needs to see reports. There are hundreds and hundreds of different reports that are already built into these tools, depending on whether you want to see a dashboard.

And that is just the start of it. You can categorise data into people, or into teams and you can choose your way of working. It may be that the project sponsor only wants to see data one way, but it may be that the SMEs need to see a more detailed dashboard that they can drill down into every single day. With a tool that presents data in a variety of ways, this is easily achievable.

The needs of a project

Resource management within your project

Let’s shift our focus mainly to the people involved in a project because they are the main resource. What has been seen from these tools, is that the real jewel in the crown is the resource management of people within the business. You decide to do a project, and for it to run smoothly you’re going to need a Business Analyst (BA) and you’re going to need a Project Manager (PM) amongst other things.

You choose your project team but then this opens you to a lot more questions including;

    • How do we get these people?

    • Are they already in the business?

    • Are we going to need to go out to hire?

    • Are we going to need contractors?

    • Are they going to be permanent?

    • Do they need software?

    • How many hours a day are they going to be working on the project?

The benefits of using PPM tools

What you can do with PPM tools is you can focus on prioritisation. If you’ve got a PM who is working on three separate projects, without correct prioritisation, and especially if you are subscribing to the HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) it might mean that the third project isn’t going to get done.

With these tools you can, amongst other things, see time management throughout the week. This can be drilled down so that you’re not just looking at their allocation for the month or the year, but for the day. You can investigate the data further and see the allocation hours. Therefore, not only do you understand exactly what you need within the project, but you can also understand who’s available.

How to implement a PPM tool

Creating demand: personality types

You have heard a lot about PPM tools, and you might think they’re great. But you’re immediately thinking about how to get people on board who are tied down to their Excel Spreadsheet, their PowerPoint presentations, and who do not want to change their way of working.

Let’s reference ‘Diffusion of innovations’, by Everett Rogers, taken from a presentation made by Simon Sinek.

This is a normal curve, and on average the population is broken down along these lines. So, you have 2.5% of your population at the start, who’re innovators. They’re the people who come up with those initial ideas. Then we have, around 13.5% of the population, who are early adopters. Those are the people who are easiest to get on board with the new change, and new applications, especially if they sound excited.

Then you have most of the rest. You’ve got that broken down by early majority, late majority and laggards. Your early majority and the late majority are the people who, if you try and force something on them, will be reluctant: they’ll push back. And if you try and implement something in one go these are going to be the loudest people in the room. They’re going to be most of your population, they’re going to make it challenging for you.

Then, in the end, you got your laggards but they’re the people who are going to be resistant regardless of what you do. So, between friends, let’s not worry about them.

How to implement change

For a new idea or a new application to gain traction, you need to hit around 15% market penetration. At that point, it becomes a bit of a snowball effect. As soon as you get that 15%, more and more people want in. So, you can see that that overlaps nicely between innovators and early adopters. These are the people you need to target and reach out to.

To do that, you create a small barrier to entry. So maybe you’ve come up with a new application. You’ve got 50 people in your change management teams. 5 different projects, maybe 10 people per project. You come to them and say ‘we’ve got 10 licenses for a new application; we would love to allow you to use it.’ Ask them to fill in a questionnaire:

    • Why do they think they would use it?

    • How do they think they would use it?

    • Why do they think they’ll get benefits from it?

Make them come to you. And now you’ve found out who all your innovators and early adopters are. Give them those licenses and make them advocates for your change.

Creating demand

What happens next is other people will hear about it. Don’t be afraid to let them know that everyone else has it, and then they’ll come to you and go, ‘why don’t I have this?’ Then you’ve got your early majority coming in, followed by your late majority. You’ve created demand.

If you’re bringing in new applications, especially something that interrupts people’s current ways of working, targeting those people who are going to take it on. Give it to the people who want it and then make them make everyone else want it as well.

* This blog was adapted from a session at the Project Partners: 2023 and Beyond event called ‘Optimising your Project Data.’ It was presented by Luke Camfield and Liam Hynes from Project Partners.

The full session can be viewed here.

Slides from the presentation are available here.

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