PPM without Getting Fired? Step 3: Recycle


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I am constantly giving WorkOtter demos based on features people want in their resource and project management software.

They ask about graphs, charts, and other visually stimulating capabilities more at home on an entertainment site then a project management solution. I’m always happy to show what WorkOtter can do.

But, I’m always waiting for someone to ask about our ability to setup and reuse a standard template. Sure, it may be buried on page 5 of 7 in the detailed RFP, but it never comes up in a functionality demo.

Once again, it’s usually a case of the leaders implementing the solution ignoring success factors and best practices. This typically dooms the implementation – and their careers.

I often wonder, “Why don’t people understand the importance of templates in their project management software?” Shouldn’t this be the 1st question prospects ask?

This leads us to the next step in our series: Recycle!

Let’s review the lessons learned so far in our series:

Step 3) Recycle

Organizations that effectively use templates and recycle their best work benefit by:

  • Easier adoption of your process – similar projects have the same structure
  • Better reporting – since projects have a similar hierarchy
  • Less administration – projects are setup correctly and you won’t spend days re-keying everything
  • More involved customers – they see the repetition in the plan and better understand your progress

Templates are the least expensive and most effective way to institutionalize better project management!

You see, if your organization can:

  1. Create a standard template for all projects
  2. Propagate that template
  3. Modify the template to the specific needs of each successive level of your organization
  4. Make the template easy to use (for example have it available as a web template in your PPM and as a Microsoft Project Template and allow it to bi-directionally sync with your PPM)
  5. Assess projects effectively after completion (using your PPM solution – of course!)
  6. Update your templates to reflect better practices

You will have effectively transformed your Project and Portfolio Management solution into a full featured continuous process improvement capability.

You may be wondering, “What types of things should we put in a PPM template?

Effective project templates share the following attributes:

  1. Hierarchical:  Start with a template that every other project template will be built from and put the minimum project requirements inside it.
  2. Contain key milestones:  Every project template should have the key milestones clearly defined for reporting purposes. Great PPM tools allow you to mark these special PMO (or phase-gate) milestones easily for reporting.
  3. Contain a “Go-Live” milestone:  A specially marked go-live milestone is your most important delivery date that is clearly visible (and another attribute of great PPM software).
  4. Generically staffed to roles and competency levels:  Assigning generic roles, and competency levels needed to be successful, will allow people to adjust the timelines if replaced with people with lower competencies.
  5. High degrees of dependencies within your plan:  The best templates start with a key task or milestone and work forward and backward from that point with intra-project dependencies. By having your plan “linked” to that one key date allows you to instantly move your template (when applied) to the correct dates.
  6. Sample risk assessment all projects share:  Having the typical risks all projects face serve as a reminder to quantify (and mitigate) these risks on every project.
  7. Post project assessment:  Weighted questions that determine the score the project (and project manager) get for key quality and delivery metrics

So you now have a project template you can start with. It has the prerequisite key milestones, roles, dependencies, and risks. Turn it over to other departments, different types of projects, and expect everything to roll up (and roll out) correctly!

Not so fast.

Here is the right way to roll out your templates to other organizations and project types:

  1. Schedule a private meeting with each organization
  2. Go over and train them on the use of the template they will inherit
  3. Be clear what they can change/extend (and what they cannot)
  4. Physically assist them in building out copies of your master PMO template into the types of projects they work on
  5. Add organizational specific risks to the risk assessment portion of the template
  6. Fill in layers of tasks, deliverable, and milestones (with generic assignments and typical completion durations)
  7. Add specific questions to balance the weighting for the post project assessment
  8. Add financial non-labor costs that are specific to that project type

Now you can turn them loose to build out their templates in an intelligent fashion!

Implementing your templates in this way will not only ensure your teams are training on the use of the templates, you will have built good will and a shared commitment to seeing they are used.

In our next segment in our series we will discuss what a “bad Cop” is to your project management office and why they are indispensable to your PPM implementation!