As we have seen in this paper, a significant amount of IT investment is wasted each year on projects that are poorly managed, not aligned with corporate strategy and operating within silos (i.e. off radar). I have considered the behavioural and mindset changes that should be adopted as part of a mature and value-adding project organisation. In this final section, I will discuss project tools and how they play an important role in achieving whole-of-life benefits for organisations.
We know that many people who find themselves running projects are not professional project managers. In fact, there is not a lot of consensus on what defines a “professional” project manager. While various institutions offer certified project management courses, many of them pay little heed to the important leadership and behavioural qualities I have discussed in this paper and many project managers receive no training at all.
The reality is that many individuals will find themselves leading a project with a sizeable budget but very little support to guide them to a successful outcome. The choice of project tool can therefore be an important determinant in minimising the risk posed by inexperienced project managers.
The problem with many project management tools however is that they can be too complex for users and assume that users know what they are doing. It is important for the project tool to be easy to use to encourage all project managers to use it. This will ensure more consistent governance within the project delivery community and allow aggregation of project data that will form the basis of portfolio management and in turn, relevant decision-making.
In addition to ease-of-use, we recommend tools that utilise secure, cloud-based architectures. Ideally the SPMO will want to be able to see integrated project data from all projects in real time with roll-up and drill-down capability. This will only be possible if every project manager is using the same tool and if the architecture of the tool supports this kind of integration and support for program and portfolio structures.
Tools that offer a tailored governance approach will ensure that templates can be created by the SPMO to suit projects of different sizes or different types of projects. The template should allow a project plan to be set up automatically with the appropriate governance elements automatically applied to suit a particular type of project. This not only saves time and effort for the project manager, but ensures the same standards are being applied across all project types. The ability to “bake” SPMO standards into the project tool means the project manager does not need to go looking for this information and knows what is expected. This has benefits later as well during project audits as the expected project information and governance is immediately available.
The ability to see key project metrics across all projects enables the investment decisioning capability I have discussed previously. In the same way, the tool should allow for risks and issues to be aggregated and made transparent. I discussed the importance of action tracking as part of disciplined execution. We recommend tools which facilitate a centralised and assignable capability for managing actions as many of these will be key to successful project delivery. This will allow the SPMO to take a more holistic view on key focus areas across the organisation. Furthermore, the ability to see and track benefits across portfolios, programs and projects will greatly enhance the strategic value that the PMO brings to the organisation.
Standalone project tools are not integrated with each other and therefore a real time, aggregated view of important project data is not possible. PMOs therefore rely on separate reports to be provided by project managers in order to assemble this information. This is not only an inefficient process but as we have seen, data provided in reports is inconsistent and often, inaccurate. For that reason, we recommend project tools that also offer integrated, easily customisable reporting that obviates the need for the project manager to generate a separate report. If a project tool is simple to use and supports the project manager in inputting the required information, the quality of reporting will improve as a result and with it perhaps, the morale of the project manager.
As we have seen in this paper, the strategic project management office has a key role to play in lifting the maturity of project delivery and optimising the business return on project investment within the organisation. To achieve this, focus needs to be given to people, processes, data and tools. Project delivery is a holistic exercise; both an art and a science. The game changing recommendations I have outlined in this paper cover all of these dimensions and I am confident they will serve you well on your journey to becoming a mature, value-adding project delivery organisation.