When it comes to selecting and prioritizing projects –and allocating scare resources among them – most companies today are operating in the dark. I’ve worked with executives and project managers across dozens of industries, and almost all of them are facing the same basic challenges. They have limited tools for assessing cost, risk, strategic alignment and tactical value for individual projects. They have even less ability to compare those variables across projects, so they can allocate resources wisely and deliver the best value to the business.
The culprits are the very tools that originally revolutionized project management: spreadsheets and low-level project management applications. Though these tools are light years beyond pencil, paper and post-its, they still lead to information silos that make effective cross-project management nearly impossible. Today’s project portfolio management (PPM) applications, such as Serena Mariner, eliminate those barriers. They provide flexible templates for project management that help to establish best practices across the enterprise. They also provide a common data set, along with tools for aggregating, analyzing and distributing information about projects and resources.
The practical benefits of PPM
By integrating project and portfolio management, PPM applications deliver higher value throughout the lifecycle of each individual project, as well as higher total value across the full project portfolio.
Individual team members work from a common, consolidated data set, and have optimized tools and workflows that help to synchronize efforts, minimize errors and increase productivity. Project managers have better tools for monitoring status, sharing resources and identifying and solving potential roadblocks before they impact costs, quality and schedules. Executives have total visibility across all projects, people and costs, and can drill down to detailed information when and as needed.
These capabilities can deliver value very quickly. For example, most companies have a substantial number of active projects that are no longer delivering acceptable value due to strategic shifts, cost overruns, delays, obsolescent technologies and many other factors. PPM enables companies to identify and terminate (or refocus) those projects, freeing up resources for new projects and accelerating time-to-value for existing projects that are delivering demonstrably higher value.
Over time, PPM delivers more profound and far-reaching benefits. Univar, the leading chemical distributor in the US, reports that Serena Mariner has helped its IT organization establish a centrally managed pool of resources and efficiently track business commitments and prioritize competing demands. This level of visibility and control was not possible before, and has helped the company close gaps in their processes and map a clear path to a governance structure that will deliver major long-term benefits.
What to look for in a PPM application
Not all PPM applications are created equal. Costs and implementation challenges can vary considerably, as can feature sets and ease-of-use. In general, be sure your PPM application provides:
Today’s best PPM applications can be implemented with minimal cost and disruption, particularly if they support (SaaS) deployment models. The first step is to assess your project portfolio management maturity. Serena’s Quick Maturity Assessment can help you evaluate your current processes; identify the low-hanging fruit that will deliver immediate benefit with minimal effort; and then map out an incremental path toward increasing maturity.
With a general plan in place, you can begin using PPM in your organization. Start with a single group, such as your project management office. Once you validate the benefits, begin extending the solution to other groups in your business. You’ll find that the value of PPM continues to increase as you use it across more projects and more departments.
Most importantly, get started now. Serena offers a free 30-day trial of Mariner On Demand, which provides you with your own PPM environment in the cloud. No software installation is required, and your trial subscription comes along with free training and support. With the right solution, the cost of implementing PPM is low, and the business value is simply too great to ignore.
John Scumniotales is VP of Application Lifecycle Management Products for Serena Software.