What is the horseshoe nail in your project management office?
Borrowing from the proverb, For Want of a Nail.
For a want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
What one takes away from this proverb is that the smallest thing can ultimately cause a massive failure. Bruce Moepye, Managing Director of Gen2 Enterprise Services, a division of the Gen2 Group, says in the project management office (PMO), the equivalent of the nail is a single source of truth.
According to The Standish Group Chaos Report, nearly 30% of IT project implementations are done right and with success, whereas 20% of projects are total failures. PMI’s research uncovered that over 27% of projects fail due to a lack of sponsor support. Moepye says: “The reasons for these failures can’t be viewed in isolation, there’s an entire system at play.”
Moepye says: “Projects don’t deliver expected results for a number of reasons, ranging from poorly defined requirements and inadequate demand management processes to overburdened human resources with no capacity to deliver and lack of portfolio visibility that leads to the PMO flying blind.
“In order to achieve a project management goal, we require three things: visibility, value delivery and an interconnected organisation. But primarily, you need visibility. Visibility gives you feedback about anything and everything to do with the project, it tells you whether it’s still on course."
Any project management office requires visibility into all the moving parts of a project. Moepye explains: “You want to know what is in flight, but also what is coming so that you can plan around that. The project manager also needs visibility into the resources at his or her disposal, both human resources and other project-related resources that may be required to deliver on a project. This level of insight isn’t only required by the project management office, all of the project stakeholders need access to information.”
- Value delivery
Responsibility rests with the project management office to deliver tangible value and benefits to the stakeholders and the organisation. He says: “When you consider why projects are undertaken, it’s primarily to deliver value to the organisation. But that value differs depending on who you’re speaking to.”
He cites the example of a marketing project that entails the deployment of technology. “The people responsible for the technology might see value as minimal downtime. However, for the marketing people, it might be the response to the campaign, such as, for instance, attracting new subscribers within a set period. Depending on where you are in the value chain, value means different things to different stakeholders.”
To address these differences in perspectives, it’s crucial to have clear and open communication among stakeholders and project team members, to ensure the project’s value is understood and aligned with the diverse expectations and priorities of all involved parties.
- Interconnected organisation
Breaking down operational silos to create an interconnected organisation has been a focus for organisations in recent years. Technological changes are consistently made by organisations to effectively move away from the inefficiency and detachment brought about by silos, which result in wasted human and capital resources. “To bring efficiency, we need to change how human resources are organised; where resources were previously organised around function, they are now organised around value. Yet, the legacy of silos within an organisation, each with its own technological tool and the resulting lack of a single source of truth, is still visible in many organisations.”
Without visibility and an interconnected organisation, we’re unable to effectively and efficiently enable delivery that is aligned with the strategic goals and priorities of the organisation, and ultimately derive value from investments. PMOs are there to help portfolio leaders ensure strategy-to-execution alignment, continuous monitoring and evaluation of portfolios to enable continual adaption. Yet, with all the benefits that are brought by visibility and an interconnected organisation, adoption is slow and little commitment is made by organisations.
Project management offices are tasked with delivering initiatives, often in the absence of technologies that can enable efficiency, consistency, transparency, accuracy and collaboration. As a result, little to no value is realised from these initiatives.
Moepye says: “Projects don’t have to fail, businesses can still meet their intended outcomes. Organisations just need to be intentional in bringing visibility to the value stream through digital transformation efforts. Imagine an environment where a project stakeholder can view the performance of strategic initiatives at a click of a button, where in a few taps, a holistic view of initiatives is provided, as well as the expected period for benefits realisation.”
PMO maturity varies across organisations, there is no universal panacea. The marketplace has an abundance of technological tools and every organisation has to assess its level of maturity and acquire products and services that are fit for purpose. The minute organisations gain visibility and capabilities to track performance, it will be the genesis of driving efficiency within the organisation.
Once the case has been made for a strategic portfolio management or project portfolio management tool, the organisation has to realise that it will require ongoing effort and discipline to drive benefits brought by these technologies.
Investments into these types of tools should be viewed in a similar way that any other software tools are viewed and maintained. For purposes of continuous adoption, such tools should fall under run-the-business investments, commonly referred to as keep the lights on. It is important that the investment meet the targeted adoption levels within the organisation.
In conclusion, Moepye refers back to his initial proverb. “If the nail is a single source of truth, the kingdom is perhaps the value, which naturally varies depending on one’s perspective.