To have success with enterprise project management, you have to start at the beginning, addressing the issues causing inconsistency.
Adapting to the ever-increasing pace of change is one of the biggest challenges most organizations face. Established organizations are not only in a race to compete with each other, but also with tech-savvy start-ups that are smaller, nimbler, and laser-focused on disrupting established relationships between companies and their customers.
Add to this a backdrop of volatile political and economic conditions combined with changing regulatory and compliance requirements, and it’s no wonder today’s organizations continuously struggle to find ways to gain competitive advantage.
Addressing the Struggle
In response to this increased pace of change and volatility, many enterprises have augmented the traditional “waterfall” methodology with an iterative approach for conducting project management-based work (i.e., SAFe, Agile, Scrum and more).
According to Gartner, in 2018, the waterfall development methodology accounted for 55 percent of project spend, while iterative development accounted for 45 percent of project spend.
Despite this transition to a more iterative development approach, approximately 73 percent of projects were still rated as “Somewhat Successful,” “Somewhat Disappointing,” or “Expectations not Met.”
So why do organizations struggle to execute successful projects consistently? Here are three primary reasons:
- No Visibility Into the “Why” (Strategy)
- Struggle With the “How” (Execution)
- Lack of Scalable, Effective Governance (Leadership and Accountability).
In the rest of this piece, we’ll discuss what each reason is and how enterprises can overcome each hurdle to ensure future project management success.
No Visibility Into the “Why” (Strategy)
The best motivation for your team is a clearly defined goal that everyone can relate to and understand– knowing the “why” allows your team to connect with the reason for pursuing the goal and how success will impact them, their extended team, and the overall mission of your organization.
A shared understanding of the importance of a particular goal is the driving force that allows cross-functional teams to work together to pursue the desired outcome. Individuals who understand how their contributions fit into the “big picture” have the confidence to make contributions above and beyond their assigned tasks to achieve the desired goal.
Without this shared understanding of the goal’s why, individuals prioritize based on their own unique criteria with little shared momentum to work toward the common goal.
While 90 percent of organizations have a pre-launch project approval process, only 54 percent of organizations have an established process for capturing the business benefits delivered by these projects, according to Gartner research.
When leaders define the expected benefits as well as a method for measuring the delivered benefits (both quantitative and qualitative), they provide a feedback loop and critical insights into the degree to which the team is achieving its goal.
There is a tremendous opportunity to improve enterprise project management success by intentionally documenting the expected benefits of the project and why those benefits advance the goals and objectives of the organization.
Struggle With the “How” (Execution)
Many organizations leverage the concept of program and portfolio management (PPM) to group projects that share interdependencies and common goals into a single management structure.
Traditionally, this structure consists of little more than oversight and coordination, ensuring projects progress as expected, help resolve issues, and eliminate roadblocks as they arise. This “reactionary” perspective, while important, overlooks the significant benefits of proactively identifying potential synergies between projects and reprioritizing work accordingly.
For example, let’s assume that we have a portfolio of projects with a shared goal of improving the customer experience to reduce customer churn, increase average order size, and reduce customer acquisition costs.
The portfolio comprises projects focused on:
- Redesigning the website
- Developing new mobile applications
- Deploying new customer service technology
- An automated marketing engine that generates one-time offers.
The original PPM structure prioritizes the mobile application development and website redesign projects first, with the customer service technology and automated marketing engine following.
During a mobile application project status meeting, the project team shares an idea of a one-time offer for new customers who download and make an order using the app with the Portfolio Manager. The progress of the project goes as follows:
- The portfolio manager meets with the marketing team to share the idea. They also discuss the opportunity to reconfigure the project to quickly develop the necessary technology to take advantage of the new mobile application’s upcoming release.
- The portfolio manager facilitates several meetings between the two teams to quickly define critical deliverables, timelines, dependencies and measurement criteria to determine if the one-time offer has a material impact on application downloads and usage.
This iterative approach to PPM allows your organization to pursue the most significant benefits as early as possible, enhancing your return on investment while providing new insights into the cost and benefit equation for continuing to make investments.
Lack of Scalable, Effective Governance (Leadership and Accountability)
The rate of change will only continue to increase. Organizations relying on a centralized body of executive management to have the final word over any changes to the budget, schedule and scope typically struggle to manage the overwhelming number of changes.
By leveraging the PPM concept, you can empower program and portfolio managers to respond to most changes while informing executive management when the changes have reached a previously determined size or impact. For example, your leaders can empower PPM to make changes resulting in less than a 7 percent cumulative negative impact on cost.
Periodic meetings between your PPMs and executive management allow them to discuss the potential risks and rewards of changes and for the group to re-align or make course corrections when applicable.
Empowering PPMs to provide timely execution leadership and guidance aligned with the organization’s risk tolerance will accelerate the speed that teams can execute projects.
Gartner also shared that in 2018, organizations delivered 38 percent of projects late, and on average, by approximately 20 percent. Your organization can accelerate the speed you execute projects by empowering PPMs to make decisions in a way that minimizes risk and emphasizes velocity, mimicking the speed of delivery typically enjoyed by smaller, more nimble competitors.
Reaching Consistent Enterprise Project Management Success
So, how can enterprises consistently execute successful projects? While improvements in any of the areas mentioned above may yield some incremental benefits, you can only successfully and consistently complete projects by making systemic improvements in all these areas.
The strategy component sets the foundation by focusing on your goal and providing a compelling story about why your goal matters. The execution component builds on your foundation by ensuring that your team can do the right things correctly. The leadership and accountability component provides your team the speed, agility and scalability necessary to compete in today’s rapidly changing world.
Organizations that recognize this synergy between strategy, execution and leadership and accountability can establish specific processes tailored to their unique corporate culture. And, you can develop the delivery of capabilities that align with the goals of your organization. Once you do that, your organization will be on the path toward project success.