Here at ITM Platform we often hear PMO professionals say, “our maturity level is too low for PPM” or “we are not ready yet for project management”. In this article, we delve and explore into what project management maturity actually means and how a PPM solution is a bridge and not a roadblock to increasing your maturity level.

Truth is project portfolio management is not just for big corporations or businesses with complex processes.

Regardless of the size or maturity of your operation, it is possible to implement simple and effective project portfolio management. Different maturity levels require different features.

 

 

 

What is “Project Portfolio Management Maturity” anyway?

Project Portfolio Management Maturity refers to how ready your company is to smoothly execute a project, program and portfolio management strategy.

This can be assessed on a wide spectrum, ranging from an individual assessment to applying a formal maturity model assessment.

 

Identifying your company’s maturity level, yourself

In most cases, companies identify their own maturity levels on their own without any formal assessment. If you´ve ever caught yourself saying, ¨my company isn´t at that maturity level yet¨ then perhaps your own expertise and experience at work has led you to this conclusion. Have you ever had this conversation at the office?

  • - Hey, how do you keep track of projects here?
  • - We ask the project manager.
  • - I see. And do they use any formal or standardized way to do it?
  • - Well, so and so do, but not really.
  • - Then, how do you know how your portfolio is performing?
  • - Eh, we just focus on the projects that are causing problems now.

… Say no more. You´ve already pictured your company as having a low maturity level and reckon a PPM software solution will do nothing more than create confusion and frustration. However, it doesn´t have to be so challenging. Even if you found that the maturity level is low, you can still help your company grow in maturity with the right set of functionalities when applied at the right time.

 

Applying a maturity model assessment

A maturity model assessment is a specific set of criteria defined for each level and categorizes companies to their respective project portfolio management´s maturity levels.

Some models have six levels, others have four or five. But what’s most interesting are the category axes or dimensions that are used for classification. These are the most relevant, explained with basic examples:

 

  • Processes: Consider this the train tracks over which work flows. In our hypothetical conversation above, the fictional you asked about the processes in place. Other examples can be whether the company has formal resource management, risk management, cost management, program management or strategic alignment processes.
    You get the idea. If you’re a PMI fan, you already know them all.
  • People: Maturity models tend to put people first and assess questions like: does the staff understand and embrace project management? Do they know the processes of which they are involved in? Are they use to working on a project-oriented organization rather than a functional organization?
    People are vital to any organization and it`s important to consider human resistance when assessing the maturity model of your organization.
  • Organization: This is where processes and people come together. Some questions about the organizational model usually are: Does your company have a solid PMO (or a PMO at all)? Is Human Resources integrated in the portfolio management? Is top-level management on it? Is it a project-based organization?

 

 

Depending on the model, you will commonly come across these axes plus others such as technology or competitive landscape.

The takeaway here is that there are models out there that can help you objectively measure what you already suspected.

You can also use this online PMO & Organization Self-Assessment that measures three categories: Organization, Talent and Conditions  and in return,  providing a set of recommendations based on the results.

Our own findings

Most companies we´ve talked to find themselves somewhere in the medium-low / medium range spectrum. They tend to assess their company as having a lower maturity level than they actually have.

This happens in all countries we operate in even though there are clear market maturity differences among them. In most cases, this is because companies measure themselves against their own market/countries and not globally.

Furthermore, dealing with leaders across the world, we´ve noticed there is no strong correlation between the company size and its maturity. The general assumption seems to be that big companies are more likely to have a solid PPM methodology in place. However, it’s more related to the nature of the business rather than the size. The more project-oriented the business is, the more mature those organizations tend to be.

 

How is all this relevant to the decision of implementing a PPM software?

Project portfolio management solutions should be flexible and scalable enough to start small, grow gradually and add processes over time. This will allow you to create a consistent and sustainable project portfolio management ecosystem sans big initial investments and blows to your company.

Logical reasoning would presume: “if my company has a low PPM maturity level, first I need to increase it and then implement the tool”. This obviously happens to those who are aware that there is such a thing as PPM maturity. This persona is usually someone who has either used or has knowledge of complex PPM systems in the past.

And it’s true, six to twelve-month implementations and significant amounts of money are enough to set off any initiative, especially if the organization is not ready. Many would wisely argue that spending more on tools than the ROI they have on their projects is a poor move.

Processes and tools go hand in hand. Implementing one without the other is not ideal, since the tool enables the process and the process is transmitted through the tool. You just need to find the tool that can grow with you and adapt itself on that journey.

Pro tip: Changing from Excel and email to MS Project, then to a collaborative project management solution and finally to a PPM solution is not really growing. It’s breaking and recomposing processes, people and organization at every step of the way.

 

How ITM Platform supports every level of maturity?

The key is to identify the PPM solution that can provide the features according to your needs. Sound simple? The reality is that optimizing your company´s maturity levels need to take multiple factors into account and is anything but simple. And, like anything else that´s really complicated, most of us are looking for better tools to achieve tasks. Companies need a solution that in tandem adapts to your maturity level and enables you to add or remove features according to your needs.

ITM Platform gently increases maturities with the least possible hassle. It is equipped with easily adaptable features that grow with you no matter the stage. It’s comprehensive, intuitive and its seamlessly easy learning curve is just what you need to get your PMO up and running.

It´s possible to start on the right foot even though you know there’s a low project portfolio management maturity level in your company. And turns out, this is an excellent starting point!

Take the first step and try this free trial now! Experience first-hand what ITM Platform can do for you.

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Planning and implementing a PMO has a rhythm of its own. Don’t be tempted to rush. You risk chaos if the process rushes ahead of the organization’s own maturity by trying to tackle all the stages at once.

Download our new eBook: How to set up a sustainable PMO with ITM Platform

So what can businesses and project managers do to ensure essential components of  projects are being completed in time and on budget? In this article we develop the 5 main keys of success.

 

Keys to success

A good plan is only useful if it can be implemented in the field. For that you need adequate resources and a favorable environment. Before creating a PMO:

1. Make sure you have the right skill set

Ensure that your people have the right skill set. If you have neither the team nor the required skill set, it’s a good idea to limit the scope of the PMO so that it can be set up without the risk of failure. Embarking on a PMO without the appropriate know how is like setting sail on a ship without skilled sailors, the enterprise will unravel at the first ill wind.

2. Start with high-visibility, high-impact projects

Like every other business unit, the PMO must prove its worth from the very beginning to win over naysayers. A smart PMO manager will look to deliver early wins on to the scoreboard.  This is not always easy because of its cross-functional – and according to detractors – unnecessary nature. Tackle the most widely acknowledged problems first.

3. Identify the needs of the business clearly

The organization and the business have needs that may or may not have been explicitly identified. Meeting these needs should be your starting point. That way you’ll start off on the right foot, giving you enormous leverage when it comes to defending your decisions in the future. Do your research.

For example, as a PMO expert you may consider it vital to set up a document template repository. But maybe what your stakeholders actually need is a way to decide how progress on projects is measured.

4. Have a solid framework

And which is integrated into the business. A PMO that acts as a lone wolf is destined to fail. It is important that there are simple, fluid communication channels to ensure that everyone is working in the right direction. Put these in place from the outset.

5. Draw up clear key performance indicators

Having a lot of indicators does not necessarily mean having lots of information. Make sure that you not only have the right tools but also that the KPIs are relevant to your business.

 

What to consider for a consistent roadmap

To create a consistent roadmap, you should take into account:

  • The maturity of the organization.
  • The goals suggested by the Board of Directors.
  • The available resources.
  • Positive and negative environmental factors.

With these parameters, we know our start and end points, the resources available and the pace at which we should go.

An example of a roadmap

Let’s take as an example Booksy360, a mid-sized publishing company. This is their  roadmap divided into four stages, starting from a tactical PMO and moving towards a strategic one.

Period 1

Booksy360’s PMO steering group decides to establish a basic communication system, using a common language. In this system planning is based only on timeframes and deliverables. Document templates are created for each project type. Stakeholders will receive reports about the status of their individual projects and Booksy360’s board will be kept up to date via a regular portfolio report.

Period 2

All communication channels are now established. The PMO encourages collaboration between units and projects. Inventory and purchasing are added as extra elements to plan, manage and control. Resource management is now based on professional profiles, such as editors, writers and production engineers.

Period 3

Formal risk management starts, agreed by all departments. Alongside this Booksy360 initiates change and quality management. Even if these were taking place informally before, now they are at the heart of the process.

Period 4

The final stage is when the actual strategic contribution starts. But it is long way down the line so for now Booksy360’s steering committee predicts it will include portfolio planning, benefit realization management and governance

The online PMO & Organization Self-Assessment may help you analyze your organization.

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team, puzzle, star, bubbles, conversation, chessThis article is part of a series on the PMBOK areas of knowledge. You can read the previous articles here:

The last area of knowledge of the PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge) covers the best practices to manage the relationship with stakeholders.

Specifically, this area of knowledge focuses on identifying people, groups or organizations that may affect or may be affected by the project and analyze their expectations and its impact on the plan.

Manage project stakeholders in a collaborative environment

It is essential to keep in mind that clients too are stakeholders, as their satisfaction is crucial to the success of a project. This means that projects could re-start from 0 if the client’ expectations are not taken into account early enough.
This problem was so frequent in software development that led to the development of agile methodologies, which seek a fluid communication with customers.

 

Advice for Stakeholders Management

 

1. Identify the parties or public interested in the project

In this phase of project management, it is important to focus on identifying the stakeholder from the very beginning, since this will allow us to obtain an overview of the stakeholders map and the problems that some actors may pose at a later moment.

2. Make sure that all interested parties agree and know their roles or responsibilities

Before starting the development of a project, it is essential that all the actors involved know the rules and assume the commitment and responsibility expected of their functions. From the beginning, we will identify team leaders, work teams, and their roles.
Good pre-planning facilitates a smooth development and helps to avoid conflicts in the future. If everyone agrees with the requirements and objectives, he or she will work to keep pace with the events and avoid delays; delays that only will be translated into extra costs and unwanted results.
On the other hand, rules must also ensure fluid communication with customers, so that they have sufficient information to evaluate the project development and express their point of view. If necessary, the circumstances under which a client’s opinions may involve changes in the project can be agreed upon.

3. Get consensus on the application of changes to the project

Changes in a project are inevitable since contingencies always arise that require the modification of some criteria or change in scope. The more complex a plan is, the more susceptible it is of being changed during its development. Therefore, it is important that all participants agree on how to handle the changes.

4. Favor communication

Establishing communication guidelines at the beginning of the project will improve the flow of the same. The team will be able to determine, since the beginning, the frequency of the communication and its content, that should preferably be concise and focused on the progress or issues that affect the project.

5. Give permanent visibility to the project teams

Transparency is a fundamental virtue in all project communication. It does not make sense for a project manager to have secrets.

It is important to define and communicate the vision of the project early on, as teams become more involved and the risk of losing focus on the project is mitigated. This way you make sure that any decision is coherent with the vision and objectives of the project. This point is very important because it helps reduce risks, errors or loss of focus.

6. Involve interested parties in the entire process

Although we assigned functions and teams from the very beginning, interested parties (stakeholders) should be always involved, so that they can participate in the problem solving or the revision of the requirements.

7. Reach an agreement with what has been done

In order to avoid entering a circle of changes and stagnation that could jeopardize the development of the project, it is important to reach agreements on the work done.
In an organization that manages strategic projects and internal transformation, Stakeholders Management goes beyond the project closure, since its delivery enables capacities that could benefit other levels of the organization. Otherwise, the value delivered is not internalized and won’t become a competitive advantage sustainable over time. This approach has been called Benefits Realization Management (BRM) or Benefit Management.

8. Empathize with the other interested parties

All project participants are stakeholders, but the stakeholder map also includes parties that do not actively participate in the development of the project. You should take them into account and empathize with them as the capacity for empathy is a crucial skill for the success or failure of a project.
The analysis of a project should not be limited to the interests and influence of stakeholders but should include how to identify their objectives, circumstances and the way they perceive the project.
Empathic analysis helps us to discover hidden variables that show us the way to solve problems or overcome obstacles that we may encounter.

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Let’s face it—collaboration has become a mission. But we are bringing back the joy of working together, as we announce our new collaboration with one of Brazil’s top universities and symbol of Curitiba, Federal University of Technology - Paraná (UTFPR).

Dating back to the modernization efforts in the early Twentieth Century, UTFPR became the Federal Center of Technological Education in 1978. In 2005, it became the first Brazilian University of Technology and embraced a national leadership in scientific and technical education that remains its main trademark.

Leading this initiative is Professor Roberto Candido, an active member of the UTFPR community with interests in technological innovation, entrepreneurship, project management and regional development. Based at the department of Electrotechnical studies, he has pursued the collaboration to ITM Platform with the aim of fostering the employability of his students with real world software.

This collaboration will grant access to ITM Platform for undergraduate students in the degrees of Electric Engineering, and Control and Automatization Engineering, as well as graduate students for advanced projects. As an excellent project, program and portfolio management tool designed to facilitate collaborative work and practical learning from any device, ITM Platform will be used for group work and simulations of a Project Management Office – an activity to which it has been carefully tailored.

The tools and technology driving this collaboration allow students to adopt a Professional Project management software with no installations, and combine theoretical education with the insight that is only gained through practice with a real-world tool; while professors gain control and visibility of student’s work, basing evaluations on the objective indicators that are tracked by ITM Platform. This allows to better manage daily activities, spend less time in evaluation and administration, and have perfect visibility of how students are progressing. In the experience of ITM Platform academic partnerships, group simulations that allow to treat students’ efforts under the technical lens of project resource allocation have an increased impact on educational outcomes: students acquire a skillset to manage complex team-based work, while higher education experts can rely on an external structure to power and facilitate the group dynamics.

With a shared environment for each class, student work can simulate a company or project team. ITM Platform will provide all training resources to UTFPR to get started, from video tutorials to user guides etc. Ultimately, educators are independent and autonomous in their use of ITM Platform: they should forget about the tool and focus on the learning mission.

In order to get there, it’s important to decide for a learning formula that best adapts to the subject at hand and the working schedule. ITM Platform is suited to support Online, blended and traditional education formulas. Additionally, coursework can take the form of practical homework, but has also been used to strengthen or test the methodological aspects of Technical Thesis and Capstone Projects.

Course impact enhancement is possible through joint webinars with ITM Platform, in which the students get to present and broadcast their results to a global audience.

Other Advantages include:

  • Practical learning from any device
  • ITM Platform follows PMI and Prince2 recommendations
  • Teamwork is shaped thanks to the different roles within the platform: PMO manager, Project Manager, Team Member and Customer
  • Students are connected to the real world

The practical side of the tool and its broad scope, that goes well beyond simple project management, makes it a great fit for interdisciplinary learning and to bring students from different backgrounds into a same project. In fact, ITM Platform quickly makes a case for the economic and organisational advantages of planning and controlling projects.

While massive in aggregate, the planning of projects in the Engineering faculty, or any other field of study for that matter, is highly fragmented and desynchronised. As a result, timely completion and realisation of projects seem almost impossible. However, big institutions and technology companies are increasingly realising the importance of Project and Portfolio Management as a tool for success.

Today’s alignment between ITM Platform and UTFPR exemplifies how PMOs and educational institutions can collaborate so the scholar wins… and future generations have a quick start ahead, adopting today’s best organizational practices.

Growing our relationship to help build PMOs

UTFPR joins the ranks of many of the institutions and companies around the world who have integrated with ITM Platform to create a PMO that salvages the realisation of projects in a timely fashion.

Roberto Candido, professor at UTFPR explains how ITM Platform will aid the university put its students in direct contact with a tool that facilitates project management jobs, giving them better conditions to enter the job market.

Through collaboration with top tier Educational institutions, ITM Platform continues to blow the flame under the engine room of Project Management Offices.

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abstract infographics with cubes and wired structuresYou don’t even need to be able to measure the value.

But imagine if you could.

Imagine that you could quantify the value that collaboration contributes to your projects. If you could add a few cents (or a few dollars) to your "collaborative balance" every time someone makes a constructive comment, warns of a problem in time, makes an innovative proposal outside the scope of their responsibilities, share experiences of other Projects that can save hours of misguided execution.

 

Try ITM Platform and start integrating PPM capabilities and powerful communication across projects.

You could show the results to top executives, including shareholders and customers, and defend the profitability of investing in strong internal communication policies.

In reality, you don’t need to measure the value at every instant. It is enough to make sure that in your organization there are solid channels for communication to flow. You may need more than one technological solution to support the entire flow. Oh, and remember that email stopped counting as collaborative technology back in 2006.

Collaborative tools

It is convenient to distinguish between channels for internal communication (within the team of each project) and external communication, or between projects.

Communication between projects

The business chat or intranet services are excellent for removing watertight drawers, but they live far from the technical planning of the projects, so they are difficult to integrate with the daily management of them. They are excellent for cross-cutting issues affecting all departments.

Internal communication

By contrast, internal communication to a project team will be better supported through management software such as ITM Platform, which integrates social networking features within each project.

Creating the Right Portfolio

No tool can communicate between projects and connect to the equipment of each project without generating noise. Therefore, it is essential to be able to find a good internal technology portfolio that maintains governance criteria.

The combination of ITM Platform with Slack is a great example of a portfolio of communication tools. Within each project, the owner is ITM Platform, while Slack is unbeatable as a business chat between teams. Thanks to the ITM Platform Teambot app, you can also connect both tools so that the members of your teams can work with the ITM Platform from Slack.

This way you can get all the benefits of a communication policy as well as improving the quality of your projects and learning between teams.

Do you still want to measure your ROI of collaboration? Subscribe to this blog and you will get the answer.

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