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Raising the Chances of PPM Process Success
By Steve Romero

How successful are your business process efforts? More specifically, how successful are your efforts to institutionalize Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) processes?

I have a second PPM presentation that differs from my normal “what-is” and “how-to” overview of my favorite of all governance processes. This alternate PPM presentation focuses almost entirely on the “why” aspect of this critical discipline. Providing the answer to “Why PPM?” was always a residual result of my normal PPM presentation. The substantial value and benefits of PPM become apparent when discussing what it is and how to do it. This presentation does not take the subtle approach and instead bludgeons the audience with one “why-slide” after another.

I delivered my “Why PPM?” presentation to a group of executives who had some great questions and comments which was a nice departure from the usual deer-in-the-headlights stares my presentations generally evoke. The stunned-silence to which I have become accustomed frequently occurs despite my telling folks how much I love their questions and insights. So it was ironic that one of the questions at this event caused me to swallow hard as I ate my words.

A senior leader from one of the world’s largest financial firms asked, “Do you know of any statistics regarding how often Enterprises fail when taking on major business process efforts (such as PPM)?” My heart sank in my chest under the weight of his fair inquiry and I admitted to the audience that this was one question I loathed.

The reason for my unease was apparent to all in my answer, which cites the late-and-great Michael Hammer, the recent Godfather of the Process discipline and one of my heroes. Michael Hammer was likely the most influential person in convincing enterprises to transform themselves from being function-centric to process-centric as a means to realizing their greatest possible potential. I told the group that Dr. Hammer found half of the Enterprises undertaking the process journey failed. Granted, he was citing Enterprise-wide process endeavors, but I have seen similar results when it comes to individual process efforts such as PPM.

I dreaded answering the question because I don’t want folks to use the failure rate as an excuse not to try or as an excuse to maintain the insufferable status quo. So in my hopes that enterprises and organizations continue to try, and try again, I offer the following:

In the past 5 years I have visited more than 150 companies around the world. All of them had immature PPM (which was why I was visiting). I found their PPM was:

  • Almost always driven/sponsored by IT/CIO, as opposed to the business
  • Addressed only a subset of PPM capabilities
  • Addressed only a subset of Enterprise investments
  • Spotty, generally implemented in a Business Unit here or there
  • Almost always “relegated” to IT
  • Not thoughtfully and thoroughly implemented
  • Devoid of passionate process ownership and management

The following consistently emerge as the most significant roadblocks or downfalls in regard to PPM success:

  • Lack of appropriate Executive Sponsorship or losing sponsorship i.e. leadership change
  • Business Unit vs. Enterprise scope
  • Not connected to overall Governance Framework
  • IT-driven with inadequate Business Leadership involvement and participation
  • Enterprise business process management deficiencies and lack of capability
  • Prescriptive or one-size-fits-all approach
  • Archaic tools and lack of automation

If PPM is to succeed, consider the following:

  • Ensure PPM is driven by business problems and opportunities – not PPM for its own sake
  • No one-size-fits all – find the right flavor
  • Constantly strike the balance – not too much, not too little
  • PPM processes can be sophisticated and complex, or incredibly simple
  • Continually prove the value of PPM- The three M’s: Metrics, Measures and Marketing

If PPM is to endure, it:

  • Absolutely requires Executive sponsorship and leadership, providing and reinforcing vision and enablement (attacking the barriers and obstacles to success)
  • Absolutely requires Business participation – IT facilitates but the business must be a partner, if not the leader in the effort
  • Requires fact-based decision-making – This necessitates a systematic approach to collecting, integrating, analyzing and providing meaningful data
  • Requires Business process expertise – This necessitates skills in process design, implementation, management – and most importantly, organizational change

I think the foremost reason Enterprises have not mastered Project and Portfolio Management is because it is hard – like all significant business processes. I hope that sobering fact doesn’t stop you and your organization from trying, or cause you to give up after you do. Like most visionary endeavors, PPM requires audacity, courage, perseverance and resilience. Add the above lessons and ideas, and you’ll have a great chance at success.

Steve Romero is a published and globally recognized IT governance evangelist and IT business value activist. His mission is to help enterprises realize the full potential of their IT investments for strategic and competitive advantage. He speaks around the world to companies in every business sector, federal and state government agencies, industry organizations, students, and information technology and business luminaries to identify and communicate leading advances in business governance and business management of IT. You can read more from Steve on

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