Project Management Capability:
Components for Success
The Project Knowledge Group
Saratoga Springs, NY & San Diego, CA
month, we wrote about a balanced approach to selecting project
management software. However, the process of specifying, evaluating and
selecting project management software is only one part of the larger
process of implementing a computer-based project management capability. For
this implementation to be successful, we must apply four additional steps.
The five components of this process are:
- Tools (Software Selection)
- Implementation Plan
- Audit Process
This phase must precede the tools selection phase. The tools are required
to automate and facilitate the application of your project management
methodology. Therefore, you have to define this methodology first. By
"methodology" we mean "how do you manage projects".
This includes how you are organized to handle projects, as well as what
practices are in place to manage projects.
If you do not yet have such practices in place, this is the time to address
these issues - rather than after you have selected the tools. Specifically,
I prescribe that you outline the entire PM process, creating manual forms
for all of the practices, data and reports that you will be needing for the
process. Later, in the tools phase, you will replace the manual forms and
reports with your software-generated forms. These may be hard copies,
screen forms or both.
Start by holding workshops and brainstorming the desired PM processes.
Review your current methodology. Assess the adequacy of your current
methods. Consider the corporate culture and the system users.
You will be looking at both processes and culture. Bob Lewis, in InfoWorld,
describes "Processes" as the steps that employees follow to
accomplish a result. He describes "Culture" as their attitude and
behavior. Naturally, both must be considered.
Identify the project stakeholders and get them involved in the process.
Project stakeholders may include: The Project Manager, The Functional
Managers, The Project Sponsor, Top Management, The Doers, The Client, and
Regulatory Agencies. Don't forget the staff functions, such as Finance,
Training, Systems and Personnel.
Ask the team: What do you manage? What are project sizes, data volume,
update frequency? Who are the system users? What is your computer
environment? Is this environment changing?
All of this should lead to the determination and documentation of your
preferred PM process. Now, you can move on to determining your PM software
needs and developing the selection criteria. This was discussed in the previous
Now that we have taken care of the first two phases; Methods and Tools, we
can move on to the third key element preceding the implementation itself.
This is personnel training. There are two distinct training categories:
- Project Management Training
- PM Software Training
General PM training is
the most important. You can be certain that the results from use of the
tools by un-knowledgeable individuals will be detrimental to your success.
Everyone involved in contributing to project success should be trained in
the basic concepts of project management. It is an error to assume that
everyone inherently understands project management, and it is unfair to
expect these people to perform successfully in this area without the
benefit of such training.
A formal program should be made available to a wide audience, encompassing
a wide scope of topics and skills of value to both project and functional
performers participating in projects. This program should define the firm's
policies and expectations for the management of projects. It should also
make it clear that project management is a "way of life" in the
firm, and that support for the program is a "condition of
Detailed PM training, including use of the tools, should vary according to
the role of the individual. For instance, I first like to divide the user
community into two types: In-ses and Out-ses. The In-ses are
people who feed information into the system. The Out-ses are people who use
and respond to information from the system. This first group of people must
understand the basics of planning and control. If you are using critical
path scheduling, they must understand what really happens when you say that
task A is a predecessor to task B. My experience has been that untrained
people will describe their project to the system and be completely dismayed
by the result because they did not understand what the tool did with their
The Out-ses also need to understand how the resulting information was
determined. But my biggest concern is that they often don't know how to
interpret and respond to the information. It is important to remember that
reports are not issued just to provide status. They are issued so that
problems can be identified and that corrective action can be taken.
Therefore, we need to train these people to read the reports, how to
identify an out of tolerance condition, and how to respond to such
When implementing the system, you will want to identify all recipients of
the outputs, determine what they need to know, and design custom outputs
for each one that presents the story that will help them to carry out their
specific project responsibility. Once these reports are designed, tutor
these individuals to get the response that you need. You cannot take it for
granted that the reader will know what to look for and how best to respond
so as to remedy any problems. In each case, we need to look at what each
participant needs to know to be effective in their project management role.
You need to ask: "Who needs to know what?"
Finally, to bring a professional demeanor to the PM process, think about
implementing a PM certification program, either internally or by sponsoring
attendance at an educational institution. Also consider promoting PM
certification via the Project
Management Institute's PMP program.
Today's project-centric organizations are promoting excellence in project
management and are finding ways to recognize project management excellence
within their organization structure.
Now that we've defined our PM methodology, selected tools, and trained
personnel, it's time to look at how the new process will be implemented? It
is imperative to develop an Implementation Plan. There are several
components to this plan, including:
- Kickoff Program
First, you'll need a Directive,
from senior management, establishing project management as a
"way-of-life" in the firm, and support for project management as
a "condition of employment".
Next, develop a set of Procedures, defining the implementation
process. Remember, the implementation of your computer-based project
management capability is, in itself, a project. Treat it like one, and use
this opportunity to test and improve your process.
Follow this with an Implementation Plan, showing the steps of
implementation and a schedule for their accomplishment. It is not necessary
to implement the full project management process at once, across the firm.
It is best to select pilot projects for implementation. That gives people and
the processes time to come up to speed. The practices can then be
fine-tuned as we learn from our initial experiences.
Start things off with a Kickoff Program. You're looking for
procedural and cultural change when you implement project management. You
need to make a big deal out of it. You need to draw attention to the
program and its importance. You need to make certain that people know that
top management is serious about this. Introduce the Directive, the
Procedures, and the Implementation Plan with a formal program.
The Audit Process
You can't initiate a program and expect that things are just going to
happen. There needs to be an Audit Process. So you need to develop a
procedure for monitoring the implementation plan. The audit process makes sure
that the directive and procedures are clear and are being followed.
Responsible Managers are designated to conduct the audit, on an ongoing
basis. They will provide assistance in getting people up to speed, and, if
necessary, call people to task for not supporting the program.
The Gantt Chart, below, illustrates a typical PM Implementation Plan. The
timing is not as important as the phases and steps.
Click to Enlarge
A. Levine, with
43 years of service to the project management industry, is founder of The
Project Knowledge Group, a consulting firm specializing in PM training, PM
software selection, evaluation & implementation, and PM using
microcomputers. He has implemented or enhanced the project management
capabilities of numerous firms, often combined with the selection or
implementation of computerized project management tools. For more
information on Harvey Levine or the Project Knowledge Group, please visit http://home.earthlink.net/~halevine/.
Mr. Levine is the leading consultant to the project management software
industry and is recognized as the leading expert in tools for project
management. He has been Adjunct Professor of Project Management at
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Boston University.
He has conducted project management public seminars for ASCE, AMA, IBM,
Mr. Levine is the author of books, articles and videos on Project
Management. His 2002 book, "Practical Project Management: Tips,
Tactics, and Tools", is still available from John Wiley & Sons.
Mr. Levine's new book, "Project Portfolio Management, A Practical
Guide to Selecting Projects, Managing Portfolios, and Maximizing
Benefits", Jossey-Bass, was released in July, 2005. Mr. Levine is past
president of the Project Management Institute, a recipient of PMI's 1989 Distinguished
Contribution to Project Management award, and has been elected a Fellow of
Mr. Levine has offices in Saratoga Springs, NY and San
Diego, CA. His
e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.