Microsoft Project Server is a highly complex and configurable project portfolio management (PPM) tool which encompasses PPM and the broader perspectives of governance, budgeting, prioritization, finance and resource management. It is not always implemented and optimized with this broader context in mind, however, and is often implemented organically as a maturation of individual Microsoft Project application usage.
Why Optimize your Solution?
If your PPM solution was deployed quickly or to meet the immediate needs of a specific project, it is possible you are not taking advantage of the platform’s full functionality or are not achieving maximum efficiency. Operating in an inefficient project management environment can often result in:
- Untimely project completion
- Under-utilization of resources
- Lost opportunities
- Potential poor project quality
- Abandoned projects
- Higher cost of project delivery
Getting Ready to Optimize
When preparing to optimize your Project Server or other PPM implementation, it is important to assess the Who, What, When, Why and How of the current environment:
10 Ways to Optimize Your PPM
1. EPM Governance Model
To ensure that your organization doesn’t fall into the same traps of the past, a governance model should be enacted to manage the platform. This model ensures that changes, enhancements and simplifications to the configuration of the platform are vetted by the business and application owners. This evaluation should pass some simple tests:
- Does the change make sense, support our processes and can it be easily communicated?
- Before adding anything to the platform, can we re-use something out of the box? Something already custom built?
- Does this change only support one area or the broader usage of the platform?
- Who will maintain this new item? (e.g., report, custom field, etc.)
2. Installation Evaluation
On premises solutions often benefit from an evaluation of the installation but cloud based solutions may also need to be reviewed. Work with your internal or cloud provider to review the following:
3. Customization Evaluation
Project Server, as an example, is a platform that is highly configurable to meet the needs of your PMO. This configuration often causes problems, as it is extremely easy to implement changes. When evaluating your platform, you want to look at how it was previously customized and whether those customizations would pass through your governance processes today.
- PWA view names need to clearly identify what is in the view and the views should be useful.
- Limit the number of formula fields on the server, especially at the task level.
- Review the requirements for 3rd party add-ins and integrations with other systems; this may impact how changes are implemented.
- Make sure custom fields have descriptions populated to ensure consistent input of project information in PDPs.
4. Onboarding and Training
Even the best of implementations can fall short of success if users and other stakeholders are not properly trained on the deployment and how it impacts them. Some key recommendations include:
- Establish clear and consistent expectations for new resources by role (e.g., Project Manager vs. Project Coordinator).
- Consider incorporating platform training into the organizations established Computer Based Training (CBT) system.
- Identify the methods by which new resources are added to the system to ensure proper training is assigned and conducted.
- Supplement traditional instructor-led training for Project Managers with Quick Reference Cards and pre-recorded Video Snippets to ensure that specific steps are not forgotten.
5. Project Schedule Template Evaluations
Conduct a review of all templates to ensure that they:
- Model not Mirror – this ensures that you are not putting stringent rules in place, but rather are offering a guide that should be followed
- Offer dynamic scheduling
- Manage activities that drive costs
- Have clear and accurate task names
- Include appropriate task detail
- Provide a consistent approach to assigning resources
- Offer timesheet data that makes sense to ease entry
- Reflect business needs
- Balance enterprise reporting and local flexibility
- Consider both Waterfall and Agile methodologies
6. Enterprise Global
Project Server has a method to provide your project managers with a consistent look and feel when they utilize Project Professional. This enterprise global can be a powerful tool to ensure consistency across the organization.
- Each view and associated table follow “a day in the life” for the project manager to create the schedule
- Views that assist Project Managers with specific tasks
- If task custom fields are required, attempt to pre-populate them in the template. Create a view that shows all of these items in one spot so the Project manager can look for blanks
7. SharePoint Site Usage
Evaluate SharePoint site usage to determine:
- What is the strategy for creating a project site?
- How does the organization manage Risks and Issues?
- Consider incorporating document metadata into the SharePoint document library such as a document status
- Educate the end users on the benefits of using this site as part of their normal routine so they don’t just “check the box”
Webcast: 5 Ways to Apply SharePoint 2013 for Successful Project Management
8. Reporting Evaluation
Review reporting services, focusing on these areas:
- Do the reports support the organizations priorities and goals?
- How stale is the data in the reports? Is the information up to date?
- Consider establishing exception reporting showing only projects missing key data points or with stale data
- Review the security of reports; can individuals access everything they need?
- How frequently are new reports created? Is the support team constantly creating something new that can be leveraged out of the box?
9. Demand Management
Some key points for optimizing demand management features include:
- Benefits realization starts here by measuring why the project has been approved
- Business case data can be recorded at the project level and compared to the schedule data later
- Ideas can be tracked in SharePoint lists and promoted to Projects (2013+)
10. Strategic Alignment
Although your organization may not be ready to utilize the Portfolio Analysis module, you can establish the groundwork to take advantage of it in the future.
- Utilize Generic resources in Project Schedules and/or Resource Plans
- Identify project dependencies across the portfolio
- Define resource max units, calendars and standard rates
- Establish a role field which is used by generic resources and named resources
- 2013+ - Conduct Portfolio Analysis by using a SharePoint list to import data
Following the steps outlined will help take your current PPM deployment to an optimized state where it takes greater advantage of the systems capabilities across the project portfolio.
What are some of the challenges you have experienced with your PPM tool? Let us know in the comments below!