Project Management

Project Management 2.0

New technologies, concepts, and Web 2.0 tools are popping up everywhere. How can you use them to help your project team collaborate, communicate - or just give your project an extra boost? [Contact Dave]

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Another Supportive Community

Situation: You are a user of Daptiv's products and need a little help from time to time.

Daptiv is launching a new online community to promote social interaction between its customers and employees. It allows you to share FAQs and new product ideas, and serves as a one-stop knowledge base and training resource.  With more than 100,000 Daptiv subscribers, this community should be fairly significant right away. It will be interesting to see what impact it has on Daptiv users and the businesses they support. We recently spent some time with Ian Knox, Vice President of Products and Marketing, from Daptiv to find out more.


Q. Tell us a little bit about this new community you are starting.  What are it's goals and what do you see as the immediate benefits to your user base? What will be the benefits for Power Users who are consistently active on the site?

The Daptiv community was conceptualized with the aim to foster product innovation and streamline the whole process of knowledge sharing through mutual collaboration. This new platform gives all its users an opportunity to collaborate directly with Daptiv peers and employees to receive timely responses to product related queries and leverage the community’s knowledge of best practices.

A highly user friendly and intuitive platform, it makes it easy for all the users to access the training courses and refer to knowledge based posts to advance expertise in Daptiv PPM whenever in need. The Greenhouse’ feature of the platform allows customers to share ideas and vote on new and innovative features for Daptiv’s product roadmap. It’s like an interactive knowledge house which is just a click away from its users. Active users and contributors will be abreast with the latest in technology, product and capabilities.


Q. How is this similar to or different from the MS Project 2010 Community or MPUG?

The Daptiv community includes a couple of unique capabilities. First, the platform is an evolved version of our Greenhouse community that was launched back in 2008 and enables customers to propose ideas and collaborate with our product team. Second, we include a library of Daptiv PPM applications and reports, which enable users to download best practice components and use them immediately in Daptiv PPM. This is addition to our blogs, videos, forums and knowledge base.


Q. Will Daptiv employee participants be pre-selected, or any anyone at the company participate?

Just like a community, this new platform is open to all of Daptiv’s users and customers. It’s an open development platform and a community of contributors. The community not only encourages exchange of knowledge, but also allows Daptiv to stay in closer contact with clients and partners.  


Q. Do you see Daptiv partners playing a role in this?

Absolutely! Daptiv partners are an integral part of this community. Our partners tailor to an array of sectors and we value the know-how that they bring in. This is a collaborative community where ideas, experiences and best practices are exchanged for better results. We are eager to listen in and drive Daptiv’s innovation process by creating a closer, more intimate dialogue with our customers.


Q. How do you see members of the community working together? 

We have designed the Daptiv Community to become the ultimate go-to resource to help customers with their PPM questions and deliver value for their businesses. We see this platform as a breeding ground for new ideas, seamless engagement and reliability.


Q. In terms of long-term vision, what do you see this evolving into over the next few years? Do you see the scope of this extending beyond Daptiv-specific best practices to more general PPM advice?

The basic premise of this community is to evolve constantly by adapting to the changing environment. Conversations are made in real world environment through open dialogue via discussion forums and an updated knowledge base.

Over the years, this community aims to serve as a one-stop entry point where both customers and employees pitch new ideas and initiate discussions with like-minded peers. Our vision is that this is the first place PPM practitioners from our user community come to ask questions, share best practices and connect with peers.

Posted on: November 09, 2012 03:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Have You Outgrown Basecamp?

Situation: You need a few more features in your PM software.

Project Management SoftwareWe recently spoke with Cynthia West, VP at ProjectInsight about one of the most common migration patterns we're seeing at the moment - a move from super-simple "to-do list" software to more capable packages. If you're a Basecamp user, there's a pretty big chance you'll eventually find your needs outgrowing the software bit by bit.  If you are in that situation now, read on and see if your experience matches up with what's typical in the industry.

Q. Basecamp is a terrific, inexpensive starting point for many. However, at some point most organizations grow out of it. Can you talk a bit about the triggers that prompt users to start looking at more capable products?

Yes. We think of the market for portfolio and project management solutions as having three basic tiers: the low end tools, mid-market solutions and high end systems. Basecamp is a great low end tool that offers collaboration and task management in a web-based application. High end systems are those designed for very mature project teams. They are more involved in terms of implementation timeline, more expensive and, in general, designed for more ‘top-down’ organizational cultures. Microsoft Project Server is a good example of such a system. Mid-market project solutions are more robust than the low end, but not as overwhelming as the high end systems. Project Insight is one example of project software that is robust enough for experienced project managers, yet easy for team members to adopt.

We talk to a lot of people that have started to manage tasks and collaborate in Basecamp. They like the alerts and the ability to see the tasks they are to work on. However, as you say, many project teams outgrow this tool. The initial trigger points that prompt teams to look at mid-market portfolio and project management solutions include the need for:

-Intelligent scheduling

-Gantt charts

What do I mean by intelligent scheduling? This is the need for something more than a simple task manager. As teams hire more professional project managers, they find they need the ability to link tasks together using dependencies. While some low end tools have the notion, not even all mid-market solutions have the MSP-like dependencies and constraints that more experienced project managers are familiar with.

In many cases, the more experienced project manager has utilized MS Project desktop and wants task dependencies, constraints and splits. At the same time, the organizations we help talk about having project managers of mixed experience levels, so they also want the newer project managers to be able to create projects from templates.

Gantt charts, of course, provide a visual view of one’s project and task flow. As projects get more complex, there’s nothing like being able to see the tasks on the critical path. Basecamp and other low end tools do not concern themselves with something as esoteric as a critical path or a baseline.


Q. There are always the problems you see and opportunities that you don't.  Can you talk a bit about capabilities that most of these organizations could use that they are not looking for right away? What sort of quantifiable impact could these functions have?

Sure. When teams finally get their hands on a product that performs intelligent scheduling and they have set up some project templates, they often feel that sense of relief. So, what’s next? At this point, they can benefit from resource allocation views and portfolio reports. If you are only looking at a bunch of tasks that are unrelated, it makes it impossible to shift schedules easily. It also makes it challenging to truly understand what people are working on and when.

Demand management, capacity planning, resource allocation…no matter what you call it, as project teams become more successful, they need a way to see what everyone is working on and when. Because growing organizations are successful, they often have the business challenge of not knowing if and when they can deliver a project on time. Proper resource views in mid-market resource management solutions are needed when organizations hit these levels of success.

As for the quantifiable measurements of the benefits of resource balancing and proper allocation, that is probably the ‘holy grail’ most PPM vendors are looking for. If it were easy to find an ROI measurement that every organization could utilize, then our lives would be much, much simpler. As far as I know, no vendor can offer up a simple ROI calculator that is applicable to most organizations.

That said, I can offer you some anecdotes from customers that lead us toward impacts. For example, one organization had a team of high powered software developers that he was losing. They were leaving for ‘greener pastures’ because the organization was constantly working late on their client deliverables. They would have a 600 pound gorilla customer call in and then everyone would work a fire drill. All of this due to not being able to see the planned work and allocate it properly.

Once they implemented Project Insight, they began to plan every team members’ work two weeks ahead. Once that was mastered, they began looking out a quarter and forecasting. The customer found that his attrition rate of his specialized resources was lower. Why? Because people could plan their lives. They went from working 80 hours per week to 40-50 hours per week. The employees were happier and remained with the company.

Last, but certainly not least, executives want a simple way to oversee all the projects in their portfolio. Low end tools do not always concern themselves with the needs of project managers or executives. Basecamp and others are more focused on team member needs, sacrificing other levels of the team.

Now this functional set is probably easier to quantify. We often hear of project managers spending a certain number of hours aggregating information for executive reports, and then someone else spend another set of hours formatting these reports. That is more easily quantified and can often, in itself, bring in the ROI for a mid-market solution.


Q. Are there staffing considerations when making this sort of (upgrade from Basecamp) move?  Should you not take it on unless you have a specific set of skills and competencies in house?

Yes, that’s probably true. If an organization does not have anyone that understands task dependencies, or is willing to learn about the power of intelligent scheduling, then it is probably not wise to upgrade as of yet. It seems that Basecamp appeals to organizations that are small and work with a lot of sub-contractors or freelancers, for example, tiny ad agencies that extend their workforce with subs. In these cases, it is probably overkill for them to worry about anything in the mid-market.


Q. At the other end of the spectrum from Basecamp, there are very high-end complex tools to manage project portfolios.  These are often six figure investments.  At what point do you need to start looking at these?

There are many organizations that are ready for a high end system. They have certain characteristics to be sure. For example, I attended a PMI chapter even with a Microsoft Project Server consultant as the guest speaker. He was firm and clear when he said, “Don’t even try to implement this unless your organization has a CMM ranking of 3.5 or better.” I would say that is probably good advice for any organization. Do not embark upon a high end system until you are mature enough to benefit from that system.

In May, at the Gartner conference, it was said that a solution like Clarity takes at least six months to configure, so you need to be at the stage where your team can dedicate the resources to analyze the business processes and spend that time configuring the system.

A couple of good examples of companies that use high end systems are Proctor & Gamble and Boeing. P&G has literally 1000s of products and tens of thousands of opportunities for improving these products, or launching new products. They have an entire department that analyzes the risk of each potential program and project. These opportunities are mapped onto a bubble chart and the like. The team has the resources to review the project/idea intake process, and analyze, and quantify well in advance. Many of our customers do not have the luxury of an entire risk management department.

Thank goodness Boeing and other airline manufacturers have mature processes, as our lives depend on it. The type of business requires stringent adherence to standards and processes in order to develop and manufacture their products.


Q. Project Insight has an established migration path from Basecamp.  Can you talk a bit about the data that is migrated over, how it's used, and where the gaps are?

Yes, as we upgrade lots of teams from Basecamp, we’ve developed a data migration for these customers so they can have their historical information available to them. We map the following fields:

Project Management Software

The gaps are the features that Basecamp does not offer like dependencies. So, if the project is in progress, and migrated into Project Insight, then the project manager needs to relate those tasks or just adjust each task manually. We did not migrate files, but one may simply use multiple file upload to pull the files into Project Insight. Everything else is good to go. 

Posted on: July 26, 2012 05:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Time To Move PPM To The Cloud?

Situation: You think "the cloud" could be a solution for you, but you're still not sure...

Recently, we spoke with Scott Chapman, the President and CEO of Project Hosts, the leading provider of online Project Server, SharePoint and CRM solutions, with Microsoft competencies in Project and Portfolio Management and Hosting. Scott has been a market leader in cloud-based Microsoft applications since 1999 - so he really understands the ins and outs of "PM in the cloud".  With the following interview questions, we wanted to give you a feel for what you should be considering when you are thinking about moving to the cloud.  If you have more questions and happen to be in Phoenix in two weeks - Scott will also be speaking at the MS Project Conference 2012.  His session is entitled, Going Online with PPM - What You Need to Know.


Q.  When you talk about faster and less costly Project Server Deployments online, what's really driving the speed of implementation and cost savings?  What are you giving up in return for those advantages when you compare it to a more traditional implementation?

A.  Hosted deployments lead to faster implementations by avoiding three main roadblocks commonly encountered in onsite deployments:  i) procurement delays in acquiring new hardware (or software), ii) delays to approve software for deployment (often requiring IT to have the training to support it), and iii) security delays in granting consultants the access they need to configure a solution.  By avoiding these delays, online environments become operational more quickly, saving money through more effective and efficient project and portfolio management.  Online environments also save money by allowing customers to only pay for what they need – starting small and scaling as needed.

The main things that customers give up in an online PPM environment are i) data being inside their corporate firewall, ii) integration to their onsite Exchange server, and iii) automatic corporate authentication.  Some organizations will not consider online services in the first place, simple because their data would reside outside their firewall.  But many organizations are OK with hosted project management information as long as the hosting provider has the correct security certifications (e.g. SAS70, ISO 27001, PCI).  Although email alerts from Project Server and SharePoint work from online services, the Exchange integration that allows a user to update Project Server tasks from within Outlook does not work when connecting online PPM to onsite Exchange.  Although it is possible to integrate online authentication with a customer’s corporate Active Directory, it does involve some customer IT work and is not automatic like in an onsite deployment.


Q.  When do you have issues with security in the cloud?  How do you ensure your PPM data in the cloud is secure?

A.  Security is (and should be) the number one concern of most cloud customers.  Many customers have their own checklists, assessments, or surveys that ask all the questions they need answered to ensure the safety of their data.  Others use standard checklists like those for ISO 27001 or FISMA (Federal IT standards).  It is important to make sure that a cloud service provider has had their security audited by a third party and to be able to see the results.  Some customers will even perform their own audits, which may include penetration testing (ethical hacking) and other verification techniques. 


Q.  What do you give up in terms of customization with a cloud based solution vs one onsite? Can you give some examples?

A.  If the cloud based solution is restricted to shared servers, then there are typically quite a few restrictions on customizations:  One typically cannot add 3rd-party applications or custom webparts, and it may not even be possible to develop custom workflow or certain types of BI reports.  If the cloud based solution involves dedicated servers, then the above-mentioned customizations are possible, but there may still be limitations with integrations to onsite resources where the integration requires everything to be in the same domain (e.g. Exchange integration to Project Server).


Q.  What are the licensing challenges that you need to be aware of as you integrate your PPM cloud implementation with all of the other MS applications that are present in most organizations?  

A.  If a customer provides their own licenses for a cloud solution (to reduce hosting fees), the customer will need to remember to account for those licenses along with their onsite licenses when they do periodic licensing “true-ups” with Microsoft. 

Posted on: March 07, 2012 06:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Which PPM Functions Really Create Value?

Categories: PPM Software

Situation: You are asking yourself, "What do I really need from PPM software?"

I've been asked this question a lot lately.  So I thought it deserved to be addressed here, in a way that hopefully the asker can relate to. The answer of course, is "it depends".  It depends almost entirely on the maturity of your organization.

Even for something as important as "doing the right things" (PPM), most of us feel like we really only need a few key functions. With this in mind, software vendors have spent the last few years creating simple SaaS applications to serve our needs - each of them focusing on limited views of the portfolio that should be just enough to facilitate decision-making to accomplish mostly near to medium-term goals. Despite most of us having some similar basic needs, we still customize whatever we end up implementing. Since a lot of that customization ends up happening (i.e. - is funded) when the software is first bought, we end up optimizing the software for the needs we have NOW, versus longer term considerations.  Then we consider the PPM Project done.  Later, when PPM is less of a hot button at your organization, it becomes harder to have the system evolve as the company matures. 

So let's talk about the things companies generally want. I'll begin with a list of PPM functions from MS Project Server 2010. It a set of information management areas which are fairly comprehensive, yet their value probably varies a lot based on what your immediate needs are:


How much do these matter to you?  If you are really having a problem "doing the right things", the prioritization might look like this:

  1. Portfolio Selection and Analytics 

  2. Business Intelligence and Reporting

  3. Demand Management

  4. Financial Management

  5. Resource Management 

  6. Schedule Management 

  7. Time and Task Management 

  8. Team Collaboration 

  9. Administration, Scalability and Extensibility 

However, if your real problem is just not having enough people to get everything done (the situation most PMOs find themselves in), you might have a view that looks like this:
1.  Resource Management
2.  Schedule Management
3.  Time and Task Management
4.  Team Collaboration
5.  Portfolio Selection and Analytics
6.  Business Intelligence and Reporting
7.  Financial Management
8.  Demand Management  
9.  Administration, Scalability and Extensibility

I often hear from organizations where project management itself is not part of the corporate culture, then time and task management are at the top of the list.  Almost universally, senior management would like everything fixed immediately by the new system - so most people are just trying to implement all of these functions.  Unfortunately, the functions are just the means of getting there.  Implementing functions individually doesnt really help.  It's how they comes together to form a complete system that creates the value you are looking for.

So you might be thinking, "it depends", isn't very helpful.  The key to getting the most value out of your PPM solution is understanding the PPM maturity of your organization and using that as a guide to rolling out new technology and processes.  It's more about looking at where your company is and what you can accomplish when, changing the focus of your efforts as the organization matures.

Gartner, some time ago, laid out a roadmap for doing just that.  It is available here on gantthead for your reading pleasure. You'll find that the maturity levels are not a direct match with the function, but rather imply that you focus your efforts in certain areas at different points in time.  There are dozens of other resources here on gantthead, a few of which I've listed below. Hopefully these will help guide you ithrough your PPM journey.

Also See:

Posted on: June 08, 2011 07:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Preconfigured SaaS MS Project PPM

Situation: You're in a MS shop, looking at PPM SaaS options.

Many organizations ask "Should we go with MS Project Server or a SaaS solution?"  The folks at SharkPro Software are in the business of giving you both.  Recently we spent some time with Greg Bailey, SharkPro Software's CEO who clued us in on where he sees the industry going.  Whether you are pro or anti Microsoft, I think you'll find his answers interesting.


Q.  Is the future of PM and PPM software in house or in the cloud?  Obviously everything has been moving in the cloud for a while now.  Is that where it all ends up?  If so, when?

Most of PPM will end up in the cloud, and relatively soon.  Even large businesses with well-established IT departments while leveraging their existing infrastructure for some on premise applications will opt to tie into the cloud and get the benefit of both.  Organizations handling financial, medical, or intelligence information may opt for a “private cloud”.  We’ve found the more agile small and mid-sized companies are moving towards SaaS solutions at a faster rate as evidenced by the success of the early PPM SaaS vendors.

Where does sit end up?  With more vendors looking ahead to more open and cross platform technology standards like HTML 5, companies will be able to “turn on and off” and only pay for the features they need on demand.  So whether on the PC, the Web or a Mobile device they will only pay for the capability they need throughout the lifecycle of a project.  Project ramp up may require more of the initial feature set but as a project goes live they will just need more of the update and collaboration capability.  Users will also have a choice to select best of breed features from multiple vendors all seamless to the end user.  As businesses realize the security, accessibility, as well as the ability to rapidly get access to the latest features and capabilities only as they need them, the benefit of cloud solutions and the economics are irresistible. 


Q.  Fast implementation times are a key selling point for SaaS PM and PPM offerings competing against Project Server.  The idea is that they give you "just enough" of what you need, without extensive customization.  Generally speaking, what is the functionality or type/level of customization that you can't get with Project Server in the cloud (whether it's with your company or another) and why?

I agree that fast implementation has been one of the SaaS vendor’s value proposition’s when positioning against Microsoft.  Microsoft Project and Project Server are tremendously successful with over 20 million Project Users and 10,000 larger companies using Project Server.  It still is one of Microsoft Top 10 products so the investment in new development is huge.

Although Project Server has been available in a hosted environment for years, there has not been a “pre-packaged or ready-to-go” version that did not require at least some initial configuration.

When developing SharkPro Projects we decided to leverage the power and popularity of Project and Project Server 2010 as a platform but provide a completely new way to deploy and experience Project Server.  Available via SaaS in minutes or installed on premise in a few hours   It is pre-provisioned and has a fresh web interface so users are ready to go, just like the early SaaS products.  The difference is SharkPro Projects still has all of the new Microsoft Project 2010 and Server capability available as needed.  A company can grow into the more advanced features without having to migrate to another tool later.

The limitations we have seen so far have to do more with architecture deployment decisions rather than features. For example, a large employment agency was looking at SaaS initially but also wanted the option to bring on premise to leverage existing infrastructure when ready.  Typically not an out-of-the-box solution with SaaS only vendors and requires more thought and planning to deploy.  For global companies there are more laws and regulations related to where the actual data resides.  Some have compliance requirements that require that servers and data are physically located in the host country.


Q.  Do you see many IT shops strictly using MS Project Desktop at this point?  Are there specific industries or company sizes that are more likely to be using stand-alone software?

We still see a tremendous amount of MS Project Desktop.  Many still use Project Desktop even when they have selected other SaaS or higher end tools.  Desktop is still great for just learning project management or if you are a project manager managing a large capital construction project and there is not a need to share that information on the web.  We also see Project terrific for off-line work when you may not always be connected to the cloud and are on a plane or very remote region in the world such as an offshore platform.


Q.  At what point do you see an enterprise needing an EPM solution?  Is there a particular set of attributes or pain points that you typically see in companies at that stage of maturity?  Is there a particular situation in which a Microsoft-based solution is best?

Individual project managers are usually successful running their projects using a tool Like Microsoft Project. Companies often realize they have a problem when they start trying to optimize resources across multiple projects or need to understand and optimize the “demand” of all the requests coming in.  Companies also need to be able to support multiple workflows and work streams and need to better communicate and collaborate across teams. I have always felt that the tools did not take into account the likely user scenario or “workflow “and how people interact on a project.  Most tools do fine as a big repository of all the project data but forget to take into account the likely “use case” scenarios of how the information needs to flow within a team or organization.  That’s a good time to use Microsoft Project Server either from scratch or to start with SharkPro Projects.


Q.  Without saying "all of them", what company sizes and industries is your software MOST useful in?  Why is that?

SharkPro Projects is ideal for the upper mid market.  Companies, government agencies or departments within each that have between 250-1500 employees.  They typically would like a “ready to go” solution they can start with due to budget constraints and in house expertise but would like to make sure they have the flexibility to grow with the tool and be able to still do some configuration to their specific needs.

We have seen 3 types of early customers.  Those that started with the early SaaS or SharePoint tools but have started to outgrow them, companies that want to upgrade from earlier versions of MS Project but would like a “ready to go” Project Server to get them started and lastly companies that started with a higher end tool that may be too complex for a specific department to tie into. 

Posted on: October 09, 2010 07:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

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