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Managing Investments – That’s Your Real Project!

We met a lot of folks at the Microsoft Ignite Conference in Chicago last week. And while everyone we spoke with had unique and specific challenges, one common thread ran through our conversations. Most organizations we spoke with used Microsoft Project Online or Project Server as their PPM tool, yet still wanted a more efficient and effective way to manage their projects.

And it’s no wonder, given that traditional project-oriented PPM is fighting a losing war against reaching higher investment yields from their project and program portfolios! Which makes me wonder if all these professionals looking to do a better job managing projects are asking the wrong question. What if their focus on project management tactics is the very thing that’s actually holding them back from successfully delivering greater value from their projects? Sound crazy? Let me explain.

Projects and programs aren’t just budgets and timelines that need to be managed. While those dimensions are certainly important, there’s more to it than that. Much more. Projects and programs are really strategic investments. They are vehicles of transformation, funded to enhance business capabilities, launch new products and optimize IT assets. So using only execution-oriented, tactical methods to manage them – disconnected from the strategic financial information that actually guide smart investment decisions – might not be the best approach.

Because those methods make it nearly impossible to effectively plan, control and measure investments. Indeed, most PPM processes offer little to nothing in the way of decision support. Which means most project management professionals are unable to answer even simple questions like “what is the project risk?” or “what is the multi-year roadmap?”

It’s a frustrating situation to be sure. But you won’t fix it by simply trying to do the same things you’ve always done, only better. The real solution to recapturing lost value involves adding business planning and controls to project management. It’s those critical capabilities that enable your PPM process to deliver the efficiency and visibility you need.

So does this require scrapping your current PPM process? Absolutely not! In fact, if you’re using Microsoft Project Online or Project Server, it’s possible to not only leverage your current Microsoft platform investment, you can actually enhances its value. And that’s exactly what we told the folks we spoke with at the Ignite Conference.

Like we told them, your real project, the one that will actually move the needle and increase the business value of all future projects you manage, is to re-imagine what your role really is. Then re-think the processes and tools you need to help you be successful in that role. The transformation from being just a tactical project manager to a strategic manager of business investments won’t happen overnight. But like any journey, the quicker you start, the faster you’ll be able to begin making an impact.