25 Oct

5 Keys to a Successful PPM Implementation

It’s sort of like taking a wrong turn on your way to buy a GPS; or being late for an appointment to pick up a new watch.

You’ve decided to add focus and clarity to the execution of enterprise projects by implementing project and portfolio management (PPM) software, and somewhere along the line, your PPM project went off the rails—just like all those other IT, marketing, and services projects that sent you looking for a solution in the first place.

Unfortunately it’s a common tale. PMI estimates that up to 70% of enterprise projects fail, and as ironic as it may seem, PPM implementation projects are no exception.

So what are the warning signs, the lessons learned from prior PPM implementations that can help you avoid becoming a statistic? Following are 5 suggestions from the experts at Workfront to help you avoid some of the most common PPM pitfalls:

Choose the system admin and core implementation team strategically

Even with a well-defined project scope and clear value proposition, a PPM implementation—or any software implementation for that matter—still has a lot to do with personalities. Does the team understand the original pain that drove the purchase decision? Are they invested in the success of the project, both financially and in terms of reputation? Will the admin be dedicated to the PPM tool, or is it one in a long list of technical responsibilities?

Without a deep understanding across the entire implementation team of the business issues surrounding the PPM deployment, the implementation can get seriously sidetracked by one of two (or maybe both) events: First, the champion leaves and there’s no one else on the core team with a vested interest in picking up the torch. Or second, reluctant members of the core team get busy with priorities they’re more interested in, and suddenly the implementation doesn’t have the resources to succeed.

Choose that core team carefully.

Do the pre-onsite homework

Everyone is busy. That’s part of the reason you’re investing in a PPM tool—to add structure and predictability to an otherwise chaotic work process. It’s that frenzied schedule that sometimes convinces us to put off thinking about the implementation until we absolutely have to, which usually means when the onsite consultant arrives.

But that homework you receive from the implementation services team—identifying work processes, understanding team member roles, cataloging current terminology, etc.—is critical to a fast start on the PPM implementation. Services and onboarding engagements don’t last forever, so the longer you have to spend finishing the pre-work during those engagements, the less of a chance you have to reach the onboarding milestones that are the leading indicators of success.

Like your 5th grade teacher said, do your homework.

Make sure resources are available, focused, and committed

In most cases, the people responsible for implementing PPM software have day jobs, the stuff they actually get paid to do. Yet a successful deployment requires those team members to make time for something else, something that could limit their ability to tackle day-to-day work responsibilities. When an implementation begins and energy is high, it’s relatively easy to keep people engaged. But when a handful of thorny problems arise—and they almost always do—people tend to drift back to the work they’re used to, the work they get recognized for.

Avoiding this resource vacuum means incenting the implementation team to see the project through to success. That incentive could be financial, but most often it’s not. Instead, when a software implementation has visibility at the executive level, when it’s positioned as a strategic imperative for a department or team, and when the team members are recognized for their efforts, they tend to stay engaged.

To get attention, give the core team purpose and value.

Clearly define your MVP

Understanding the MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, for your PPM implementation is crucial to success. When the scope of the implementation is “everything for everyone,” failure is almost unavoidable.

Instead, the concept of MVP looks for the simplest solution where the users begin to realize value. The graphic below is an ideal illustration:



With a PPM implementation, perhaps you have designs to integrate a variety of back-end systems to automate the population of project details and resources. While that integration will definitely add value, it’s also very complex and will prolong the launch of the system for weeks or months. Instead, focusing only on core project management and collaboration before launch will get a successful, viable product out the door—and providing value to users—much faster.

Know your MVP.

Get the entire team—not just part of the teamcollaborating in the system

Most advanced PPM tools, particularly SaaS solutions, offer core collaboration capabilities. And one of the quickest ways to start building credibility and value around a tool, for both the implementation team and the broader group of users, is to start having deployment-centric conversions, assignments, and approvals taking place in the tool itself. However, if only a segment of the users are willing to engage in those conversations, or if they insist on clinging to traditional methods of collaboration to share project data and documents, it’s going to be an uphill battle to convert those users once the system goes live.

Collaboration and adoption begin long before launch.

Getting back on track

If your PPM implementation has gone sideways because of any of these common pitfalls, it is possible to right the ship. The story of one Workfront customer in the energy sector illustrates the possibilities: After two failed attempts to get their deployment off the ground—thanks to some of the internal resource constraints and lack of focus mentioned previously—a new project leader took the reins and changed the course. By focusing on people first instead of technology, engaging a world-class services organization, and digging in and doing the work behind defining internal processes, the third time proved to be the charm. That company is now thriving in its use of project and work management, and so can yours.

This post was provided by Shawn Dickerson, GTM Director at Workfront. Shawn has 15 years of marketing and demand generation experience, encompassing Fortune 1000 companies, venture-backed firms and small startups. You can connect with Shawn on LinkedIn or Twitter and find our more about Workfront HERE.