Implementing Enterprise Project Management Tools And Their Effect On Individual Project Managers

Enterprise Project Management (EPM) tools can yield enormous benefits for an organization, most importantly, the visibility and control they bring across the entire organization’s projects, resources, costs and performance. Many organizations that are not using EPM tools often have no way of measuring organizational project performance with empirical data, resulting in subjective assessments of project status.

EPM tools offer a centralized repository with all of an organizations project information in one place and this is coupled with a role-based security structure that allows an individual access to only what their role needs. With everything in one place, senior management can see up-to-date project performance data across the whole organization allowing them to better manage their project portfolios. They can proactively choose which projects to select, prioritize projects particularly with competing or scarce resources, understand the interactions between projects and tie all of these decisions directly back to the company’s strategy and goals.

It’s not uncommon for EPM tools to be integrated with other enterprise systems. Two very simple examples of these include the synchronizing of resources from an HR system and the collecting of actuals costs from an accounting system. This kind of integration and information sharing at the enterprise level are benefits that stand-alone implementations of project management tools can’t easily match.

In addition, collaboration is available with many of the EPM tools today. This emphasizes the importance of communication to improve productivity and drive project success. These capabilities also enable the sharing and better management of project artifacts.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that tool vendors are embracing web-based technologies. Having all this functionality in a tool suite that is now 100% web-based, makes it far easier from an IT perspective to deploy and manage large numbers of users.


What Does This Mean To The Project Manager?

There are three elements that are often talked about when implementing EPM: first tools, second processes and third people. Most organizations implementing EPM tools focus on these three things in that order.

In my experience, they should reverse the order to get better results, faster. In other words, the tool is the least of your challenges. Cultural issues, change management and user adoption are the challenges that need to be overcome to ensure a successful EPM tool implementation. So the priority should be people, process and then tools.

The implications of a tool focused approach rather than a people focused approach often means that the Project Manager gets shortchanged. This manifests itself in lack of supporting headcount, organizational support, career development and a lack of training. Why Does This Happen?

Quite often, when an organization decides to implement an EPM tool, they create a business case. It’s not uncommon for these business cases to be supported by benefits that are based subjective opinions and not derived from empirical information.

These business cases tend to focus on justifying the software license costs, annual support and some implementation consulting and basic training. Generally, everything is tool focused!

To get more budget or increase your headcount, a solid business case outlining the ROI will help. Cash flow aside; there are not many senior executives that wouldn’t approve a sound business case with a great ROI. However, some middle managers may not approve it, as they tend to focus more on budget rather than return on investment.


As Project Managers, What Can We Do About This?

Here are four ideas that can help.

  • Start by looking back at the original business case for implementing EPM with a view to assessing any shortfalls. If there are gaps, then creating a new business case to address these, could be a positive way forward. Also, as you may be part way through an implementation, some benefits will already be visible, therefore strengthening your revised business case.
  • We need to understand the business value of what we do, the contribution we make and the result that it delivers to the organization. Without this, we will always struggle to justify additional funds to support project management.
  • We can get together with our peers and document training & education opportunities. Identifying these gaps and creating a business rationale to fill them could result in additional training support for Project Managers.
  • Eliminate blame culture – if a projects missing its deadlines, then there should be objective assessments of the situation and how we mitigate it rather than passing blame. Take the politics out of project management. Let’s strive to create a candid project management environment.

About the Author

Jon Swain, Ten Six Consulting

Jon Swain has more than 27 years of experience in the project management field working in many different industries including IT, Financial Services, High Tech, Telecom and Oil & Gas. His international experiences are: as a customer successfully implementing enterprise wide project management, working for leading project management tool vendors and working for management consulting organizations. Jon is currently responsible for all operations at Ten Six Consulting, specialists in enterprise project portfolio and earned value management.

Prior to joining Ten Six Consulting, Jon was President of Pinnacle Management Systems overseeing many enterprise implementations of project and earned value management systems. Before this, he was Vice President, US Operations for AMS, overseeing all sales, consulting and training for project management products and services in the USA. Previous roles included, UK General Manager for Artemis where he had operational P&L responsibilities for sales, marketing, consulting, training and support for the UK.

Prior to Artemis, Jon has worked on projects and implemented project management solutions across Europe, Scandinavia and Australia. He has presented numerous white papers at industry events, including major UK IT Forums, Special Interest Groups, User Conferences and in Washington DC where audiences have included US Congressmen and Senators.




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