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"I really appreciated the frankness regarding the product, it's strength's, it's limitations and the recommendations regarding WSS and Project Server."

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Enterprise Project Management Considerations

Things to Consider when Deploying EPM

Our experience with this system over the years has taught us several key things about deploying Microsoft's Enterprise Project Management (EPM) system and if you have a few moments we would like to share some of them with you.

 

With the initial hand full of service firms in attendance at the first EPM technical conference to the hundreds of technical firms that now claim EPM as one of the services in their portfolio, we have observed the consistent propagation of the following myths. Unfortunately, we have also observed a constant eagerness of organizations to accept these myths and to pay for the services required to perpetuate them.

 

There are important considerations to evaluate before deploying Project Server

 

Common EPM Myths

 

Myth: "Start with Envisioning"

Microsoft has a project management software development approach called Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF). It is a disciplined approach to initiating and managing technology projects based on proven Microsoft practices. One of the initial phases of this framework is called Envisioning.

 

Seems like a fine framework to us, but in our experience "EPM envisioning sessions" performed by Microsoft and many of other professional service firms seem to have what we might consider an undesirable impact on the customer. It often seems to us that organizations come out of an envisioning session waving EPM licensing in hand raring to deploy. Maybe envisioning was never intended to work this way, but we get the sense that envisioning sessions applied early in the EPM context are really just sales techniques used to push software sales and of course services of all kinds.

 

EPM enthusiasm is great if you have already done the work of honest prototype and pilot. We think the first phase is pretty simple; start with what the system does rather than what you want it to do. Pick a prototype team and first figure out how the system actually works. First grasp the inherent weaknesses and strengths of the system and build from there if you select to proceed with deployment.

 

Myth: "It is all about the technology"

"It is more about the people than it is about the technology" is one of the key perspectives in the enterprise deployment business outside this small EPM niche. We think it is about both the technology and the people, but what we have observed is that most organizations do not even begin to understand how much this is going to be "about the people." Look down the Microsoft list of the 1800+ EPM technical and search some of their web-sites. You will notice they talk a lot about technology but mention little about compliance and performance management.

 

Search the Microsoft EPM websites or review the EPM reporting output related to compliance or performance management and you will quickly realize that Microsoft still believes, after all these years and in the face of overwhelming evidence - that it is all about the technology.

 

Myth: "Microsoft systems get better over time"

We have noticed over the years that many customers will evaluate this system as lacking in a set of certain functionality or weak in areas, but then decide to deploy it assuming that it will get better over time.

 

We think Microsoft's products tend to get better most of the time. We also think there is incredible value that can be squeezed from this EPM system if you approach it correctly. But our experience has also taught us that EPM doesn't always get quantitatively and qualitatively better with each update and version. 

 

"Microsoft's QA Journey" for this system is so bumpy and full of potholes that part of the costs that you are going to have to budget for is testing each update and prototyping each version if you migrate. In addition, a clean and easy migration path between versions is not likely to be provided by Microsoft, leaving you with a feeling of being stuck between versions and that only a lot of time and money is going to break you free. This is especially true if you have done heavy customization.

 

Myth: "Fast Track EPM - Buy a Configuration"

It is understandable why consulting firms might give the impression that they can come into your organization, review your requirements, install, configure, customize and then kick it off with a pilot or actual deployment with a little training.

 

This is going to sound like an odd comment coming from a service firm, but our perspective is this system is far from a turn-key solution. You can't really just buy this system, have someone configure it for you based on some time spent gathering requirements, stand it up and expect it to just run on its own.

 

Maybe the most dangerous myth circulating the EPM industry today is the idea of purchasing a Fast Track EPM solution bundled with output dashboards and graphs; a system already created and all you have to do is buy it and plug it in to get it to work for you.

 

The truth is you are going to need to "own" this system from the very start even to just evaluate it for prototype and pilot. You are going to have to roll up your sleeves and dig in to get value from this EPM system.

 

The most helpful service an EPM firm can provide for you is one that helps you develop the EPM expertise you need to completely own this system.

 

Myth: "We can make it work for you"

No one has a clue that this system is going to work for them until they "try it on for size." We think of that "sizing" as being a serious prototype and pilot with a very firm go/no-go decision at the end of each phase. Unfortunately most organizations have made the decision to use this system before they even purchase the first license and most skip a serious prototype phase altogether.

 

When a professional firm says "we can make it work for you" they are implying that this system will absolutely work, and if there isn't a great fit for any reason they can perform serious customization to force a fit.

 

Most organizations we work with "after the fact" have told us they regretted extensive upfront customization. We are not anti-customization, we just think that this shouldn't come up front during the first couple of deployment phases. We think a lot of organizations waste time and money customizing a system that has not been experienced and proven first.

 

Myth: "Kick it off with training"

We might argue that you need to do some pretty traditional training for your administrators or for your project managers before pilot and deployment, but don't think it ends there.

 

Think "continuous education program" versus "one-shot training events."

 

You will likely find that any given group of project managers are not going to all learn to use this system in the way you want and need them to as a result of a couple of days training. You are going to have to mature these folks along with every other user of the system.

 

There will be attrition and there will be new people and you are likely going to use the system differently tomorrow than you do today. Training is going to have to be a program and not an event and you need to think in terms of developing in-house experts. 

 

Please contact us if you would like to review, get some clarification or discuss any of these points.

 

Other things to consider when installing Microsoft Project Server and beginning the process of performing a Project Server configuration

  • Consider EPM hosting for prototype or pilot.  We all want to own our software systems and hardware and maybe we should in most cases. But hosting for prototype and pilot can save us time, money and cut risk in case we decide not to deploy. In addition it removes much of the technical headache during a period of time that you want to focus your energies on the functional aspects of the EPM system.

Warning: If you do go with a hosted solution be very careful who you select. A firm can be most proficient in hosting other systems like WSS or MOSS and not have a clue on hosting EPM.

  • Conduct interviews. Determine how your organization currently uses Microsoft Project and the skill levels of users.

     

    Starting off with an assessment is always a good idea.

     

    Consider surveying users and asking them questions about this system before designing your performance management system which needs to parallel your EPM deployment. Knowing user's concerns, objections, and questions upfront can be invaluable information.
     

  • Establish Organizational Standards. The interviews will provide information to make decisions regarding changing or implementing your organization's standards. Your organization's standards directly influence your MS Project Server configuration.

Put a stake in the ground regarding standards and workflow and then create an EPM Guide as a dynamic document detailing your standards, re-publishing the guide as standards change overtime.

  • Use code structures for projects, tasks and resources. Coding structures provide the foundation for analysis across task, project and resource information. Consider the differences between codes and user defined fields and their effective use.
     

  • Enforce standards across your project plans. Use the Enterprise Global template to manage all of the custom elements you want to use to enforce standards across your enterprise project plans when users connect.

Note: if you have a lot of custom views, filters, tables, reports, etc., in your current use of Microsoft Project, use this Enterprise Global to share these elements with all users.

  • Determine Enterprise Project Template definition and use. Use Enterprise Project Templates to guide users in project creation and planning. Ensure that generic resources are defined and assigned to tasks in the Enterprise Project template. Provide all information regarding static elements of your projects. When implemented properly, Enterprise Project Templates can enable a quick initial assessment of project schedule and budget, which then facilitates enhanced 'what-if' planning
     

  • Create your enterprise resource pool. Resolve naming issues across project plans.

     

    Generic Resources. Generic resource skill sets should match human and/or material resource skill sets.

     

    Human Resources. Your ability to search and find individuals with the right attributes to perform work will depend on how you establish your resource code structures and your skill sets.

     

    Material Resources. If you are going to do real project costing, you will likely need to define material resources.

  • Import historical data. Be careful to ensure consistency in the resources and tasks across the project plans being imported to enable immediate reporting across your portfolio of historical projects.

Don't assume there will be an easy migration path between EPM versions.

  • Use the Portfolio Analyzer or Data Analysis in 2007. Your coding structures for projects and resources will determine the reporting effectiveness of the Portfolio Analyzer. Evaluate your organizational reporting requirements and structure to help determine Portfolio Analyzer views that facilitate corporate initiatives.

The OLAP SQL service is far from perfect but these PWA views based on these OLAP cubes from the bases for much of the enterprise reporting. Spend the time to get this working properly.

  • Manage the administration and maintenance of WSS lists, resource skill sets, security, and other maintenance requirements. Consider the options in the role-based security model and outline the desired functionality. Don't accept the defaults; investigate the security access you are providing.

There is a lot to EPM business and technical administration. Determine who will act as administrators and what areas they will administer, i.e. Resource Skill Sets.

 

Administrator roles will likely change overtime. Some activities can be easily delegated once the business rules have been determined.

  • Archive Project Information. How will your firm archive and access project data? Use of the version functionality in MS Office Project Server, data warehousing, and backup/restore features are all vehicles to consider when determining archival methods for project information.
     

  • Establish alert notification vehicles, i.e. email, Project Web Views with graphical indicators, dashboards, etc. Provide alert notifications based on project and resource attributes, i.e. over allocation of resources, cost overruns, project slippage. Prove the tools to drill-down to analyze the details.
     

  • Role-based training. Users must be trained or the system will not be effective. Role-based training is our recommended solution. We provide the level of training that ensures each "user" understands exactly what their "role" is in the Enterprise Project Management Environment. This includes process, procedure and "tool" training. Don't implement MS Project Server without having a valid and realistic training program defined and ready to go.
     

  • Support (on-site, phone, remote administration) your users. Your users will need support. Count on it. Questions will come up. Our solution is on-site, phone, and remote support. You focus on your core business and we save you money by having a staff of experts available to help you when you need it.
    Our EPM Support Information

  • EPM Solutions & MS Project Server Solutions. Carefully evaluate all MS Project Server consulting services, enterprise project management specialists, products, and add-ins. Microsoft boasts of more than 1800+ partners that provide EPM Solutions. Experts with the system would provide a very short list of individuals, companies that can support the claim of "MS Project Experts." Time and money spent initially finding the right support, solutions, and MS Project Server consulting will pay off handsomely during the final phases of deployment.
     

Things to Consider when Implementing EPM

 

 

 

 

 

 

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