"I really appreciated the frankness regarding the
product, it's strength's, it's limitations and the
recommendations regarding WSS and Project Server."
PHNS/Adventist Healthcare, Dallas, TX
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
"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
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.
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.
"It is all about the technology"
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
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.
"Microsoft systems get better over time"
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.
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
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
"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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
"Kick it off with training"
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.
"continuous education program" versus
"one-shot training events."
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
Please contact us
if you would like to review, get some
clarification or discuss any of these points.
things to consider when installing Microsoft Project
Server and beginning the process of performing a Project
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
Consider surveying users and asking them questions
about this system before designing your performance
management system which needs to parallel your EPM
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
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
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
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
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.
Resources. Generic resource skill sets should match
human and/or material resource skill sets.
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
Don't assume there will be an easy migration path
between EPM versions.
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
Determine who will act as administrators and what
areas they will administer, i.e. Resource Skill
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
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 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.