I recently posted a blog that discussed a strategy you could be taking to prepare your company for automated project portfolio management (PPM). In this blog, I’ll discuss some strategies to ensure that an optimized Microsoft Project Server implementation will help you get a handle on your overall project portfolio.

First off, to truly take advantage of enterprise portfolio management, you need to start thinking about your projects at a higher level. In most cases, companies that are moving to Project Server are coming off of either Excel spreadsheets, a home-grown hodge-podge system, or worse, nothing at all.
Can we agree that managing your projects these ways gives you almost no visibility at a high level?

To get your organization ready to optimize your Project Server investment, it helps to have an internally agreed upon project methodology. You now have a system that gives you the ability to report on numerous aspects of your projects and how they are performing. To take advantage of this, you need to be consistent in how you enter data and milestones into your projects. Projects should be broken down into phases and deliverables within the phases need to be understood.

Before implementing an automated solution, it might help to have best practices clearly understood and introduced. Conversely, many of our clients have used the introduction of the solution to document what their best practices should be and what a solid methodology could be. Either approach is fine. One example of a best practice is to instead of manually hand-jamming in dates, work with dependencies and durations to produce the dates you expect to see. Approaches such as this will ensure that project managers communicate realistic outcome expectations that will help the C-suite truly understand the status of the project.

After working with hundreds of companies on their project management implementations, here are three additional best practices for utilizing Microsoft Project Server:

Make it a Habit. Be consistent in how you regularly use the tool. Get into the habit of using it on a consistent basis. For example, every Friday morning you might want to block off an hour and ensure the following three activities are done:

  • Review current forecasted dates
  • Adjust expected durations
  • Communicate new expectations to project team (NOTE: This can be done simply by pointing the team to the right place in Project Server. PROJILITY Hammerhead supports this capability automatically.)

By putting seemingly simple habits in place, your productivity will grow substantially.

Enable Organizational Consistency. Consistency throughout the organization in how the tool is used is mandatory to ensure continued and effective usage. For example, if you decide that you’re going to keep track and measure key milestones, make sure the key milestones are used and named consistently. Terminology from one project to the next and from PM to PM must be consistent, as well.

Ensure Ease of Use to Limit Relearning. We have seen a large drop off in usage when people use the system irregularly and need to get back up to speed when they want to re-engage. It must be intuitive and easy enough to use for all users so that they don’t waste a lot of time re-learning the tool. You shouldn’t spend a lot of time on maintaining the tool. It needs to be a manageable tool to use.

Another habit companies need to get into is having their people load their schedules properly. This is another source of potential danger. There is a perception that it’s a difficult process that takes a long time to do. Depending on how detailed you want to get, it can be time consuming. However I often hear people saying they can’t manage their schedules at the deepest level. Well, that’s okay. The key to starting things off is to get them managing their schedules consistently at some level, even if it’s not the deepest.”

With a couple of simple changes, your team can be prepared for implementing an enterprise PPM solution.