Whether you are preparing for 2021 or transforming your organisation to align to the “new normal” it will always be worthwhile taking a step back to review your approach to selecting, planning, running, and closing projects.

A keystone of good project & portfolio management (PPM) practice is having a defined PPM Methodology. This agreed consistent way of working ensures projects of similar complexity are managed in a consistent way. A way that aligns with your wider organisational governance, culture, and project types.  You can go and buy a “methodology” off the shelf, but every organisation should have a tailored approach to ensure the best fit.

So here are 5 top tips for ensuring your PPM methodology works for your organisation.

1) Develop your methodology with your organisation

There is always the temptation to see the development of the PPM process as a heroic act. Sitting for days writing guidance and document templates with the aim of impressing everyone with a ta-da moment. You know best after all.

The only Methodology that works is one that everyone buys into. The only way to ensure this is for key stakeholders & respected PPM peers to be actively involved in its development. It must be everyone’s Methodology, not yours. What about that pain-in-the-whatsit PM who always has an opinion?… grasp the nettle and get them involved. The Methodology should have lots of people’s names against it, yes this will take longer, yes at times it will be painful, but keen an eye on the prize. The Methodology itself is of zero benefits (even if you think its brilliant) if it does not get buy-in.

2) Define fit for purpose governance

The PPM Methodology should define clear project governance. Governance is the framework of authority and accountability that defines and controls the outputs, outcomes and benefits from projects, programmes, and portfolios. Or in other words, governance is the management framework within which project decisions are made by the right people, at the right time. In practical terms highlights of governance include:

  • A Portfolio Board (or similarly named entity) with authority to approve projects to start or move through Stage Gates.
  • A clearly defined change request & approval process.
  • Clear definitions of roles & responsibilities & escalation routes should also feature.

Your PPM Methodology should provide clear guidance on appropriate governance for different sizes & types of projects. Let us eliminate those pet projects, projects started under the radar, projects with zero budget but 3 months in. Let us have some discipline about the approval process. This is not a drag on innovation, but a fundamental to good corporate practice.

3) Practical & scaled

What is a project? A very simple question… but what is a project in your organisation? Something that takes 2 people less than 2 weeks might feel more like a “task”. Just get on with it. Let’s be clear about the definition of a project. Often this is driven by the scale of budget and for many organisations, this sits at £10k. If it costs more than x, involved more than you work hours and impacts others, then it is a project and deserves managing as such.

Of course, the approach to managing a £25k project versus a £1m must be different, so let’s scale the approach to reflect the size, cost, duration, risk, complexity and benefit of each project. Most organisations, therefore, end up with a definition of a “task” (below the radar and just get on with it), a small project (do some project management but let’s not create a cottage industry for it) and then standard project (following the full process).

4) Simple plain English documents

Everyone loves to demonstrate their technical knowledge.  Acronyms and project management terminology should be left at the door. Our goal is to enable anyone, often subject matter experts, to embrace our Methodology. This is not achieved by complexity and unnecessary jargon. Your goal is to have a suite of PPM templates that anyone can pick up and use. Terminology such as risk (try using “concerns”), constraints, dependencies, critical path, exclusions and tolerance may be breakfast chatter for you and I, but not for everyone in your organisation.

5) Educate, train, support

A great PPM Methodology does not sit on the shelf and gather dust.  It needs to be used, embraced by everyone.  This can only happen if people are educated in the benefits and reasons for its existence.  Educated in how it was developed.  Trained in how to use it and supported long term as they dip in and out of the project management world.

The PMO (or equivalent) needs to stand up and bring the organisation along the path of maturity ensuring that anyone who touches projects is fully aware of the PPM Methodology. This requires investment, time, and effort. Your deployment of a new PPM Methodology has three clear stages; development & approval, training and roll-out, long term support.  How are you going to address each of these with the appropriate level of investment?

So, take a step back.  Consider how your organisation is selecting, planning, running and closing projects. Could this be improved? Could you define a better, consistent, practical PPM Methodology that takes your organisation to the next level of PPM Maturity? Its food for thought and worth a discussion. Good luck.