Tools To Support Four Key Processes

To achieve the central goal of maximizing project performance of an organization, there are four process areas that must be optimized.  PD-Trak provides tools to manage these processes.

Portfolio Management

Capture, rank and select ideas - All projects start as an idea.  PD-Trak provides tools to capture and rank the ideas so that only the best ideas are used to seed new projects.

Optimize the value of the project portfolio - The goal is to execute a set of projects that will optimize future business performance; to select projects that achieve an optimum mix / balance given short term and long term business objectives. 

Align projects with strategy - Choosing projects that are consistent with strategic objectives described by the business plan.

Project prioritization - The relative importance of the projects in the portfolio should be established and maintained over time.  This information is necessary to support investment and resource reallocation decisions as things change. PD-Trak provides simple and comprehensive project scoring tools to support project prioritization.

Long term resource management - Reconciling the plan for future projects with resource constraints.  Many companies set portfolio targets that are too aggressive i.e. too many projects; this results in all projects being late.  PD-Trak provides resource analysis tools that allow the management team to assess how many projects are realistic and what resource types are limiting project capacity.

Phase-Gate Process

Structured method for planning and executing projects - The stage / phase-gate process provides a roadmap for project teams to follow.  It defines phases that the project will pass through and establishes a language for communicating where the project is in its lifecycle e.g. Development Phase, Launch Phase etc.  Each phase has defined objectives, tasks and documents that must be addressed.  Tasks and documents may be defined as not applicable - this allows an important balance between flexibility (scaling the process to the project) and rigor / consistency.  PD-Trak offers a number of predefined stage / phase-gate process templates for different industries and different types of projects.

Guides teams to follow best practices - The key to consistent excellence in project execution is to follow a best practice based process that ensures that critically important tasks are executed at the right time.  The phase-gate process will guide the team to develop the idea and a corresponding project plan and business case.  The benefits of such an approach is most important with large, complex projects where risk must be carefully managed and weighed against benefits; however, a best practice based process will benefit projects of all sizes.  Much of the emphasis is on doing the right things in the early phases - this is where most mistakes are made e.g. the customer needs are not correctly defined, the risks are not meaningfully assessed, the return on investment calculation is overly optimistic and not backed up with credible data, a meaningful timeline and resource plan is not developed.  Teams that do not follow such a process will often discover these inadequacies late in the project when it is too late to kill the project - the investment has been made. 

Drives involvement of all needed functions - Many projects require involvement of several functions across the company to be successful.  Product development is an excellent example where tasks must be performed by Marketing, R&D, Manufacturing Engineering, Quality, Sourcing etc.  The phase-gate process is a company process that drives all functions needed for project success, helping to break down functional barriers.

Defines metrics to track progress and deviation from plan - The phase-gate process should define metrics that will be used to communicate project targets and to measure project success.  Examples would include estimates for project duration, cost, level of risk, financial return (NPV, IRR, break even time).  The level of detail on metrics should be scaled to the type of project being managed.

Project Management

Project definition and charter - PD-Trak provides standard tools and templates to capture a definition of charter, scope and objectives that can be adjusted for the specific type of project being managed.

Project planning - PD-Trak guides the project manager to develop a comprehensive project plan with integrated simple planning tools (task plans, action item register, document templates to capture project plans) and comprehensive tools (Microsoft Project).

Team coordination - The task plans define what needs to be done in each phase and allows team members to be assigned to these tasks.

Progress reporting - Assuming that the project manager maintains current data in the PD-Trak Project File, the management team have a real time view of the status of the project in the management reports.  The Metrics Dashboard can be used as a status reporting tool or status reporting templates can be established and included in the project toolkit.

Business case development - PD-Trak includes tools (financial justification, budget & schedule, risk management) that guide the project manager to develop a credible business case i.e. to assess the balance between risk and reward.  This is the primary focus of the gate review where the management team will assess this balance and decide whether to continue to invest in the project.

Risk management - A key part of the project manager's role is to manage risk.  Many projects get derailed late in the lifecycle because risk was not managed effectively earlier in the project.  Much of the phase-gate process is designed to help reduce risk by doing the right things in the right sequence.  In addition PD-Trak includes a risk management tool to help the project team identify and manage key risk areas related to the project. 

Gate Review Process

Incremental management decisions - The phases of the stage / phase-gate process are separated by gate reviews.  These are points at which the management team assesses the project against standard deliverables and criteria and decides whether to allow the project to move to the next phase.  Possible decisions are go (move forwards to the next phase), kill (terminate the project), hold (place the project on hold until resources become available)or recycle (send the team back to do more work in the current phase).  PD-Trak offers workshops and training materials related to the gate review process.

Business case assessment - Much of the gate decision is based on the assessment of the business case i.e. risk vs. reward.  Related tools include the financial justification, budget & schedule and risk management worksheets.

Short term resource (pipeline) management - If the management team concludes that the project is sufficiently attractive to move it to the next phase of the process, the next question is "do we have the resources"?  Care should be taken not to derail other higher priority projects that are competing for the same resources.  PD-Trak provides resource analysis tools that can be used to determine resource availability.