I remember a conversation I once had with a Chief Operations Officer (COO) of a federal government agency involved in several megaprojects, i.e. the projects with budgets exceeding $1 billion. The situation at the organization was really bad: enormous budget overruns, missed milestones and unhappy stakeholders.
The following exchange took place between us:
Me: I heard about your challenges and your CEO has requested that I come in and help you with establishing proper project management processes …
COO: Yes, I know. We do have serious problems with our projects. But I just don’t get it; after all we have MS Project software installed on every desktop in this office! Even receptionists have it!
Me: You know what? You better come to my project management training too, at least, to the first module …
But all joking aside, I have been asked this question on pretty much every consulting engagement of mine:
Can we address our project (portfolio) management deficiencies by installing appropriate software?
The short and not very diplomatic answer to this question is unequivocal NO. And here is why:
Imagine that you can’t play a piano. As a matter of fact, you know nothing about music. Will the purchase of the best piano in the world address your inability to play? Probably not …
Another, more technical example. Imagine that you know nothing about accounting to the point that you can’t tell the difference between the debit and the credit. Will the installation of the most advanced accounting software on your desktop or laptop instantaneously make an accounting expert out of you?
Having just a project management or portfolio management software installed on your computers will do nothing to help you with your project-related challenges. As a matter of fact it is very likely to have an opposite effect as have been witnessed by me at many organizations. What is likely to happen when people who have a very vague understanding about project management are suddenly forced to fill out endless timesheets and create cumbersome Gantt charts? They will probably fail to appreciate the importance of this and find very creative ways to ignore these tasks.
Now, having said all that, both project management and project portfolio management software implementations after the proper methodologies have been developed and fine-tuned to the company needs can be very helpful. The executives just have to sequence those tasks properly.
About the Author
Jamal Moustafaev, MBA, PMP – president and founder of Thinktank Consulting is an internationally acclaimed expert and speaker in the areas of project/portfolio management, scope definition, process improvement and corporate training. Jamal Moustafaev has done work for private-sector companies and government organizations in Canada, US, Asia, Europe and Middle East.