Even in healthy economies smart organizations do what they can to streamline costs in order to maximize profitability. But the current economic climate is forcing many companies to reduce budgets and focus on enhancing operational efficiency — to do more with less, as the mantra goes. To help meet these challenges, management teams need greater visibility into specific projects and initiatives. They need to understand activities at an operational level while getting a clear understanding of the resources being committed to those projects.

Figure 1: Automated governance integrates project managers with specific process approaches and tools.

Automated Governance for Portfolio Management

When the economic condition deteriorates, it brings into sharp focus the organizational problems that are causing inefficiencies. In many cases a root cause of the inefficiencies is poor project management practices. Repeatable methodologies aren’t used and processes are inconsistently followed. The most basic of these include a standard governance process and a standard a set of project deliverables. The wide ranging effect of these deficiencies is that resources are inefficiently applied or in some case entirely squandered. As a result, projects are delayed, go over budget, and ultimately fail.

To reduce the risk of failure, companies often apply project methodologies whether PRINCE2, PMBOK, Agile, or some proprietary discipline. These approaches provide a high level view of a projects inner workings, but that isn’t always enough. To truly mitigate the risk of failure and drive efficiencies, the business requires a deeper level of guidance and control. One of the ways in which consistency and compliance can be achieved is through the use of technology to guide the project manager through a consistent project delivery process — otherwise known as “automated governance.”

At Pcubed we’ve seen an uptick in the number of clients — both public and private sector — who want coaching in intertwining automation with best practice governance. This combination enables them to:

  • Justify spend on initiatives where there are competing priorities.
  • Execute their initiatives more effectively.
  • Build capability with their organisation.

Automated Governance

In order to drive consistency in delivering projects and programs, a formal governance process with a set of standard deliverables must be defined and adhered to throughout the project organization. This process can be focused on a specific methodology such as PRINCE2 or PMBOK or it can be focused to a bespoke framework used for a specific product, industry, or organization.

Regardless of which one is adopted, a framework is only as effective to the organization as its level of adoption. This adoption must be supported and promoted by the highest levels of management and reinforced at the delivery level through change management. It’s most effective to introduce an automated governance solution once this foundation of executive support and delivery adoption is established. In other words, tools come after the thinking.

We define automated governance as the use of technology to guide the project owner through a consistent project delivery process to ensure consistency and compliance. The automation must be viewed as a solution that enhances — rather than replaces — the current delivery framework. In addition, in order for this solution to be seen as a true value-add to the users and not just another administrative burden laid down by management, it must materially reduce the level of overhead required to adhere to the framework and provide suitable visibility into the project portfolio.

There are numerous ways to use automation in order to reduce the administrative overhead of following a specific framework. One way is to use standard document and schedule templates based on the type and risk level of the project. This will help direct the project manager through a standard set of deliverables and criteria without having to recreate the wheel for each project. Another popular way is through the use of automated workflow tools that will facilitate the approval and/or rejection of specific project deliverables.

At Pcubed, while each clients specific needs are different, our experience has shown that an automated governance environment built on the Microsoft Project Server and SharePoint platforms is relatively easy to adopt, cost efficient, and simple compared to other solutions. We’ve even taken the step to package pre-configured automated governance solutions on this dual platform. We call the solution DeliveryHub.

As shown in Figure 2, if you were starting a project in an automated governance environment, you would expect to be led through the minimum number of deliverables required, including a project mandate and a project plan. Both items would be created from a template helping to ensure consistency and quality across the portfolio of projects. We’ve delivered automated governance to numerous clients — most recently to a large public sector client.

Figure 2: A schematic of DeliveryHub, Pcubeds automated governance tool built using SharePoint and Microsoft Project Server.

Automated Governance for Portfolio Management

Decision-making by Data

To provide visibility and assist leaders to make informed decisions about a project portfolio or a large program, the use of real-time reports that are database-driven is critical. This data should be aggregated across the portfolios and programs, have the capability to display trends, be flexible to adjust to the changing needs of the business, and provide robust analysis through graphics, drill-downs, and other capabilities.

This will not only provide the visibility required to make informed decisions, but since these reports are driven by the data resident in the system, this will also reduce or eliminate the administrative overhead required to produce the reports. The visibility of programs and projects is substantially improved, from the detailed project reports required by project managers to the high-level dashboards desired by senior managers. Compliance with best practice is not only encouraged through automation, but can be easily demonstrated to those tasked with scrutiny of key programs.

No Bureaucratic Nightmares

When implementing automated governance, you need to give careful consideration to flexibility and scalability. The purpose isn’t to create a bureaucratic nightmare. Assuming due diligence in the implementation, your organization should see the value of efficient process control with the enhanced transparency and quality of process that it will bring. We’ve worked with a number of organizations in implementing a variety of automated governance, and they typically see a 10 to 15 percent saving in their operation costs.