The Swiss Army Knife Approach to PPM Solutions

While I traveled through the Shannon Airport as a boy in 1969, I remember well my enamored gaze into the display case of the Swiss army knives.

“Dad, can I have one?” I asked.

I got the usual parental questioning. “Are you sure you are mature and responsible enough to have one?”

Being only 10 and not as wise as I thought I was, of course I responded with a resounding YES. However, I quickly found out my thumbnails and fingers were not developed enough even to open many of the different tools.

I recall being cut and poked as I tried to open up every tool, occasionally even deploying the help of another screw driver.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized deploying Portfolio and Project Management (PPM) solutions are a lot like this…

Many of our customers also have that little boy, wide-eyed excitement look on their faces when we demo Project Server, and lack the maturity to know any better.

“Yes! Our project managers are all PMP certified,” is what we usually hear when we ask if they are ready to use such a multi-packed tool set.

And we have all clearly seen that they soon all fall short of the mark. PPM raises the bar and exposes the reality of their current understanding and expertise in building good, sound schedules.

I prefer we focus on building a solid foundation for the customer to build their deployments on.

First goal: Get a list of projects into the system and validate them with reports.

Just as in building a skyscraper, they first pour the footing, test the concrete as they pour it and wait for it to set then, test it again before anything is built on it. This has to be part of the message up front when selling the solution; we have all seen clients get all the little tools out, attempt to use the knife, and end up hurting themselves.

We start by only teaching them how to open the screwdriver, and when – and only when – they have that down do we teach them another feature. The foundation has to be a good schedule (good data).

Adding highly effective training courses like “Dynamic”, “Forecast” or “TJYJ” training should also be proposed in every offering. If not, I am confident they will come to their own conclusion that it is needed once they see what they have published in an enterprise environment for the first time..

We should all have conversations about what to stub out plumbing-wise (hardware/services) before we pour the slab. Trust me – it is not fun to try to put a bathroom in your basement when the floor is already poured…

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Written by Kevin Watson
With over 25 years of project management experience, Kevin Watson, PMP, MCT, MCTS, is a black belt in Microsoft Project and Microsoft Project Server. Kevin brings a unique combination of project management and project server to the field, where he is a Senior Consultant with Microsoft. Contact him at
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