Driving Business Value with the New Project Initiation social business process

Last week we added the New Project Initiation (“NPI”) application to our App Showcase.  This CorasWorks Cim-based app running on SharePoint 2010, front-ends your Project Management systems and provides you with a broad funnel for new project idea/proposal capture and collaboration and a process to review, evaluate and approve them. The application addresses an area of Demand Management that is common across all departments and types of organizations. In this article, I’ll look at the business scenario, drivers of business value, and common objections/pushback that you get by adding this front-end app for Demand Management to your project work.

The Business Scenario

All organizations do project work and we typically have many tools to manage the details of execution of a project.  CorasWorks even provides such a tool, the CorasWorks PPM, for Project Portfolio Management on SharePoint.  In working with our PPM customers, we found a major gap and opportunity to better manage the front-end funnel of project work – a gap that we have now filled with this NPI app.

Any standard Project Management methodology will talk about the importance of Project Initiation.  They reference techniques such as the form of a good Project Charter, the review criteria, etc.  However, the big opportunity is to change the game by adding a collaborative front-end for Demand Management.  The idea with the Cim New Project Initiation app is to open the front-end to a much broader group of people.  To make it easy for them to contribute new projects.  To provide a rich collaborative environment for them to enhance proposed projects and vet them.  All of this activity then feeds into a managed process (that can vary) where the proposed projects can be reviewed, further enhanced, evaluated, and then approved or not.  Then, the approved ones get pushed downstream to be worked on as a project. This workstream helps you funnel demand into a structured process – giving you greater visibility and engagement, as well as, control over what gets worked on.

The schematic below depicts the typical way that the end-to-end “workstream” works.  The Cim application handles the Collaboration and Process phases of the workstream.  It then connects to the Projects phase which is where you manage “execution” through your normal Project Management tools.  You have feedback loops across the workstream.

New Project Initiation Workstream


The Business Value

The business value that you derive by adding this NPI front-end comes in a number of different ways. It boils down to lower costs, better return on your project investments,  increased chances of making the right investments, and, less friction and greater readiness internally when the projects are delivered. These benefits are all part of doing proper Demand Management.  Let’s look at some key drivers of these outcomes:

- Eliminate Duplication – What projects is your organization doing?  Which are duplicative and even wasted, unmanaged competitive efforts?  By having a visible front-end, you eliminate or lessen duplicate efforts that cost you valuable resources and time to market.

- Encourage managed competition – What projects is your organization doing? Sometimes you actually want managed competitive efforts, such as two projects to vet two different technical approaches.  They are duplicative in terms of the objective by design, yet, by making them visible and managed you can quickly determine the right way to go and reallocate to the winning solution.

- Balance Project Work with Resources – There is a never ending desire for projects.  They always outstrip available resources.  By seeing the full pipeline of proposed projects and the portfolio of active or completed projects, you can throttle the projects that are initiated to match the available resources.  If people are required to put projects into the system to allocate resources (of course over a threshold) then you can manage this balance.

- Do the Right Projects – Which are the right projects to do?  If you could always do the right projects at the right time, you’d be unstoppable.  First, you need to know the Pipeline (future) and Portfolio (active and past).  Then, you can leverage your entire workforce to weigh in and vet projects collaboratively in the Pipeline.  You can then evaluate the Pipeline projects against one another AND against the ones that are already active or that were done.  You are leveraging the front-end for collaboration and then using it in your decision making for your project portfolio.

- Scope Projects Right – The benefit of the visibility and the collaboration on the front end is that the project gets more eyes on it, in a comparative context, and, the “charter” can be enhanced to try and arrive at just the right project scoping that is relevant to the objective, the resources, and the time.  You’d be surprised how a small fact from someone usually outside of the normal, back-room process, such as a new competitive initiative or market change, can alter the scope and thus the ultimate success of the project.

- Visibility Driving Readiness – The app never sleeps.  As a proposed project goes through the cycle the status and supporting information is at the fingertips of the organization.  They get to have their say up front.  They know which projects got funded.  They can track the progress of execution and be ready – to help or benefit by the result.  The system takes care of keeping interested people informed.


The Pushback to Adopting the New Process Initiative App

Many of our customers are adopting this use of Cim.  In particular, our customers using CorasWorks PPM are dropping this application onto the front-end to have an integrated project work stream all running on SharePoint.  But, these champions and most others face pushback within their organizations.  Let’s look at some of the common objections:

“Our people aren’t ready for this level of visibility” – Most are not.  But, isn’t that perhaps the problem, the constraint, and the opportunity.

“We don’t know our process to approve projects” – This is very common.  Many organizations don’t have a process or criteria to approve projects even at department and division levels.  A manager just approves it if they have resources.  If they need resources, they go to their manager.  One approach is to use this system to have people ONLY register projects. Then, learn how they go about approving them, getting their resources, and, what the success is.  You’d don’t have to even have a process to approve projects to realize value.  You don’t need the same approval process and criteria for all divisions and project types – in fact, it should vary and the Cim solution supports different work streams.

“We have a very deep process” – We can accommodate that also.  Cim is unusually flexible and deep on Process Management.  But, whether you have no process or deep process the key is the front-end capture and collaboration that feeds into it and supports the decision making.

“We already have a PMO” – Great.  They can manage the process of approval for that threshold of project.  Now, just bolt on that front end that engages the whole organization, department, division, get the collaboration going, and, they will now have some real-world input into their process.  In addition, you can capture and manage projects at a lower threshold, effectively having mini-PMO’s so that the value of good visibility, collaboration, decision making, and management gets pushed deeper in the organization.

“What about our secret projects” – Secret projects like Corporate Acquisitions should not go into a broad, collaborative front end.  This solution is about the super-majority of the projects, not the few.  (NOTE: We could provide you with a secret project solution like we do for our Military and National Security customers.)

“We really need to get our Project Management system going first” – Maybe.  But isn’t this a bit like building your manufacturing plant before you have a handle on demand.  Maybe getting control over the project pipeline, and getting people used to engaging and collaborating on the front-end should be the first thing that you do.  Then, use that to determine which tools will be best to execute on which type of project.

“We use different Project Management systems” – Everybody does.  The truth is that the number 1 tool is the spreadsheet.  The key is that this front-end can be open, collaborative, and consistent, and then, integrate with multiple execution tools.  The Cim solution integrates natively with the CorasWorks PPM.  It also integrates with native SharePoint Project Sites, third party apps on SharePoint, and Microsoft Project Server on SharePoint.  And, it can integrate to external systems such as Sopheon, Siebel, Salesforce, MS CRM, Clarity et al in a read-write manner.



In summary, the shift is to apply a Demand Management methodology on the front end vs. being focused on just the project work itself.  By taking a broad view of project work across your organization, we hope that you can see the value of greater visibility, engagement, and collaboration on the front-end.  And yes, there are internal objections.  It helps that Cim is quite flexible so that you can start in a way that makes adoption more organic.  You may use it for just registering projects or put strong process behind it.  You may just start with a single department.  Or, you may open it to a whole division or the entire enterprise.  And, you may have different work streams for different project types or business groups.  Whether you have one NPI work stream or many, you are able to see across them all and the full life-cycle to help you make the best decisions that you can.

I believe as the research indicates, that for most industry segments the organizations that master the front-end approach of Demand Management will out compete those organizations that master the mechanics of project delivery.  You need both Demand Management and Project Delivery to succeed.  But, right now most organizations are lacking on the front-end, since the types of tools such as Cim are relatively new and just getting adopted.



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