Why Implement SaaS PPM?

The recent economic recession has really reignited the SaaS debate as organizations are typically under a lot more pressure to switch to more cost-effective ways of getting work done. SaaS by definition is software-owned, delivered and managed remotely by one or more providers and is provided to customers through internet technologies. As you are probably aware cloud computing is gaining a lot of media attention, many organizations are now contemplating making the mainstream switch from on-premise Project Portfolio Management (PPM) to a SaaS model.

SaaS was originally designed to aid small organizations in implementing technology that would give them the ability to easily configure, customize and scale PPM services within their organizations. Now it has become a more intriguing option for large organizations as well and in many cases is preferred.

As always, there is no “one size fits all” approach in software, so it’s illogical to assume that the SaaS model is perfect for everyone. Whether you decide to leverage a SaaS or on-premise PPM model depends on a large number of factors.  Many PPM vendors do not invest in offering both a SaaS and on-premise solution to their customers, EPM Live believes in meeting the needs of every user regardless of size, budget or maturity. EPM Live gives customers the power to choose the deployment option that works best for them.


SaaS PPM Benefits: 

Benefit #1: Faster time to market. SaaS solutions leverage a ready-made platform which has already been provisioned, implemented and tested by your solution provider. That means that organizations are able to get started quickly and even prove out the PPM concept early without the need for a large investment up front and in many cases without the need for executive buy in. SaaS also simplifies provisioning and reduces deployment complexities. In most cases moving the financial aspect from capital expenditure to operational expenditure also speeds up the approval process. A faster time-to-market implies quicker return on investment (ROI).

Benefit #2: Low entry cost. SaaS is a no-frills model; therefore, it offers a much lower entry cost as compared to an on-premise solution. In fact, in many cases, SaaS solutions are a fraction of the cost required to procure, deploy and manage as an on-premise solution. You pay for what you use and for nothing else. Costs are reduced simply by eliminating the need to meet hefty infrastructure requirements as well as purchasing software licenses. Most SaaS solutions have an out-of-box configuration that is ready to use also giving organizations the time to evaluate the system prior to spending additional money on customizations and services. In addition, cost can be reduced overtime due to lower upgrade costs for SaaS models.

Benefit #3: Scalable foundation. Most SaaS vendors offer flexible subscription pricing models based on user roles and functionality. As your enterprise grows, the SaaS solution can be scaled up accordingly and just in case your enterprise shrinks (hopefully not, but it happens), the SaaS solution can be scaled down accordingly. The best part is that you are never stuck with oversized infrastructure and unused resources.

SaaS offers a dynamic approach to managing computing infrastructure and resources. Organizations with low maturity can also benefit from SaaS, as the organization’s maturity level increases, additional features can be leveraged. 

Benefit #4: Lower risks. Your SaaS vendor will take care of infrastructural risks and will ensure high-availability for your organization’s needs. Implementations are faster and involve fewer risks simply because they are handled by third party experts. Because most SaaS solutions have an out-of-box implementation, you can ensure that PPM best practices have already been considered in the functionality design. In addition, since SaaS solutions are structured by user, you can add and decrease licenses as you go versus purchasing software up front, eliminating the risk of excessive license purchases.

Benefit #5: Increased security. SaaS solutions are extremely secure. Security is one of the top concerns for any SaaS solution provider and they have a reliable and secure infrastructure in place for varied customer needs. For an on-premise solution to match the security of a SaaS solution, it requires a major investment.  In addition, most SaaS vendors offer automated backup services to ensure your data is always safe.

Benefit #6:  Reduced resource requirements. Because the operational requirements of supporting and maintaining both the infrastructure and software are offloaded to the service provider, the IT department can now focus on other critical tasks. Resource workload is not affected and the team managing the system and its structure are both trained and qualified to take over all system maintenance and support.

Benefit #7: Support as a service. Software as a service is just that, a service. Along with access to the software, you are typically entitled to some form of support within the price of the monthly fee. If users are easily supported, you can expect adoption to increase.  As with any solution model there are always disadvantages to consider. With SaaS models, internet stability is required for tool usage and performance.

Resistance to change or fear of the unknown (leveraging new up and coming applications) may also play a role in SaaS adoption. Internal security requirements may prevent SaaS usage and/or complex design requirements may force organizations to choose an on-premise solution. Make sure your organization is considering all the pros and cons when making a deployment decision.


SaaS Financial considerations:

In order to accurately estimate the costs associated with SaaS PPM, you have to ensure you have considered all of the following:

1. Subscription cost—How many licenses will you need for executives, team members, etc.?

2. Set up cost—SaaS PPM allows end-user customization in order to align the system with your specific business needs; however, it is typically usable right “out of the box”. If your organization has complex business processes that need to be automated, you may want to consider set up configuration support service costs.

3. Implementation services (training per role)—Some PPM SaaS solutions (including EPM Live) offer multiple training programs for end users, managers and admins. These training programs come in various formats including online courses, how to videos, forums, user guides and instructor led courses. Many of these services are offered at no cost to the user and others are put in place to ensure your organization is getting the proper training you need for maximized user adoption.

4. Consulting services—Consulting services are optional for SaaS. If your organization is looking for best practice guidance or maturity assessments for example, you may want to bring in the experts.

5. Technical services—Some technical services are included in SaaS licensing; however, additional services are always available to clients. For example, email and phone technical support may be provided while one-on-one support and ticket priority may come with an additional fee. Follow on training and technical support for future configuration or development would also be considered when determining technical service fees.

To learn more about SaaS PPM check out our latest webinar, “How Do You Know if SaaS PPM is Right for Your Organization?”.

Gain a Competitive Advantage: 5 Benefits of Project Portfolio Management (PPM)

Business leaders are struggling more than ever to gain visibility into their portfolio investments. Visibility is just the beginning. Without a clear understanding of how the business is performing overall based on the metrics provided, leaders are unable to make key business decisions that could result in greater business value. We have all heard the expression “do more with less.” This expression has become a required discipline in the Project Portfolio Management (PPM) market. Economic conditions have greatly intensified the need to ensure that every initiative is performing to expectations, is bringing optimal value, and tightly aligns with business strategy to ensure competitive advantage.

So how do you know if implementing a PPM system is right for you? Here are some of the benefits realized from PPM systems and the impacts they could potentially have on your organization:

Benefit #1:  Increase project delivery success. Unsuccessful project delivery leads to project failure. Project failure can be caused by many factors such as cost overruns, schedule delays, poorly defined requirements, mismanaged resources, lack of strategy alignment, unresolved issues, or technical limitations.  PPM allows organizations to ensure these factors are minimized within project delivery.

In recent years, various research firms have surveyed organizations and showed that successful PPM tools enable organizations to execute on approximately 30% more projects and reduce project failure rates by up to 60%. PPM tools provide organizations with the functionality they need to more accurately plan their projects based on resource capacity, score projects to ensure strategic alignment, better estimate project costs, and increase the success of project execution resulting in overall increased value to the business.

Benefit # 2:  Reduce overspending.   Even successful projects can reflect overspending.  Overspending can be caused by numerous factors such as poor project estimating, inaccurate scheduling, improper resource allocation, and no visibility into project data. Forrester reported that organizations can expect a decrease overspending by 10% on average, sometimes more if utilizing a PPM toolset. PPM tools provide the estimation tools needed to ensure that projects are estimated more accurately and the right resources are put on the right work at the right time.

Benefit #3:  Faster project turn times. There are many reasons why PPM can reduce project turn times by an average of 10%. Governance, workflow, and standardization tend to reflect repeatable processes that are proven. These defined processes that have been aligned with PPM technology allow team members to keep the work flowing and will typically increase productivity because it takes the mind work out of the question “what do I do next?” As we all know, strategically aligned projects should always result in business value.  With shorter time to market, this value can be realized sooner and in many cases can give businesses a head start on their competition.

Benefit #4:  Reduce “no value” projects. Project portfolios should reflect a group of high value projects and or work that align with strategic objectives and produce individual business results. In many organizations, some projects may be defined as duplicated efforts when compared to other initiatives within the same portfolio. PPM is critical for project selection. PPM tools allow you to track the overall value of each project, its estimated benefits, ROI, and other key decision factors. Based on scoring and ranking of key performance indicators, projects can then be selected or cancelled. As projects are cancelled, other projects may be affected and as projects are introduced, other projects that have already been selected may be compromised. Business leaders need PPM to ensure they are making the right decisions for the most profitable portfolio.

Benefit #5: Streamline data and increase collaboration. Many businesses today still rely on manual tools for project planning and reporting. Many are still using excel worksheets.  These tools are typically located on a client’s computer and are not intended for enterprise use. Data that is transferred and updated through email or other means is not considered to be real-time information and can become out of date quickly leading to project conflicts and inconsistencies. Project transparency is critical for proper decision making and improved project performance. With PPM, users can access real-time data, giving them the insight they need to get work done. Team members no longer have to rely on hallway conversations or meetings to give project status. Reduction of resource time can also be significant when leveraging an enterprise PPM system. Centralized data leads to insight and effective real-time collaboration leads to increased productivity. Managers can potentially decrease their administrative tasks by 25% with an effective PPM tool in place.


Gartner's 2013 PPM Predictions – View Report Here

2013 is well under way but organizations are still struggling with their Project Portfolio and Work Management processes.  The business world is forever changing and for organizations to thrive they must be able to adopt or even better, be an early adopter of the noted trends and predictions. Gartner Inc. predicts in 2013 that PPM leaders must embrace constant innovation and change.   We believe our PPM solutions align with Gartner’s predictions through online project management software that is flexible for the entire organization and robust enough for the most experienced user.


Download Gartner’s full 2013 PPM Predicts Report here


Here are Gartner’s top 2013 predictions for the Project Portfolio Management industry:

1. Through 2016, the accepted norm will be 20% project failure as organizations are forced to take on increased risk to achieve desired returns.

We find that successful program and project reviews focus on strategies to make project delivery successful.  Even for projects doing well, forecasting future issues is critical and overall risk mitigation must be an ongoing practice.  Leverage the right tools to track all issues and risks and introduce portfolio what-if modeling to determine the result of ongoing project changes.

2. By 2015, 60% of the Fortune 1000 will establish an EPMO to improve the value created by investments in projects and programs.

Enterprise processes and standards are critical in enabling repeatable successes.  Best practice implementation will mitigate common challenges and in return prevent rework.  We provide tools that align with your current processes and helps you build a roadmap to adopt more functionality and discipline at the right pace to ensure user adoption and prevents the introduction of additional risks.  To learn more about process adoption and common EPM deployment challenges, join us for our upcoming webinar PPM for the Enterprise – Overcoming Deployment Challenges

3.  By 2015, 40% of Global 1000 organizations will use gamification as the primary mechanism to transform business operations.  

The project management industry has changed significantly over the last few years. We are seeing that Project Management tools are aligning more to the users, giving them tools that adapt to their working styles.  Social project management (click here to view a presentation on social project management) has come into play to help users become more productive by giving them the flexibility to get the work done in their own way. This approach fosters relationships, builds knowledge share, and identifies team experts in various areas that may not have been discovered before.   It’s an innovative world and we must modify our technology as our culture changes to appeal to our stakeholders.  Work CAN be fun. 

Learn more about EPM Live and why over 5,000 customers trust us with their PPM Work Management Needs. Try a free trial today!


Improve Project Awareness with a Better Project Communication Plan

Poor communication is the demise of many relationships, projects and even jobs. A breakdown in communication leaves everyone frustrated and in the dark. Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” When people are left to assume something, that’s when they’re more likely to collect and report the wrong data, inefficiently prioritize tasks, or over allocate resources. Creating a good project communication plan is key.  The communication plan guides effective and efficient dialog with project teams and stakeholders by outlining how communications will occur during the life cycle of the project.

Good project communications will also make sure the correct information is being communicated to the right people. Time is wasted preparing information for the wrong crowd. Typically executives and stakeholders don’t care about detailed project information but are interested in updates regarding project milestones, high-level budget information and overall project health.

Good communication plans generally include:

  • Project communication objectives – Who, what, when, how and why
  • How many resources are involved in the project? Where are they located?
  • Defined project roles and responsibilities
  • Who will be in the communication loop – What types of information will the different individuals receive?
  • Communication format – Create a consistent template to keep project updates complete and to the point
  • Communication methods – Email, printed packets, meetings etc.
  • Is there an electronic project information repository?
  • Is the communication plan aligned with project size and complexity?

Building a communication plan will be easy if you have the right tools. Savvy organizations will leverage project management tools that streamline and keep pertinent project information organized for improved success. Good project software allows all project information to be centralized for quick access to view status updates via dashboards or reports. It improves communication amongst team members with productivity features such as comment streams and project community workspaces as well as allowing project managers to keep their thumb on the pulse of the project by accessing real-time information for better project planning and communicating.  

Three Leadership Trends Every Project Manager Needs to Overcome

Being a great project manager is not only based on how well you plan and execute projects, but how well you manage and lead your team. Leadership derives from the ability to proactively adapt and lead team members through projects, work and changes in the workplace. Great project managers are able to empower team members so everyone feels inspired to contribute creatively in achieving the designated goal. 

Gartner Inc. predicts in 2013 PPM leaders must embrace constant innovation and change. I believe this idea is not just constricted to the year 2013 as it is becoming the norm in all industries and workplaces. Those who do not have the ability to adapt will fall behind and eventually fail.

There are three major trends that leaders are consistently faced with and can no longer be ignored.

1. Technology Adaption – Sometimes we get stuck in our ways, and because our process has worked for you so far you’re reluctant to make any changes. But you need to ask yourself, is this process really efficient? Leveraging today’s PPM technology gives you a competitive advantage in today’s world. Have you implemented a tool to streamline processes and centralize work stored in disparate systems? Are you using social project management to increase productivity amongst users?  There does seem to be a common concern about adopting new technology, the fear that it will replace you. Reframe the way you see technology, it’s there to help make you a better employee, a better leader.

 2. Fast Change – The pace of change is not slowing down any time soon. Along with technical advancements, change is inevitable.  I understand that change can be scary. The looming cloud of uncertainty easily creates fear of the unknown but change can also be exciting. To be a leader, you need to recognize that fast change is the new norm and will need to be more adaptable, resourceful and proactive with your change responses. Move past the fear and right into discovery, creativity and future focus.   

 3. Innovation – Leaders and organizations who are innovators have the highest amount of creativity and the desire to learn and grow. Innovation means putting something together in a new way or adding a certain value never done before. PPM leaders should keep their thumb on the pulse of industry news as well as cutting–edge solutions and disciplines. A leader’s ability to recognize innovation within their industry or amongst project team members is important. This recognition will lead your organization or project teams to be the driving force of setting the bar for new standards and expectations from customers and competitors alike.  

Avoid These Common Project Management Mistakes

It’s our job as project managers to create project plans that cover all aspects of the project lifecycle. However there are many common errors and pitfalls even the most experienced project managers run into. In this tough economy resources are limited and budgets are tight, project managers need to become savvy in their approach to managing projects and make sure they are using the right project management tools and processes to get the job done.

Here are some common project management mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

  • Time Wasting – Avoid asking resources for manual updates, holding meetings to ask for updates or babysitting resources, this is a huge waste of time. Project managers should have global visibility into all resource tasks and statuses in a centralized platform. Quickly access project information on-demand keeping stakeholders and team members informed on the project status.
  • You Call That a Project Plan? – Many PM’s think a Gantt chart is a project management plan and don’t go through the necessary steps of planning the entire project lifecycle.  The Gantt chart is a snap shot illustration of the project schedule, the work break down structure and its dependencies. It provides no resource management, cost management, workflows and governance plans or visibility.
  • What Happened to My Resource? – Resources are limited so good communication around resource allocation is vital to a successful project. If you don’t get real resource commitments and move forward with a project, you’re setting yourself and the resource up to fail. PM’s need to remember that resources have project work and operational work with deadlines attached to both. Good resource management involves an open picture into resources availability, skillsets, and workload.
  • Not-so Know It All – Have you ever run into a project issue that could have been avoided? We all have. Project plans aren’t perfect and you’re not either. Remember that. Project managers need to remember to reevaluate the effectiveness of the project plan, the schedule, costs and scope and make changes for improvement in any struggling area.
  • The Blame Game – Blaming unrealistic schedules, being over budget or a lack of resources on management instead of realizing they are the project manager’s responsibility. This is just bad form and a good way to make frenemies in the office. Make sure to leverage the right tools that provide clear visibility into project schedules, resource management and costs. Having a clear insight into the project will allow you to completely avoid this mistake all together.  
  • Bad Metrics – Not measuring project actuals against the project plan is being a blind project manager. Don’t keep yourself in the dark to any issues or risk or even positive milestones. Leverage a project management tool that allows you to create custom dashboards to quickly view project metrics and address any issues.

Author Lee Child once said, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.” As project managers we need to create complete project plans keeping in mind project plans are not perfect. By proactively managing all aspects of the project and taking time to reevaluate processes you are planning for the worst. By not recognizing any potential risk and taking action your project is sure to fail. 

EPM Live Platform Supports an Effective PMO

The Hackett Group released a study in early November 2012 on the failure of Project Management Offices (PMOs) as an IT strategy, read the report here.  The result of the study, which is based on benchmarks at more than 200 companies over two years, contradicts the belief that PMOs reduce IT cost.  In some cases, PMO utilization can increase cost and does not necessarily lead to drive better business outcomes.  Nevertheless, the study did show that a world-class IT organization that achieves meaningful cost savings over the long run does rely in a PMO for application development and infrastructure projects.

Most telling from the study are four key practices that were evidenced by effective PMOs in IT Organizations, namely:

“i) centralized IT demand management; ii) accountability for business benefits; iii) standardization of processes and architecture; and iv) program and project reviews”

The practices were believed to be enablers of a world-class IT organization to effectively utilize PMOs to lower the complexity in IT, increase ROI, and focus on the delivery of projects on time and on budget. While the results are not news to most executives, they do point to the need to focus on outcomes from a PMO. In order to drive outcomes, the PMO structure and tools need to be as simple as uncomplicated as possible. For the past 5 years, the emphasis of EPM Live has been to achieve simplicity and drive value for PMOs from the use of its Portfolio and Project Management (PPM) platform. Without understating the need for sound fundamental processes, the capabilities of the EPM Live PPM platform allows an organization to focus on the four key practices shown by the Hackett Group IT PMO study.

Centralized IT Demand Management

Work is generated from multiple sources in the organization.  Project, service, and support work have to be taken into account when considering resource allocation and investment decisions.  EPM Live can centralize demand from multiple sources in the organization and allow for the analysis for selecting and assigning all different types of work.  Here, the value is not only from the selection of projects on their merit, but also on the capacity of the organization to execute the work based on resource availability.

 Accountability for Business Benefits

This is perhaps the most ignored area of portfolio and project management in organizations.  Business cases often detail the benefits to be obtained from the project in terms of financial and non-financial benefits.  The main issue is post-project delivery benefit attainment tracking.  Simply put, did the project deliver its intended benefits? The PMO can support this by tracking post-delivery benefits and engaging the end customer, in most cases the business, in benefit attainment.  EPM Live provides the capability of tracking post-delivery project success.  Its cost and benefit tracking capabilities, as well as its strong collaborative features, can follow project benefits post closure.


Standardization of Process and Architecture

In most PMOs, standardization of process and architecture is common. The problem arises when process and architecture are the primary mandate for the PMO.  What can be observed from successful PMO implementations is that process and architecture need to be commensurate with the readiness of the organization for Project Management Process.  In addition, the process and methodologies must be flexible while maintaining a common foundation. Finally, the process must be supported and integrated by a PPM tool.  In this regard, the EPM Live platform supports the basic requirements.  EPM Live is flexible enough to accommodate simple and sophisticated project management processes that can evolve with an organization.  Also, the platform can easily integrate one or multiple project management /delivery methodologies, such as waterfall or agile, all under one platform.

Program and Project Reviews

The review of project performance is also a standard PMO practice; however, reporting for reporting’s sake does not provide value.  Successful program and project reviews focus on strategies to make project delivery successful.  The emphasis is on supporting rather than monitoring. Even for projects doing well, the dialogue is on anticipating future issues and overall risk mitigation.  EPM Live provides the ability for the Project Manager and execution team to collaborate and surface existing and potential project issues.  At the same time, the standard project status reporting capability allows for communication with the PMO and other stakeholders to promote effective program and project reviews from multiple perspectives.

Despite evidence of IT PMOs that struggle, IT can derive value from PMO as a strategy. IT Leadership has to focus on the right approach for the implementation of an IT PMO in the organization in order to drive the desired outcomes of less cost, reduction of complexity, and better project performance.   With EPM Live as a PPM platform, the four key practices of i) centralized IT demand management; ii) accountability for business benefits; iii) standardization of processes and architecture; and iv) program and project reviews can be achieved in order to make an IT PMO an effective strategy.

Overview of Resource Negotiations within EPM Live

Answering the question ‘Who is working on what, and when?’ with confidence can be a challenge for many organizations. The EPM Live Resource Negotiations feature brings sophisticated insight to any business by allowing project managers and resource (department) managers to collaboratively manage resource assignments via a data-driven negotiation process.

Although EPM Live offers resource management solutions that fit all maturity levels, the data-driven negotiation process is a highly desired toolset for any size organization in which the Project Manager and Resource Manager roles are distinct people. Rather than guessing at whether your department or team can take on the CIO’s next pet project, you can reply with certainty of the ability and impact when agreeing to deliver additional work.

A few assumptions for a data-driven negotiation process to be successful include the following:

  • Estimated project work is accurately recorded in the system
  • Each resource has a department and manager
  • Project managers are forecasting resource requirements against roles (not named resources) using Resource Plans
  • Resource/Department managers are managing in-progress work so that it completes on time (allowing new work to start on time, as agreed)

If you don’t have the above assumptions met, you may have some variation of a data-driven negotiation process in place. Within EPM Live Resource Negotiations, a resource commitment is not complete until both the project manager and department (resource) manager accept the named resource that has been assigned.

Here’s a look at the indicators available during resource negotiations:

Resource Negotiation Icons

Resource Negotiation Icons


Let’s take a high level look at the two key participants’ interaction during resource negotiations.


Project Manager creates a Resource Plan using generic roles

The Project Manager builds his Project’s Resource Plan. As soon as the Project Manager enters a row, it is private by default. Some rows may stay private while others are public. No negotiations will take place on private rows.

When the Project Manager saves the project’s resource plan, he will be prompted to make the private rows public, and if he elects to do so, then all currently private rows become public. Negotiations will be initiated for all public rows.

An email notification goes to each resource manager for the proposed resources:

Notification email to Resource Manager

Notification email to Resource Manager when Resource Plan is saved with rows made public


At this point of the process, the project manager will wait for the resource/department manager to review the proposed resources and take action.


Resource/Department Manager reviews resource plan and assigns named resources

The Resource Manager clicks the dynamic link to launch the Resource Planner. The Resource Planner will show those resources from her department who have been proposed. Alternately, the Resource Manager may manually launch the Resource Planner for her resources. During this part of the process, the Resource Manager needs to analyze the availability of her resources and make a decision on whether the proposal can be accepted, needs to be changed, or must be rejected.

Resource Managers can do the following:

  1. Make changes to a row: change the resource assigned or the allocation value. The row status stays as Negotiate. The RM column changes to accepted and the PM column goes Blank.
  2. Reject a row:  the row status stays as Negotiate: the RM column changes to Rejected and the PM column stays as Accepted.
  3. Accept a row:  the row status changes to Commitment and both the PM and RM columns display the Accepted icon.
Resource Manager actions with resulting status in the Resource Plan

Resource Manager actions with resulting status in the Resource Plan


When the Resource Manager saves the resource plan, a notification email goes to the project manager for any proposals modified by the Resource Manager.

Negotiations (or re-negotiations) will continue until a commitment is reached on each row. A history of the negotiation process is stored for each row, so the managers can review what previously happened during the negotiation process.

Note: See the process flow diagram at the end of this blog post for a detailed look at how resource negotiations work based on the actions either manager makes during the process.

At the end of the day, executives can understand over allocation or under-utilization across their entire organization based on actually committed resources. Using the Resource Analyzer, department leads or executives will be able to compare a resource capacity scenario against the committed work, which ultimately allows them to accurately answer to the organizational ability to complete planned work.

To learn more about how implementing Resource Negotiations can have a positive return for your team, contact info@epmlive.com or your designated Account Manager.


Additional information for existing EPM Live customers

Already up and running with an EPM Live site app? Turn on Resource Negotiations by following the steps in the 4.3 Admin Guide Resource Management chapter. Select “Resource Management – Resource Planner Administration” for detailed instructions.

Once Resource Negotiations are enabled, have users visit the 4.3 User Guide Using Resource Negotiations chapter for help.


Resource Negotiations – Detailed Process Flow Diagram

Resource Negotiations Process Flow

Detailed Resource Negotiations Process Flow


Basic Workflow Configuration Points Using EPM Live's Ideation App

With EPM Live’s newest native bundled app – the Ideation App – your business has a head start to being able to capture, evaluate and promote individual creativity from idea to concept to project, thus netting a benefit for your company. The Ideation App provides the basic ideation framework that any organization needs to either implement a process for the first time or automate an existing process.

This blog is meant to highlight the technical design and configuration points in this bundled app, which has transferrable concepts to other EPM Live apps. Specifically, I’ll focus in on the workflow templates that come with the bundled app so that you can get a handle on how you might modify this particular bundled app, as well as other list apps with workflow templates that EPM Live provides.

Ideation Process Overview

First, let’s take a quick look at the overall process that the EPM Live native-bundled Ideation App follows: 

Understanding at least the high-level process is a key to successful automation using workflow. We use three workflows in this bundled app to automate the copying of list data and count votes that users submit.

Now, let’s look at the technical pieces which make the Ideation App a great starting point, regardless of process maturity:

  1. Idea list app
    • Fields, views and two workflows
  2. Concept list app
    • Fields, views, and one workflow
  3. A field added to the Resource Pool
  4. Assumption of Project list app

Since I am using our Ideation app as the example for covering workflow configuration points, it’s important to be aware of all the pieces included in the app design. This is true of any list or bundled app which you want to modify.

Okay – the overview is covered. Let’s talk tech.

1 – the Idea list app

The out of box (OOB) data entry form in the Idea list app is extremely simple yet highly configurable. If you’ve already taken the administrative training courses for list app configuration, you will know how to modify the fields and views provided, and I’m not covering those concepts here.

For fun, let’s see what data is captured in the Idea list:

Idea list new form

Title, Category, Detailed Description and Followers are initially available. These four are a great base on which to build! Of course, you can add new fields, or hide existing fields, but keep in mind that modifying the field configuration may also require the Idea to Concept workflow to be adjusted, since we are copying list data programatically.

In this particular bundled app, you need to associate two workflow templates that came with the app to the list in order to get the process flowing.  You can use these basic steps with any EPM Live app that contains workflow templates.

To associate a workflow template to the list, go to the List tab, and then List Settings, Workflow Settings.  Select the Add a workflow link. 

Add a Workflow to a list app

(In a real life implementation of this bundled app, you would add two workflows to this list from the templates provided, which are Idea to Concept and Vote on Idea. For the purposes of this blog I am only demonstrating one of the workflows being added.)

Here’s a screenshot of the Idea to Concept workflow template being associated to the list:

Associating a workflow template to a list app

You can see that the workflow publisher designed it so that this workflow can only be run when an item is changed (not on create). If you wanted to change the allowable run options, you need to modify the workflow template via SharePoint Designer (SPD) and then publish it out to the site. That is true for any workflow template that comes with an app: you can always modify the allowable run options in the template and re-publish it to suit your design requirements.

Getting back to associating the workflow template, once I click OK, the workflow template is associated to my list with the name I gave it:

You can also see there are a few new options on this workflow settings page, which you can use to administer and monitor the workflows on the list going forward. If you are not familiar with the workflow settings page, take a minute to navigate to and explore it in one of your list apps.

I mentioned earlier that you will need SharePoint Designer (SPD) to modify the workflow template. Here’s a quick shot of the Idea to Concept workflow design from SPD. Step 1 is where the number of votes threshold is configured and set to the value 3 (highlighted below). If you want a greater or lesser number of votes on an idea before it is automatically promoted to a concept, update the value in the first If statement.

Idea to Concept workflow design

You can also see that the design of this workflow is very straightforward. The logic goes like this: once the Idea is modified (which it will be when a user votes), the count of votes goes up. When the field containing the vote number reaches the threshold set in the workflow, the data is copied to the concept list, and a flag is set on the Idea item so that it doesn’t keep getting copied over even if the vote count continues to increase.

If you wanted to change fields that get copied over from Idea to Concept, you would do that in SharePoint Designer as well.

Another key technical piece to making the process work is the Idea list app workflow Vote on Idea. That’s where the voting magic happens. Basically, the Vote on Idea workflow checks the field that was added to the Resource Pool (which has the allocated number of votes a user has) and if they have at least 1 vote, it runs through adding the Vote to the Idea item and subtracting it from the user’s available votes.

Assuming you already associated the workflow template to your list, you can easily add a Vote button to the ribbon for users to leverage. I’m not going to cover adding a button to the ribbon in this post, but will post on it in the future.

Please note: we included email notifications to the Idea creator in each workflow. So, each time a user gives a vote to the idea, the creator knows about it. Each time an Idea gets promoted to a Concept, the creator gets notified. If you don’t want email notifications from the workflow going out, you need to remove the action line for “then Email CurrentItem:CreatedBy” in each of the workflow templates and publish the change to your site app.

As a best practice, remove any previous versions from your list app using the Workflow Settings page shown above after making changes. A version will be created each time the workflow is changed and published to the site app.


2 – the Concept list app

The Concept list app contains the same basic technical pieces as the Idea list, so I won’t bore you with repetition. The main thing to know about making configuration changes to this list is that the out of box fields are already included in the Concept to Project workflow, which copies list data to the Project list.

Take a look at the details of the “Create new list item” workflow action that we have configured for Concept to Project

Concept to Project OOB mapping

Any changes to the list app fields would need to be reflected in the workflow action. Also, you could send the data to a totally different list than “Project Center” (Projects). Simply draw out a map of the data fields from the Concepts list app to the list app of your choice, and then edit the workflow in SPD so that it pushes the fields to the correct list (and fields) for your design requirements.


3 – the  Field added to the Resource Pool

The field added into the Resource Pool configuration contains a parameter that specifies the user’s available number of votes (the field is called IdeaVotes and is a number type data field). The number of available votes is automatically reduced by the Vote on Idea workflow in the Idea list app.

Modifications to this piece of functionality could include stripping it out entirely (by removing the workflow action via SPD), or increasing/decreasing the number of votes each user has by updating the IdeaVotes value in the Resource Pool.  To update the value, edit the resource and change the number stored in the IdeaVotes column.


4 – the Assumption of Project list app

The Ideation App will put Concepts that are promoted to projects into your existing portfolio in the Project list app by default, but all that is configured inside the workflow.  I mentioned briefly in covering technical piece #2 that you can adjust the workflow in the Concepts list to go to any list app – it’s simply a matter of planning the data mapping so that you are capturing what you want and sending it to where it needs to be to meet your business needs.

So really, the Ideation bundled app design doesn’t require the Project list app – it just assumes it for out of box functionality. With a few quick modifications in the Concept to Project workflow, you can easily use any list app of your choice. 😎


That’s it for the basics of using EPM Live’s workflow templates that come with apps. The concepts mentioned around modifying workflow templates for Ideation are transferrable across EPM Live list apps and bundled apps, so I hope you find them helpful.

Whether your company is starting off in Ideation process, just checking out the apps EPM Live offers, or taking your site app to the next level, we’re glad you’re choosing EPM Live to empower your business for success!

Stakeholder Management – Eliminating the Risk of Project Failure

There are many reasons why a project could fail.  Many of those reasons can be directly related to stakeholder management.  What is a stakeholder?  The best way to define a stakeholder is to determine all resources that may be positively or negatively impacted by a project.  A stakeholder may also be an individual that has influence over the project.  Key stakeholders may include:

  • Project Manager
  • Sponsor
  • Team Members
  • Customers
  • 3rd Party Vendors
  • Business Entity
  • Individual Departments

Stakeholder management is not only important in the planning stages of a project, but throughout the entire project life cycle.  Let’s say that you want to implement a PPM system to your organization.  How do you determine who your stakeholders are?  It is absolutely critical to determine your stakeholders up front.  If you leave one out, you will most likely have to incorporate changes in requirements midstream which can lead to cost overruns and late delivery.  Some questions you may ask to help identify stakeholders could be:

Who is paying for the project?
Who will be leading the project?
Who will the project impact?
Who will be using the PPM system?  In this case, who is the customer?
What resources will you most likely need on the project and who leads those resources?
What data outputs will the PPM system produce and who would be interested in that data?

Once all stakeholders are determined, you must gather ALL of their requirements.  This process takes time.  Every requirement must be gathered up front before the work begins.  If requirements are missed, change to the plan will be unavoidable and the repercussions will inevitably impact your schedule, cost, resources and/or quality.  Because you cannot always guarantee that all requirements will be accounted for up front, you must ensure a proper change management, risks and issues process is in place to better mitigate the impact of such changes.  Asking the right questions is key to ensuring all requirements have been documented and signed off on.  Find out how stakeholders do their jobs today and ensure that the tool will allow them to follow the same processes that work today tomorrow and address the areas that need improvement in later stages of the project.  Too much functionality can lead to poor user adoption. 

The next step, manage expectations.  First of all you must ensure that everyone is working toward the same goal.  What expectations do your stakeholders have regarding the proposed project.  How do they think the project will impact them or their team.  Maybe they assume that after implementing the new PPM system, other systems in use currently will be retired.  Assumptions aren’t good, make sure you identify all expectations so that they can be managed and controlled throughout the project. 

Communicate, communicate, communicate!!!  How is the project going?  Have you identified risks?  Are some of the requirements impossible to implement?  Information must be shared and communicated to all stakeholders throughout the life of the project.  Upfront communication will prevent rework and costly changes to the project.  Use a project management tool that has strong collaboration features.  Ensure that stakeholders have a strong influence over requirements upfront but manage their influence as the project proceeds to prevent constant changes and rework. 

In conclusion, stakeholder management can make or break a project.  Make sure you identify stakeholders and their requirements upfront before the project begins execution.  As the project commences make sure you involve all stakeholders in lessons learned activities.  For more information on stakeholder management, please see white paper “PPM for the Enterprise- Whose System is it Anyway“.