Online Project Management Success – Critical Success Factors for your Next Project

Every organization has their own criteria for determining the success or failure of the project, the project manager, and the project team.  There really can’t be that many variations, but since the level of project oversight varies from company to company, so does the level to which different criteria matters to the powers that be within an organization.  And we certainly can’t forget about the project customer – they definitely have a say in whether or not a project is considered a success.  Logically, a project could come in on time and on budget but if the customer is unhappy for some reason, then the project could easily be designated a failure.

So what are the key determiners of success or failure for a project?  Across different industries, different organizations, different customers, different PM methodologies, and different PM infrastructures within various organizations there will always be variations of what constitutes a successful project from an unsuccessful one, but the bottom line – as far as I’m concerned – is that there are three key determiners of whether or not a project is deemed a success at the end of the engagement.  These three determiners are: on time delivery, on budget delivery, and customer satisfaction.  Let’s look at each of these in more detail and discuss ways to help ensure project success through proper management of each.

On time delivery

Some project managers set the project schedule in stone at the beginning of the project and fail to use it as a living, breathing tool for the project.  Those individuals have failed on the project before it even started.  Project managers who hope to succeed must choose a good project management scheduling tool.  They must then use that tool to revise the schedule weekly, engage the team and customer for real progress updates on tasks, and use this revised weekly schedule – along with a detailed status report – to drive project status discussions every week with the project team and the project customer.

Using an online project management tool such as EPM Live gives you the scheduling tools needed for on time project delivery. EPM Live provides a variety of schedule management tools.  Users can choose which scheduling tool is best for them based on maturity of the user and complexity of the project.  EPM Live’s Online Project Planner allows project managers to create simple project schedules online allowing users to choose various viewing capabilities to see a simple task list or a detailed Gantt chart for comprehensive schedule management. Project managers can easily update the schedule and send progress reports to team members straight from the Project Planner. This method also allows project team members to update their project statuses/deadlines from their Outlook task list, increasing project efficiency by allowing them to work from one centralized location.  EPM Live also has a built in seamless integration with Microsoft Project so that project managers who are trained scheduling engine users can create there schedules in Microsoft Project and then publish them to EPM Live for project visibility and statusing.   

Figure 1 – EPM Live Online Project Planner 








On budget delivery

You may not be able to deliver on budget every time, but you can help to ensure you’re very close by reviewing, analyzing and revising the project budget weekly using project actuals from the previous week.  The project manager that does this will ensure that his project budget is likely never more than 10% off the budget target.  A budget that is 10% over is much easier to correct than one that is 50% over.  Using EPM Live’s Cost Management capabilities allows PM’s to have true visibility with project cost summaries and leverage pre-configured cost reports and dashboards to watch it closely so you can catch it and correct it before it’s too late.

Figure 2 – EPM Live Dashboards 








Customer satisfaction 

The satisfaction of your customer at the end of the project is the most important aspect of all.  You may be over budget or slightly behind schedule, and even then the project could be deemed a success due to change items, extended scope, etc.   On the other hand, an unhappy customer will never lead to success.  There are a series of things that you can do along the way to greatly increase your chances of ending with a happy customer.  These include:

  • Practice efficient and effective communication throughout the engagement and make sure the project customer is always well informed of project status and any issues that are affecting the project. EPM Live has over 30 pre-configured Reports with charts and graphs for visual presentation of project performance to help keep stakeholders informed
  • Engage customer-side subject matter experts (SMEs) and end users during the planning and requirements gathering/finalization phase to ensure that the solution you rollout in the end is going to truly meet the client’s needs
  • Provide elevated support during preparation for user acceptance testing (UAT).  Most clients don’t know what to expect and in return aren’t prepared very well and end up having a disastrous UAT experience leaving them frustrated and less than satisfied.  Think ahead and plan for the obstacles before they become roadblocks

Figure 3 – EPM Live Report Dashboards









The bottom line is you can succeed at any two of these key determiners and still be considered a failure.  You can bring the project home successfully, in your opinion, and be very proud of your team’s efforts in meeting the timeline and the budget, and still end up with a customer who is less than satisfied for various reasons including system usability for the end user if there were any glitches in the requirements along the way. Sticking with project management best practices throughout the project engagement, and leveraging a PPM system such as EPM Live will help keep your customer well informed the entire way, and closely monitoring your project budget and assigned tasks. EPM Live will make you a Rockstar in the eyes of your client and is a sure bet to end the engagement successfully.

PPM for the Enterprise Part 2 – The Importance of Understanding Maturity

In order to make a deployment successful you must know and understand your audience: 

  • Who will be using the tool?
  • What challenges are the users facing with their current processes and toolsets?
  • What benefits are expected out of the tool for each of the user roles?
  • What capabilities are needed to ensure this application will meet the user’s needs?
  • Where does each user fall in organizational project management maturity? 

Introducing a new system that is designed to take an organization from level one maturity to level five maturity in the first phase is destined to fail and will only introduce risks.  Organizational readiness is a critical factor in implementing a PPM system that will essentially make or break your deployment success.  Let’s take a look at all the areas where maturity can be measured.


There is more to PPM design then just defining the various roles in your organization.  You must also understand the functions that each role plays in the business as well as what tools and processes are being leveraged to execute them.  There are many maturity models available to help you determine where your organization and users reside in project management maturity.  I tend to prefer the maturity model published by Gartner for PPM Maturity. 

Maturity can be measured by the tools and processes currently in place as well as the disciplines supported by them.  Again, the faster you move up in maturity, the more risks you will introduce.  When implementing a new system it is always a good idea to start with a transfer of the current processes.  For example, if a user is managing their resources through a list of projects found in an excel worksheet; transfer that same process into the new toolset.  If the user expresses that the same process is also one of their core challenges, make adjustments to that process where needed but start at the same level of process maturity within the PPM application.  As users become familiar with the toolset, it will be appropriate to mature their processes as well as adopt new functionality within the PPM system.  User readiness is crucial.  Enforcing your users to utilize a tool that leverages disciplines and processes that are unfamiliar will only result in user frustration, low user adaption and overall rejection of a critical investment.  Don’t expect to implement a PPM system that will leverage the same functionality for every user; instead, implement a flexible and scalable system that will accommodate all users and allow them to improve their productivity through gradual maturity progression. 

It is wise to not only determine current organizational readiness and maturity but also define a roadmap to ensure your organization has a plan for improving overall maturity to gain better control and management of all project and operational investments.


Similar to users, there are multiple levels of maturity found in system capabilities.  As you define the processes that are currently in place for your users, the capability maturity will also be revealed.  Let’s take a look at some of the common PPM capabilities that will be defined in your PPM system. 

Portfolio Management

Portfolio management includes both the discipline of identifying and selecting the RIGHT projects for your portfolio as well as the ability to effectively manage your portfolio of projects once they have entered the execution phase. Although portfolio selection is critical, many organizations begin with project execution or the managing of project schedules long before they consider the benefits of portfolio selection.  Identifying the right projects for your business may include processes such as determining business objective alignment, identifying risk probability, resource and cost planning, and project portfolio scenario modeling.  For the execution level user, portfolio management may simply be portfolio visibility across all projects and work.  Visibility into project status, resources and costs generates awareness and will help prevent unforeseen risk to maintain a healthy portfolio.  Questions that will help determine portfolio management maturity may include:

  • Will this tool help you manage potential projects?
  • What kind of information is required to accept or approve a project?
  • What is the process for moving projects from proposal to execution?
  • What project and work data must be seen across your portfolio to ensure a healthy portfolio?

Project Management

Projects and work will be the core of your PPM system.  Project management maturity is a critical factor in determining what tools should be implemented and to what level of functionality.  Don’t be surprised if you end up spending the bulk of your design session answering the following question:  How do you define a project?  Most organizations function at a low maturity level.  Maturity can be measured by the processes already in place within your PMO or across your projects.  For example, are processes clearly defined or are they ad hoc?  Do users use the same tool consistently or is everyone on their own when determining what tool works best for them?  It is important here to understand what type of projects and work will be handled in the PPM system and how that work will be defined.  Will you manage that work at the task level, the milestone level, or will projects be entered and tracked at the project level?  Imagine your filling out a document or project charter regarding your upcoming work.  What questions need to be answered and what data needs to be defined?  Once you have clearly identified the information that must be captured for all your projects, define what processes will take place to execute on them.  How will you manage changes, issues and risks?   The level of project detail and the depth of your processes will help determine maturity and corresponding functionality that should be introduced to the business within the PPM platform. 

Schedule Management

In the last discipline area of project management you determined whether or not your projects will be detailed to the task level or will be managed at the project level only.  If you determined that they will be managed at the task level, schedule management is the next necessary topic for design.  This area is critical because we all work differently.  Many PPM tools give you one scheduling option.  This could be a point of failure for many organizations.  Which user maturity level will the scheduling tool accommodate?   For those that fall above or below that particular maturity level, what tool will they use?  User adoption is the only answer for a successful PPM system.  Every user must have the tools necessary to manage their work at their level of comfort.  If I’m a Marketing Director who needs to maintain a simple list of campaigns, there is no question that I will need a different scheduling tool than a Construction Manager who needs to manage the build of a new hospital to code. 

Resource Management

Resource management can mean many things.  Let’s take a look at the various ways resource management can be applied to your PPM tool.  There is much more to this discipline than simply assigning work to a resource.  We’ll take it from the bottom up.  A task or work is put into the system and a resource is assigned.  The resource goes into the system, views his/her work, executes on the work and marks it as 100% complete.  Some organizations stop here in the practice of resource management, but there are many more levels to reveal.  How do you know which resource is available to work on the task?  How do you know if they have the right skill set?  Let’s now work from the top town.  A project has been defined and you need to build a resource plan against it.  You don’t know who is available or who has the proper expertise but you do know what role you need.  You schedule 5 developers over the next 3 months to work on this project.  Now you want to see which developers meet the requirements of your project. 

Cost Management

Let’s move on to cost management.  The following questions should be considered when determining cost management needs for your PPM system.  At what level do you plan your project budget: project or task?  This again will help you determine where the budget data will be entered into the tool.  What types of costs must be tracked?  For example do you only want to track the costs associated with resources, or also other project costs such as purchases, expenses, materials, subcontractors, overhead, etc.?  If the answer to this question is expenses, you may want to design an expense form used to track expenses and apply against your project’s financials.  If your organization isn’t prepared to exercise cost management at the task or work level, don’t.  Start where you are now and then mature your processes as you adapt to the tool.  A system that houses partial data can lead to poor decision making.  How will you know what decisions are necessary when you don’t have the visibility to see where you currently are with your costs? 

Tracking and Controlling

Tracking and controlling is important because it not only defines the data to be tracked but the process for how it will be tracked within the system.  For example, do you want team members to supply detailed progress information about their assignments?  If so, you may want to allow team members the ability to go into their tasks and enter percent complete so that the updates can automate back into your schedule to save time and improve efficiency. 

Are you looking to include timesheets in your PPM system or are you looking to integrate your current timesheet system?  If you do want to include timesheets in the system you will want to make sure that it has been configured to include the proper categories needed to reflect your business needs.  If you were reporting actual hours worked on a weekly basis against projects, would you complete your time entry daily or do it at the end of the week?  This response is also needed to help define your timesheet configuration. 

What work do you want to track?  Is there a requirement to identify and track changes in scope or other issues when project status changes?  If the answer is yes, you may want to define attributes needed for a change request list/log so project owners can easily adapt to those changes and adjust their costs, schedules and resources accordingly.  Do you have a requirement to track project issues and risks? Is there a requirement to track other work items that need to be considered when managing your projects and resources such as service requests, action items, etc.?  Again, data capture must take place for ALL work if it affects your costs, resources and/or schedule. 

Reporting and Business Intelligence

Now that we have addressed the main content needed for project and work definition and management, let’s take a look at some of the outputs that may be considered in your PPM system design.  Some questions to consider are:

  • Do you have reports that you use today that are used for analysis or decision making?
  • Do you currently have a requirement to generate weekly/monthly status report? 
  • Do you have any standard reports required for your projects?
  • What type of information would be useful when viewing project status? 

All of these questions will help you determine what reports and dashboards are necessary to ensure you are getting the outputs required to maximize ROI and optimize value of your PPM and work management system. 

As you can imagine, there are many more questions that can be asked to help you define a detailed business-specific design that is right for your organization.  Other areas that must be considered in design include integration, demand management, workflow and governance and general collaboration needs.  As questions are answered and more questions are generated, make sure you are considering every user and every maturity level.  The level in which you capture data can vary, but ensuring that the system is built to make it easy to capture data COMPLETELY, across all projects and work, is critical for visibility and accuracy.

Keep an eye open next week for PPM for the Enterprise Part 3, “PPM Deployment Tips”.

Extend SharePoint with WorkEngine's Cost Management Capabilities

For this blog post, I thought I’d share some “outside the box” ideas on how to extend your current SharePoint Project Management environment by adding the power of WorkEngine’s Cost Management capabilities.

For instance, imagine you are using SharePoint to manage your bids and proposals.  SharePoint offers a great enterprise content and collaboration platform to manage, collaborate and share complex RFQs with many suppliers and subcontractors. Throughout the purchasing lifecycle, organizations have activities that need to be managed for managing requisitions, bidding information, tender documents, RFQ, supplier responses, purchase orders and much more.  If you are familiar with WorkEngine’s Work Management capabilities, it’s easy to understand how it  will augment your SharePoint solution with visibility and tracking to all your work associated across multiple bids and proposals.

Now let’s take it a step further.  With WorkEngine’s Cost Management features, you can attach budgets, actuals, estimates, etc. on ANY SharePoint work item!  Even documents!    See how simple the mapping is in the screenshot below showing how Cost Management is enabled on various lists in your SharePoint environment:

By setting up the mapping, you can now see the Cost Planner appear on your Shared Document library below:

Cost Planner on Document Library


This is just one of many examples of how WorkEngine can extend your SharePoint enviornment to a full Project, Porfolio and Work Management solution mapping to your business specific needs.

EPM Live Gives Back- Bringing SharePoint Project Management to Everyone

It has been a great year for EPM Live! We have so many reasons to be thankful: a rapidly growing client base, healthy and dedicated employees, many noteworthy acomplishments, an endless supply of loyal supporters, and many, many more! It is for these reasons that we are honored every year to give back to our community. EPM Live donates tens of thousands of dollars in software licenses every month to aid non-profit organizations in planning, controlling and executing their projects and work to maximize their contributions to their causes.

Managing projects with minimum resources and little funding requires even more control which is why EPM Live has been supporting non-profits by giving them the tools they need to make their organizations successful. Some of the non-profit organizations that have experienced EPM Live’s give back spirit are listed below:

Operation ShareLove: Support Haiti Earthquake Victims:

The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake, with an epicenter near the town of Léogâne, approximately 25 km (16 miles) west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. The earthquake occurred at 16:53 local time (21:53 UTC) on Tuesday, 12 January 2010. By 24 January, at least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater had been recorded. An estimated three million people were affected by the quake; the Haitian government reported that an estimated 230,000 people had died, 300,000 had been injured and 1,000,000 made homeless. They also estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged. EPM Live donated free copies of Project Publisher to anyone that donated at least $50 to the cause.

Special Olympics:

The Special Olympics World Winter Games Committee needed a project management tool that would allow each venue to manage their tasks independently and have the ability to report their project status to one enterprise site. The Special Olympics World Winter Games Committee uses WorkEngine because the solution provides the highest level of capability and flexibility, with the greatest ease of use in functionality and deployment. With WorkEngine’s online Software + Services environment, the solution gave the committee the ability to be up and running within a few business days. “The solution came highly recommended from the team we were working with on our technology infrastructure. We are a sunset organization and did not have much time to implement and configure a complicated EPM solution. WorkEngine allowed us to add as many users as needed and tailor the solution to our unique needs,” said J.P. Benlian, Special Olympics World Winter Games Committee Member.

The Pink Party:

The Pink Party is committed to supporting breast cancer research, patient and family care, education related to environmental/biological causes and the importance of early detection. By bringing the community together to party for a cause, The Pink Party promotes celebration, survival, empowerment and education. The Pink Party used WorkEngine to provide volunteer coordination, event planning and execution, manage all donations and donors as well as establish a portal for all sponsorship communication and correspondence.

Hope for Gavin:

Tay-Sachs is a rare hereditary disease caused by a genetic mutation that leaves the body unable to produce an enzyme (known as Hex-A) necessary for fat metabolism in nerve cells. Without this enzyme, central nervous system degeneration ensues. The disease is named for a British ophthalmologist, Warren Tay, who first described the disease, in 1881, and a New York neurologist, Bernard Sachs, who first described the cellular changes and the genetic nature of the disease, in 1887. Gavin is a 5 year old boy who lives in San Diego, CA. In 2009, Gavin was diagnosed with Tay Sachs disease, a rare and fatal disease. The Hope for Gavin charity was created to provide support for Gavin and support for the Cure Tay Sachs Foundation. The Hope for Gavin team has been using their WorkEngine application to manage all fundraising events, sell tickets, control donations and sponsorships and provide a collaboration environment for all volunteers.

PMI Chapters (Project Management Institute):

EPM Live has been offering all PMI Chapters the online WorkEngine product for over three years. PMI Chapters are using WorkEngine to run Chapter business including volunteer programs, conference planning and execution, board meeting minutes and action items, component dinner planning and execution as well as all other simple to complex project management needs. Because WorkEngine is built on SharePoint, users are able to collaborate easily and efficiently without the need for an elaborate training program. It also gives PMI Chapters the ability to incentivize volunteers by providing top of the line, best practice software to manage all of their programs, offering them the experience they need to improve their project management skill level. WorkEngine’s security is flexible and scalable so Chapter’s can collaborate not only with their individual Chapter but can share best practice information across other Chapter’s in their region as well.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this year a huge success! Happy Holidays to all!

Cost Management for Microsoft Project Server

Microsoft Project Server 2010 provides numerous innovative capabilities across the entire lifecycle of projects to help organizations effectively initiate, select, plan and deliver projects on time and within budget.  It is the perfect tool for managing projects within an organization.  To take a quick look at the top 10 benefits of Project Server, click here.

Now more than ever, organizations are facing the need to tighten their controls over portfolio spending in order to increase their ROI and ensure maximum value to the business.  You’ve heard over and over again the concept of doing more with less, but where do you begin in truly realizing the benefit?  Understanding what needs to be done and where to begin is the first step; however, having the proper tools in place will take you even farther.  So how do you combine the power of Microsoft Project Server and it’s leading project and portfolio management capabilities with the comprehensive financial best practices of a leading cost management technology provider?  WorkEngine announced today its launch of CostEngine, a Project Web App add in that seamlessly extends the Microsoft Project Server solution to enable full cost management controls such as cost categorization, scenario modeling, cost rollups, cost analytics and forecasting.  CostEngine for Microsoft Project Server includes the following capabilities:

  • Full integration with Microsoft Project Server ribbon controls- view
  • Cost visibility across multiple portfolios- view
  • Cost planner with flexible cost category structure- view
  • Cost impact analyzer- view
  • What-if modeler- view
CostEngine gives organizations the tools they need to track ROI by giving them the visibility into both project and portfolio expenditure. With CostEngine’s flexible cost category structure, all cost items can be categorized and accounted for to result in more accurate cost plans and cost forecasts. These cost plans can then be tracked throughout execution to provide valuable insight into cost comparisons including planned costs, forecasts and project actuals. CostEngine aids organizations in greater cost transparency, project control and overall portfolio health.
As with all WorkEngine products, CostEngine leverages a simple, easy-to-use user interface including spreadsheet-like web grids and a complete integration with Microsoft’s PWA ribbon controls.CostEngine promotes better decision making as organizations today are faced with rapidly changing environments; their response to these changes are crucial.  It is critical for management to understand comparisons of quantity and cost value totals for selected projects against targets as well as the effects of cancelling a project or work effort, delaying or advancing it, or the effect of stretching out its duration (thus decreasing the rate of spend).

So as you can see, doing more with less and properly planning and tracking all expenditures is now easier than ever.  To learn more about CostEngine, visit the website by clicking here.

EPM Live Acquires EPK Group Product Line

EPM Live, a global leader in Enterprise SharePoint Project and Work Management Solutions, announced today at the Gartner ITxpo their acquisition of EPK Group’s EPK-Suite product line. The result of this acquisition and upcoming development efforts will produce an integrated system that truly revolutionizes the way organizations manage work using Microsoft SharePoint.

“WorkEngine and the EPK Group founders share a joint vision to evolve the traditional, powerful capabilities of EPK Suite Portfolio Management, Resource Management and Cost Management and extend the same value-driven concepts to all work areas of the business using Microsoft SharePoint,” said Joe Larscheid, CEO of EPM Live.  Earlier this year when they announced WorkEngine 2010, Joe stated, “This launch will not only confirm our commitment to an aggressive product roadmap, but will fill the gaps in the technology market allowing us to meet market demand and further enhance our market position.”  “The acquisition of the EPK products reinforces our commitment to take the necessary steps to add maximum value to the systems our customers require.  As an organization’s work takes the shape of all different sizes and complexity, WorkEngine will now be able to help meet the Portfolio Work Management and Resource Management objectives of most organizations, to increase growth and profitability for an overall competitive advantage,” Joe added today.

The EPK Suite acquisition and the product integration development already underway, will add an array of enhancements to WorkEngine and Microsoft SharePoint that will help address customers’ needs by offering a deeper level of portfolio work management, and highly functional resource management and cost management capabilities.

About EPK Group



The EPK Group founders average more than 30 years experience in the project management field, including consulting, implementation, and project management systems development. They have led the development and introduction to the marketplace of many of the project management systems used over the past 30 years, including the Enterprise Project system Microsoft acquired in August 2000. As part of the acquisition of Enterprise Project, they became members of the Microsoft product development team and participated in the development of Microsoft Project Professional and Microsoft Project Server.