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3 Ways Process can Prevent Project Death

The Problem

Over the years, reports from the Standish Group and others have found that close to 70% of projects fail to meet expectations and very large software projects have only a 6% success rate. More recently, PMI's Pulse of the Profession reported that project success rates have been declining by 10% since 2008. This quirky video made by IIL and PieMatrix sums it up.

So why do our projects still fail? Heck, new project management tools come out every month. Managers are sent to project management training and get certifications. But, success rates are not increasing. 

I believe that the solution has the the right process (incorporated lessons learned), engaged people who share ideas, and work execution technology that makes process improvement easy.

1) Make the right process slim, yet smart 

It's most critical to have the right processes for your projects. This means, the way in which you work is key to leading up to the the very best results. 

  • Start by cutting out the fat in your current process. Too much process content can overwhelm people.
  • Identify the core steps of what makes your project or business process succeed.
  • Incorporate into each critical step lessons learned and new ideas on how to get it done well.
  • Don't worry yet about the other, less critical or supporting steps. Just start executing.

2) Engage your people with your process

We hear reports about how employees are checked out. Projects are getting more complex, people are working extra hard, etc. Gallup says that 51% of workers are not engaged. However, there are ways to get your people engaged while improving your process results.

  • Add meaningfulness and clarity to why your people are doing the work they do.
  • Ask your people to help with the process trimming as discussed above. They will know what to cut and will feel ownership if you ask them.
  • Encourage people to capture lessons learned and physically show them that you are taking their ideas and improving the process. Give them credit and you will find more engagement, more collaboration, and more successful projects.
  • Once your refined process is awesome (and making good results), then slowly add more content as needed. Ask your people what is missing to make your process and projects faster, while have higher output quality. This innovation at work will get many people engaged.

3) Use smart process and collaboration technology

While you are slimming your processes and getting your people engaged, include technology at the same time. Tools in the market like business process management tools (BPM) have a lot of process workflow flexibility, but are not made for project execution. On the other hand, project and portfolio management tools (PPM) are the opposite- they are great for resource management and financial reporting, but are not designed for processes thinking. Find an online collaborative work execution tool that combines processes with projects in real time. 

  • The tool should make process thinking a reality, where you can design and execute the process within the same platform.
  • The tool should be super easy to use. If not, your people will become more disengaged and user adoption will be difficult.
  • The tool should foster process improvement. It shouldn't be just a task list tool that shows you what happened. It should allow your people to predict and carve a better future.

In summary, focus on getting your processes done right. Don't fuss too much and get your projects going ASAP. Engage your people, show them the 'why,' and ask for their ideas on how to make things better. Use a tool that's easy to use and designed to help improve processes. Then, watch your projects rise from the dead.

Written by Paul Dandurand, CEO of PieMatrix

Photo by LifeLike Creations

New 5.3 release

Hey Pie users! We have been busy working on fixing a number of bugs over the past few months. In addition, we're pleased to announce that we managed to get in the following new features...

Only Milestones List View

The first one is the new Only Milestone view. Let's say you have a large a complex project and just want to quickly see how it's doing with key milestone activities. Now you can easily get this view. The Planning tab now has an "Only Milestone" button. When selected, it will display your project structure (i.e., slices and boxes) with only milestones displayed. If you want to see a straight list of milestones, select the Only Milestone "As a List" button.

Metrics Report Link to Milestones

You can now click on the blue links under the Milestones Completed column to get directed to the Planning tab inside of that project and view your milestones. The image below shows the location of the milestone links. To navigate to this view in your Pie account, click the Dashboard tab, the Portfolio Metrics tab, click on your Business Units to expand the list, and click on the Total Projects link under a specific BU to open the Total Projects list below.

Entire Team To-dos View

Our To-do list page has been handy for showing your own or your team member's work. However, a number of customers asked to view not only one person's load for the day or week, but the entire team's load for a particular project. We now have this covered with the new "Project" filter and the new "Entire Team" view filter. To make this work, you would first need to be a manager on a project (or have executive view status) to see other team members' work. Then, filter to your desired project. Lastly, select "Entire Team" from the person drop down list.

Access Box Files from Step

In the past, you had to go to the process box's file tab to see all the files under a process box. Now, with this new feature, you can view those files directly from a step's file folder window. This is especially handy if you're working from your To-do list and need to access a file that is not attached to the step, but is associated with the process box this step belongs to. Click on the file folder of a step and then notice the buttons "Action Step" and "Process Box". Clicking on "Process Box" will change the file list view to all files under that box. Nice.

Copy and Paste Box

This new feature allows you to copy a box in the Pie Template layer with all of its steps and files and then paste it in some other location in the same layer or in some other layer. This is really great for leveraging a box with steps that needs to be used in some other location. Click the box's sprocket (or right-click the box) to get the edit options. Select "Copy Box for Pasting." Then you can go to another part of your layer or to an entirely different layer and right-click on the layer's slice cell and choose "Paste Box." That's it!

Copy URL on Steps

You can now copy a step's URL and paste it in another URL address bar to navigate directly to that step in another window. Simply right click on a step in your project and click on 'Copy URL Reference.' Open another tab or window and paste the URL. Pie will load to the location of the copied step and the step will be highlighted in green for a few seconds. You can also do this with your My To-do steps. This feature is not authorized in PIE Templates.

Other Features!

  • You can now zoom in and zoom out. For Macs: Click the Cmd+ ] to zoom in and Cmd [ to zoom out. For PCs: Click Ctrl+] to zoom in and Ctrl+[ to zoom out.
  • We made it easier for you to see the green check and red x icon that activates during our drag and drop feature- i.e. during assigning roles and dragging steps.
  • Now, every time you create a Personal To-do, the due date will automatically be set to today's date so you can quickly create personal to-dos.
  • No longer do you have to be a Project Administrator or Project Manager of a project to mark steps as 'Not Needed.' Now you have the ability to mark your own step as 'Not Needed!' You are also able to change your step's state back to Not Started, In Progress, Completed, etc., if need be.
  • We added a 'Next Week' category in your To-do list. Now, 'Later' means any task with dates set after next week.
  • Now, when creating an issue/risk on a step, the Issues & Risks window includes the step's name written at the top.
  • If you are not supposed to edit the date in the Scheduling Window of a step or a box, instead of just a grayed out schedule that you cannot click, we added a mouse tip when hovering over the calendar that says "Cannot edit."
  • When accessing your to-dos and you social feed, a loading pie icon spins when loading all of your to-dos or social feed. If you do not have any to-dos or stories, instead of a blank page, you will see "You don't have any assigned to-dos in Pie right now" or "No stories to show!"
  • Now, tabs that are open in your browsers will say Pie instead of PIEmatrix, distinguishing between Pie- the app name- and PieMatrix- our company name.
  • Team members no longer have the option to Add a Baseline in the Project's Planning Tab.
  • And probably some other things not mentioned above. Enjoy!

Plus, we fixed bugs :)

We have been busy stomping out a bunch of nasty and not so nasty critters.


Please send your feedback. Would love to hear from you!

Top Image by Gary Knight

Bug Image by Kathy

Make Projects Easy-As-Pie with Visuals

Ever wonder why so many project tools are designed with lists of data and text? In the early 1980s, Ron Bredehoeft created a scheduling tool for software engineers that ultimately became Microsoft Project. Since then most other project tools have followed suit with the same look and feel with pages of rows, columns and data. Today, we have more complex projects and more people joining projects, and few have the time and the patience to learn how to use these tools made for the previous era.

What if there was a better way.

Projects and Cookies?

Many organizations try to get work done either from memory, or by reinventing the wheel. For some people, it’s much easier to create something from scratch than to hunt down something that’s reusable.

magine you could reuse great project processes whenever you want, and make it better.

Is Non-Disruptive Innovation Better?

A recent Harvard Business Review blog post by Gary Pisano states that the excitement about disruptive innovation has blinded us to one simple irrefutable economic fact: The vast majority of profit from innovation does not come from the initial disruption; it comes from the stream of routine, or sustaining, innovations that accumulate for years."

Let's explore this notion for project or process management and people engagement.

Knowledge at Your Fingertips

Think of all the great knowledge your organization has. You may have lots of goodies stored on the servers, in people’s e-mail folders, and in their heads. You may feel confident that your firm has standard processes, but are they instantly accessible?

Pick-Up Sticks or Process?

Remember the game called “Pick-Up Sticks”? It’s a game where you release a bundle of thin, 8-inch sticks onto a table. They fall and land randomly. Then each player must remove a stick without disturbing the remaining ones.

Think of this game as alist of tasks in a complex project. Many tools today give you something like dropping a pile of sticks.

IPM Day - November 7, 2013

This is one-day virtual conference has over 60,000 other people from around the world. Dr. Harold Kerzner, Frank Saladis, and other heavy hitters will be presenting their webcasts and live Q&A. Paul Dandurand, PIEmatrix CEO, has teamed up with Christa Kirby, IIL's VP Global Products & Services. They will present the "5 Steps to Transforming Your PM Methodology Execution".

How would Steve Jobs have done a tool selection?

Have you ever conducted a vendor selection and given the winning prize to the vendor that had the most requirement features checked? And how about finding a year later that that the tool is not being used as expected? Did you not worry since you were able to show management that you did the right thing since you can demonstrate that the selected vendor tool does all of things in the features requirement list? No heads roll. No problem. This is a common story since many of us tend to get stuck with the features war syndrome.

Taming the monster process

This post is about implementing what Forrester calls a collaborative process or what Gartner calls an unstructured process. It's a process that is not automated for transactional purposes, but is more fluid and driven by people, which accounts for about 80% of all business processes.

Students at UCONN School of Business use PIEmatrix.

The University of Connecticut School of Business students used PIEmatrix in their Business Analytics and Project Management (MSBAPM) program course. The students worked on a real project for LIMRA, the program's corporate partner. The students objectives were to predict customers who will buy life insurance and forecast the growth of the life insurance market.