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Rear view mirror failures

As we drive down the road and look in the rear view mirror we see where we've been. Most of today's project and portfolio management (PPM) tools do that really well. They show us what has happened. Ok, historical knowledge can have its purpose.

However, getting improved direction from history data can fail. PPM tools can show when something was late. But it's difficult to identify the reasons. The main problem is that the data usually doesn't contain the process, or best practice process. It's too task focused. For example, let's look at these three tasks:

1) Obtain requirements from finance

2) Review requirements with finance director

3) Approve requirements

Now, let's say at step three we are two weeks late. If it's on the critical path, the project is at risk. History can tell us that next time around we may want to assign an extra two week span as a buffer. That is all we can do without more knowledge. This is weak.

What if we expanded the three steps to include best practice content. The process could include the following:

1) Obtain requirements from finance. Identify key business subject matter experts and decision makers. Setup a meeting so the right people attend. Schedule a second meeting in advance, etc...

2) Review requirements with finance director. Understand director's perception and critical needs. Review the teams recommendations, etc.

With the process information along with historical time data, we can better learn what really happened and readjust the best practice processes for future projects. For example, in step 2, the future process best practice could change "finance director" to "finance process owner and decision maker" with a description on how to confirm who this is. We found out that the finance director held no final say and it took another week to meet with the right person. The next time around, we may be on time without needing to add the buffer weeks.

Another failure with history as provided by most PPM tools is the lack of control over future actions. It's not difficult to meet up at the end and talk about failures and what to do in the future. The hard part is turning the gained knowledge into action and accountability. This means a new process to execute govern for compliance.

This is where we need both process content along with technology that has process and best practice as the focus. This is unlike the other tools that make tasks as the main focus. PIEmatrix is an example platform that is designed from the bottom up to bring process methodology into the hands of every person on the project. If that process is really good process, then the risk of being late can be managed or eliminated. As we evolve the process to new best practices, then we have the power to drive the future.

Now as we drive down the road, looking in the rear view mirror is good for awareness. However, to get to where we want to go, we need to keep our eyes ahead and take the best route for safety and speed.