Stuart Easton

Stuart is CEO of TransparentChoice and is a veteran of the software space. His back ground includes stints working on reporting and data analytics and he is passionate about improving business outcomes for his customers. Stuart lives in the UK and enjoys hiking, mountain biking and playing with his kids. He also enjoys playing guitar... but his family would rather he didn't.

Recent Posts

Project Prioritization Matrix: Avoid These 4 Common Mistakes

In this blog I often talk about the project prioritization process and the best method of implementing it. In this article I would like to share some ideas on how to use the prioritization matrix to prioritize projects in a way that gives you a chance to succeed.

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How to Prioritize Projects: 4 Steps

Okay, so you may have read our ultimate guide to project prioritization and now you want to know how to prioritize projects. You’re in the right place.

We’ll break it down into 4 easy steps.

1. Value definition

Let’s get one thing clear before we start. Your projects are not “your” projects, they are there to deliver strategic value to the business. It is, therefore, vital to make sure that “the business” - for the purpose of this blog, that means a diverse group of senior stakeholders - what “value” means before you start.

This process begins with a brainstorming session with your executives. The goal of this brainstorming is to end up with a list of 4 to 7 top-level strategic goals - the business goals that are most important to your stakeholders. We will then use those goals as criteria to evaluate and score your projects - this is what allows you to deliver strategic alignment.

Your top-level criteria can be further divided into sub-goals. You might end up with something like this:

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What's the point of a PMO?

Point of a PMO is to deliver strategic valueSo, you've probably heard the one about the broken pencil? 

....nah, there's no point.

Maybe that's really a joke about PMOs. You've seen the stats, right? 

  • 50% of PMOs close within 3 years (APM)
  • Since 2008, PMO implementation failure rate is over 50% (Gartner Project Manager 2014)
  • 68% of stakeholders perceive the PMO as bureaucratic (2013 Gartner PPM Summit)

I've written before on ways to turn this around, but there's one underlying challenge: many PMO leaders themselves don't understand the point of the PMO. If the PMO leader doesn't know what the PMO is for, how can the senior executives value it?

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PMOs Should Stop Prioritizing Demand!

PMO WisdomWell, I just got off the phone with a consultant friend of mine, Roberto Camanho. He is grey-haired and wise. He is the Gandalf to my Mr Baggins.

And he took the rather controversial position that PMOs should NOT be in the business of prioritizing demand.

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PMO Champions vs. Underperformers

pmos are the champions.png

In their massive rock anthem, We Are The Champions, the band Queen boldly declare, “No time for losers, ‘cos we are the champions…”

Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why 72% of PMOs are being called into question by their executives; perhaps they too have “No time for losers 

And today, we’re going to figure out where you sit. Are you a Champion or an Underperformer? Or, most likely, somewhere in between?

 

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Benefits Realization is easier than you think

Project benefit realizationLast week was the Project Challenge event in London and the were some really good talks. Among them was a talk by David Walton of Bestoutcome on benefits realization. This is an area I am often asked about when supporting clients in their project prioritization and selection process so I thought I'd share...

Tracking through to benefits doesn't have to be hard, but it does take focus and the discipline to never give up, a bit like The Terminator - the good one in T2, of course; we don't want any nasty robo-PMOs running around gunning down project sponsors... even if you do sometimes feel like it!

Very few organizations track projects all the way through to benefit and David gave a simple framework to help you get there, but he missed one of the most important steps out; prioritization.

So, let me share with you my interpretation of the talk, but I'll add what I think is missing.

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Oh no! Here comes the CFO…

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We’ve all had the feeling. You step into a lift (elevator for those of you who don’t speak the Queen’s English) and there’s the CFO. Or the CEO. There’s nowhere to hide. She turns to you and says something along the lines of;

“I’m heading to a budget review and the project portfolio is under pressure. How do we KNOW we’re investing in the right things?”

Well, for most PMOs there is no good answer.

An honest answer would typically be; “Well, we had a meeting with our stakeholders and picked a bunch of projects that don’t really seem all that-well aligned with any strategic direction. Project selection was really based on politics and salesmanship and I reckon there are a few lemons and pet projects in there!”

Not an ideal answer.

Well, now there is a way you can quantify and justify the portfolio selection and it’s validated through academic research.

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PMOs have super-powers!

PMO Super Heros.pngEvery PMO has the potential to be a superhero. Seriously.

Anyone who can deliver a sustained competitive advantage is a superhero (in company terms, anyway). It may be the “golden touch” on product (Steve Jobs) or the ability to spot a value-investment opportunity (Warren Buffet).

The superpower that every PMO has is the power to deliver a far more efficient and effective use of capital.

Hmmm – doesn’t sound as cool as X-ray vision or the power to create force-fields… but you know those aren’t real, right?

Apart from my Mum, who definitely had X-ray vision while I was growing up.

A more efficient and effective use of capital, however, is about as important for a company (or government agency, NGO, etc.) as it gets.

So, put your underpants on the outside and prepare to change the world!

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Project turn-around

Turn around failing projects.pngWhen your car breaks, most of us call the mechanic.

Well, I recently spoke with Amanda Oakenfull of Deloitte in Australia. She’s known in Australian project management circles as The Mechanic and with good reason.

She has an enviable track record in turning around projects, programs and portfolios. Amanda has a reputation for being able to fix almost anything and I wanted to know what her secret is.

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You should never, ever run out of project resources

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John McGrath, speaking  at the Pharma PPM Toolbox in London, said that there is simply no excuse for not having enough resources on a project.

Now I know many of you will be disturbed by this statement, but I think he's more-or-less correct.

It's like when a bridge collapses. Bridges don't just collapse, you see (not that I'm a bridge expert, but work with me here.) There is always a reason for the collapse; you designed it wrong, you used the wrong material, you allowed too many trucks on at once, etc.

It’s the same way with projects. There's always a reason when you run out of resources and it's almost always avoidable. Let's look at some of those reasons and work out what can be done about them.

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Project managers are a waste of space. So are PMOs

eliminate conductor.pngHow often have you heard the cry, “If we just did without a project manager we could save a load of money!”

Of course it's nonsense. For any project worthy of the name,  a professional project manager will reduce the risk and overall cost of implementation. No "serious" professional would really strip out all the PMs.

Yet “Why are we spending all this money on a PMO?“ is a common cry, one that poses a real threat both to the PMO and the success of the portfolio. Only half of PMOs survive the first few years (APM). In fact, according to ESI research, 72% of PMOs are called into question by the executive team.

Look at it this way; without a conductor, an orchestra would produce a terrible cacophony. (Disclosure: my brother plays in one of the world's top orchestras). It's the same for a project portfolio… only the costs of a weak portfolio can be much worse than the noise of bunch of unsupervised musicians.

In short, the business case for the PMO is every bit as strong as the business case for the project manager.

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Setting up a PMO: The Grand Design?

pmo house falling down.pngHalf of new PMOs are shut down within 3 years1. Scary… and it reminds me a bit of a TV program we have in the UK.

Grand Designs follows a member of the public who has taken on a massive project: building a new home. The homes are usually rather grand (hence the title) or unusual (one guy built a house out of straw, another built a cave-house).

Most of the “victims” have chosen to act as project manager themselves. Why do they make that decision? Well, they believe it will save money and, really, how hard can it be? Yet this one decision – to take on the project management themselves - is often the root cause of many of massive cost over-runs, delays and sleepless nights.

Setting up a PMO is a little bit like building a house, only worse. So, what’s to be done?

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How many “points” does your PMO score?

get points for finishing projects not starting them

On a recent webinar with Johanna Rothman (author of loads of books on project management, program management, portfolio management  and, I suspect, other things beginning with “P” that need managing!), she made the point that it’s not important how many projects you start. What’s important is how many you finish and that they deliver business value.

If you only score points for finished projects, let’s figure out how to get more points on the board!

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5 tools that are changing the PMO landscape

Kaboom - PMO head explodes.png

You. Me. Anyone with a management job-title. We all have the same role – to manage change.

We are here to improve things. But innovation in the PMO can be difficult and there’s one huge barrier that stops many in their tracks. I think this barrier is captured best in this quote:

The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.
- John Maynard Keynes

This blog will highlight a few innovative “tools” that are changing the PMO world.

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Really quick wins for PMOs

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According to Geneca, 75% of execs believe their project is doomed from the start. This got me wondering…

  • How can we become more effective today, right now?
  • Where can you find a quick win, something that will stop you wasting resources? 
  • Where can we have more impact with less effort?

I have compiled a set of five tricks to get you started… I’m sure you will come up with more.

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