01/18/2008 by Marco Gerussi
The upgrade from Mercury ITG 6.0 to HP PPM 7.0 entailed a much improved project management module. Project Management has been separated from the actual PPM workbench and is now available as a “zero client” over the web. The new Project Management Cockpit centrally integrates all project activities from modules like Portfolio Management and Resource Management. At a glance, the most important milestones, project status, project risks, scope changes, resource availability and issues show up. Project health or project controlling indicators like Schedule Performance Index (SPI) or Cost Performance Index (CPI) can be automatically calculated and graphically represented.
Integration with Microsoft Project – both a blessing and a curse
The bi-directional integration with MS Project is by far the most important step forward. This integration makes a lot of sense. HP PPM 7.0 promises similar functionality like MS Project for the management of project plans. This target is not really met by the current version though. On one side, important functions are missing, and despite very valuable cockpit views, navigating through project plans is too laborious. In addition, replacing Microsoft Project with HP PPM Project Management is difficult since MS Project, is successfully established in many places as the quasi standard to support project management. Enhancing Microsoft Project with HP PPM Project Management still corresponds to a real market need since users often see deficiencies in MS Project’s handling of resources and interdependencies in multi-project management.
Conceptual Design – the Key to Success
In order to optimally support project management, the proper design of the interaction between the use of HP PPM and MS Project is required for all available integration. It is of highest priority to define which function to perform in which tool and to what level activities such as phases, milestones, task groups or even tasks are planned where. With its strength in pulling together project data and in presenting management information, HP PPM lacks support for building and changing project plans. The reverse is true for MS Project. The right questions that need to be asked early on are the following:
- Which system should have the lead?
- Where are risks entered and maintained?
- Where will resources be managed?
- Where is progress tracked?
- Which level of granularity tasks exchanged?
- Which milestones are shown in the cockpit?
- On which levels are resources allocated (for project phases, milestones, task groups or even tasks)?
- On which of the above levels are work hours booked?
- Where is the baseline of the project plan maintained?
- Where are templates created and maintained?
The same is valid for the actual project data.
Once the integrated solution is designed, this combined system needs to be correctly customized; it is here where the devil lies in the details. When the exact impact of a setting is unknown, data exchange can easily adulterate reporting, and the integration of the tools produces chaos.
Many of HP PPM 7.0’s new Project Management features make sense and can produce great value for the customer. HP PPM’s strength for project management lies primarily in an aggregated management view and in the integration with other modules like Portfolio Management, Resource Management or Time Management, where MS Project is already the established operational project management tool in most of the companies. For this reason, a bi-directional integration corresponds to a market need and promises important benefits. But the building of such a combined project management solution is not trivial. An integrated use needs its own proper conceptual design and good experience for its implementation. Design and implementation need clear decisions on what functions are to be performed in which tool and on which granularity level activities (e.g. phases, milestones, task groups or tasks) are defined where. The impact of each setting and the interaction between the tools needs to be understood in detail. If these challenges are overcome, doors open for program and project management to profit from promising synergies of the combined Portfolio AND Project management solution.