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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Comments

Glen,

Of course it automates some aspects of the act of managing but it does not replace the overall process of a human being personally involved with their people. It makes it so that you as a manager can automate the collection of the day to day timesheet type information and have it done faster and more accurately (in many cases) than if you walked around with a clip board and asked all 200 people on your team how many hours the spent on each day last week on each task and you transcribed it on paper and then entered it by hand into your schedule. But I think we are going too far down the semantics hole of what 'automation' means. The real point is: do you really think that good managers think that this automation of a collection process replaces all personal contact between them and their team?

Of course applications automate some TASKS within the process of managing projects and through that automation of tasks saves time and money. Other examples of these tasks is the compilation and meaningful display of things like resource availability over time, scheduled and actual use of resources (or groups of resources) over time, across groups of projects. Notice I said they automate TASKS within a process. They do not automate the entire process of managing a project. Human brains manage. Software is a tool to be used to save time. Think about how little time you would have for real conversation and "wisdom or knowledge" transfer if you had to hand collect and update weekly status for a team of 100. Use a tool like Project Server and the TASK of collecting this data takes much less time and now the PM has much more time for evaluating and analysing and validating the data.

But again, I know that you know this and that we are just doing down a rabbit hole on the use of the word automation. :-)

I know that you know what the value is that these types of systems add to the over all process.

Jack,
OK 'evil' was too strong but danger works in what I was saying as well. In my mind it is like the powerpoint debate where Tufte says that PowerPoint itself is the problem while others (myself included) say that the tool is not the problem but rather tha misuse of that tool. A bad presenter will give a bad presentation no matter what tool you give them. The same goes for Project Management software. You can screw up your project with Excel, Primavera, Niku, Project Server or a pen and paper. If someone expects to have better projects JUST because they installed an application they are wrong.

I like Project Information system for sure. :-)

Brian,

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is the baseline for "enterprise" processes. Enterprise Project Management implies automation of the management aspects of projects. Otherwise why would I invest 100's of 1000's of dollar (total sunk cost) in an enterprise solution. I'd just keep all the desktops connected to a file server.

It would seem odd to me - as a CIO/PMO - how to justify an EPM solution if I didn't reduce the recurring labor costs for managing projects. Otherwise I would have spent money, disrupted my workflow and gained no bookable value.

You've conjectured that the story is Project Server will manage for you. This is not the case, nor would any buyer beleive it is the case. In fact Project Server creates several business process problems not found in desktop solutions.

But if EPM does not lower labor costs, shorten cycle times for work processes, or increase the effectiveness of the remaining labor then why would I buy it?

Lowering, shortening, and increasing are workflow processes == automation of work processes improvements with benefical outcomes derived from enterprise solutions. As a buyer of ERP, PDM, EDM and now EPM, I'm looking for automation solutions.

If you use the EPM cost benefits calculator on the MSFT site you'll see places for reduced headcount, increased revenue, reuced travel, increased profits. How woudl these be accomplished without automating the business processes of managing projects?

If automation of not the goal of MSFT's EPM offering how will those benefits be acheived?

Brian,

Did I say "evils"? If you look closely I'm pretty sure I said "dangers". My car is dangerous. It isn't evil. I didn't say Project Management Systems are bad. I did say they have a lot of potential for misuse.

It appears that we are in violent agreement that these "systems" are not sufficient.

I don't hate Project Server. I don't hate Enterprise Project Management. I just think that they are less about project managing and more about project accounting (and here accounting is used in a sense which includes more than just $$$).

There is a difference between the two, but vendors often just throw the word management over it and sell them as a "solution". I made fun of Johanna yesterday for abusing the perfectly good word "bug". I should probably make fun myself now for insisting we use the term "project accounting" for what is project accounting and the term "project management" for what is project management, but I really do feel that they are separate enough to make a meaningful distinction. What happened to "Project Information Systems"? That sounds more applicable.

-Jack

Glen,
I agree about the automated part though I have not seen any marketing or sales materials from MS or an MS partner that claims that Project Server automates the act of Project Management.

And I am unclear on how the term "Enterprise Project Management" would imply anything to do with automation. To me and most I have worked with it implies a lot about scope but nothing that I can see about automation of team interaction.

Seem like the problem is still with bad PMs. All the MS partners (like QuantumPM) and the MS sales team guys I know all are pretty clear about how Project Server will not manage for you. It helps you manage but there still needs to be a person driving the bus if you want it to get anywhere.

Brian,

This is one of those areas where the tools are oversold. "Automated" project management, "Enterprise Project Management," are terms that are loaded with meaning and at the same time poorly understood.

The vision of a portal based integrated project team is the "golden fleece" in many organizaitons. The reality of this approach has yet to be implemented.

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