Prospective customers often ask how they can assure a successful software implementation. Working in the software industry for most of my career, and from the forteen years here at Project Insight, I have found the answer for a successful implementation: You must have a product that fits your needs, leadership to sponsor your implementation, and a business process defined that blends with the software you’ve selected.

Before we dive into the 5 pitfalls, let me share with you why project teams are adopting project management solutions and how the market is growing.

Why project teams are adopting Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) tools

At present, approximately 90% of our prospective customers do not use an enterprise project and portfolio management solution. They are using single user desktop tools like MS Project desktop, Excel and Word. Sometimes they tell us they use white boards and sticky notes, or even the back of a cocktail napkin!  

Even though Project Insight and other mid-market, cloud based project solutions have been around for over 14 years now, we still see a gap in the enterprise. You wouldn’t dream of running a finance department without an enterprise accounting system, or ask the sales team to simply use Word for their contact list. That is why we see organizations realizing that they need visibility into all of their projects, centralized in one place.

Specific PPM benefits

The benefits of PPM are several. To mention a few, a project management solution:

  • Centralizes all projects in one place
  • Provides visibility and transparency into all projects and their status
  • Allows management to understand resource workloads’ for better forecasting
  • Provides project managers with standardized processes
  • Give executive management real-time reports and information for better decision making

PPM software industry statistics

To back up our sense of the market and its growth, International Data Corporation (IDC) reports that:

  • IT PPM software SaaS market grew 35.4% in 2012
  • IT PPM software SaaS market reached $192.4M in 2012
  • IT PPM software SaaS market to grow 40% by 2017
  • IT PPM software SaaS market to reach revenue of $1B by 2017

First-hand experience

We worked with a large, multi-national retailer that has dozens of brands, thousands of products and stores across the globe. You can image the projects that arise just from the need to create websites and web pages. Each store brand has its own website. Within each brand, literally hundreds of web pages must be created.

For each page, there might be a photo shoot. At the shoot, there needs to be a photographer, lighting experts, a make-up artist, a model and even more people. The photo shoot must then be translated into a web page. Hundreds of web developers work in several countries to update web pages. Each season new products are promoted.

Before using Project Insight, this company used Excel sheets to plan resource's time and allocation. The spreadsheet was large, and extremely complex. What’s more, the tasks were not automatically communicated to team members so there was confusion over what to work on, and when.

By implementing Project Insight, project and portfolio management software, they were able to:

  • Centralize all of their projects
  • Create standardized project templates
  • View all of their resources and how much work they were assigned
  • Balance the workload for resources across the globe
  • Allow team members to log in and know what tasks to work on
  • Give the team an efficient way to track their time
  • Provide management with complex reports for finance

5 common pitfalls in implementation and achieving planned benefits

Now, as you might imagine, not every implementation goes smoothly. Here are five common reasons a software implementation fails:

  1. 1. Lack of leadership or sponsorship
  2. 2. Poor communication plan
  3. 3. No incentive plan – ‘carrot or stick’
  4. 4. Being a cowboy and trying to ‘go it alone’
  5. 5. No definition of the business process

PI client issues communicated and witnessed

Rather than discussing these pitfalls theoretically, let’s take a few real world examples from the challenges we’ve seen first-hand.

  1. 1. Lack of leadership or sponsorship

We had a very large university client invest in Project Insight only to have the leadership turn around and say, “We can’t make our people use the software.”


Their position was that everyone at the university is very smart, Ph.D.s, of course, and if we ‘make them’ use Project Insight, it might offend their sense of independence and drive them away from our institution.

While the leaders themselves saw the value of Project Insight, and even made a size-able investment in the solution, when the rubber met the road, they left the project implementation to chance. They lacked leadership and sponsorship. As you can imagine they failed.

Some people put their projects in the solution, others did not, so at the end of the day, they could not even see all projects in one place, or run reliable reports.

Any implementation needs the leadership to stand up and say, ‘This is important, and here’s why.”

This leads to pitfall number 2.

  1. 2. No communication plan or a weak communication plan

So let’s say you have a good sponsor on your implementation. If you don’t regularly communicate WHY we are making this change, you will fail. Now, the term “regularly” can mean different things to different organizations, but in general, meeting once a week to head off any potential problems is a good idea.

In the absence of reminders as to why we are implementing the solution, people will make up their own reasons and a few squeaky wheels can really stop your progress. For example, many white collar workers feel that being asked to enter time is very ‘Big Brother-ish.’

An example of a good communication plan was through a 500 employee ad agency that asked everyone from the CEO to the janitor to enter time in Project Insight. The CEO reminded the team at every company meeting that 15 minutes of missing billable time per day across hundreds of resources equaled literally millions of dollars in lost revenue for the company.

“What’s in it for me?” People asked. Well, the CEO asked, “You like the free sodas in the cafeteria? The Razor scooters to get from one side of the campus to the other? The pizza parties on Fridays? Yes, everyone agreed that these were great perks of the job. The CEO reiterated that when the company is profitable, they can afford these perks.

  1. 3. No incentives to change

Now that we have leadership and a regularly dispensed communication plan, it’s important not to forget the incentives.

Figure out if your organization is a ‘carrot' organization or a ‘stick.' That will help you define how you will incentivize people to make the change.

Again, human beings find change difficult. Psychologists say it takes 90 days or doing the new behavior in order for it to take hold.

In the case of our ad agency, they decided to have a friendly competition based on time entry. Every Friday the team was to enter time by 4pm. The competition was based on each team’s number of people that entered time accurately. The team with the highest percentage won the pizza party.

Now, as for ‘stick’ cultures, we have a client that instituted a policy that said, ‘You must turn in expenses on projects within 30 days of the engagement.’ That way they could make sure their clients were invoiced appropriately and in a timely manner. What happened if someone did not make the 30 day cut off? The expenses were not reimbursed!

  1. 4. Trying to ‘go it alone'

Doing everything yourself or what I call the cowboy approach is only good for small teams. We had a 5 team member IT team that just watched our video trainings and were good to go. However, this is not recommended.

This fails because people often try to learn the solution on their own and basically waste time and money when some help from a partner or the vendor would go a long way.

Especially as PPM software is not, a a replacement sale, but a new sale, so they’ve never used an enterprise system. I tell them it’s like going from riding a bicycle to driving a BMW. Would you give the keys to your teenager without a driving lesson? No! That’s dangerous. Same goes here, which leads into my final, but most important point.

  1. 5. Implementing software without considering your business process

PPM software is just a tool. You need to consider weaving in the aspects of your business process that work well and upgrade the parts of your process that are not working well, and then integrate that with your new solution.

We work with new clients using business process consulting onsite, then we develop QuickStart Guides which are custom manuals for each role in an organization that show the team member specifically how they will use our software.


As you evaluate PPM solutions, be sure to include a plan for implementation success, as well as a budget for adequate business process consulting. Make sure your leadership team will back you up when you hit a ‘bump in the road.’ Create an incentive plan that will resonate with your team members. Develop a communication plan and continue to message your goals throughout and even after your implementation and you will succeed.

Online 2/5/2016
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