Preparing for a Successful PPM project: 5 Common Aspects You’re Overlooking

So, you’re finally ready to kick-off your Project Portfolio Management (PPM) initiative to achieve the simple, team-oriented IT you’ve always dreamed about, starting with retiring your cumbersome, out-of-date tools and moving to ServiceNow. 

You’ve estimated the cost, secured the funding, defined scope and assigned resources. The stakeholders are ready for workshops and kick-off is scheduled, but you have this nagging feeling you’re forgetting something. Like that feeling you get when you’re on your way to the airport ahead of a long vacation. Did I leave the iron on? I packed a belt, right?   

 I’ve asked our ServiceNow-dedicated Delivery Team which details they see as the most commonly overlooked when it comes to implementing PPM. Today, I’ve compiled their responses to share the 5 critical aspects to help firms achieve success with their PPM implementations. 

 It’s important to note that “accepting change” will be at the center of each of these points, and for good reason: Successful PPM project rollouts are less technology focused, less platform focused, and instead built around answering the underlying questions of will your team adapt to changes, how do you adapt the solution to fit the organization, and even how do you prepare to design this?  

Preparing for a Successful PPM Rollout in 5 Easy Steps 

1. Prepare to share objectives, current state processes, and pain points 

The first step is all about preparation: Being prepared for the workshops, being prepared to share your objectives, and being prepared to share your current state processes and pain points means that you’re already moving from a piece-by-piece strategy towards a comprehensive blueprint. 

This goes beyond a data dump – it’s about getting stakeholders involved early so they can align on project priorities. To do so, make sure to communicate the need for internal consensus prior to workshops. 

 Oftentimes it is the stakeholders who haven’t met prior to kick off or getting into workshops, meaning they’re each coming into the workshops with different visions for what the solution should look like. This unavoidably causes tension and stalls the workshop. To avoid this common roadblock, put time in early with your project’s decision makers to ensure they all align on priorities. While it sounds basic, this is sure to guarantee a much more efficient workshop and planning process. 

Investing in formal ServiceNow training is another component of proper preparation. PPM projects have a wide array of capabilities within the application that go across a number of different roles. Formal ServiceNow training for project teams prior to workshops prepares them to better understand the decisions they’re going to have to make in the future. In other words, it will be very difficult to gain a clear, full understanding of the ServiceNow platform if your enablement doesn’t begin until we kick-off our workshops. 

This additional time and financial investment helps teams ramp up their understanding of the platform going into the workshops, facilitating the design process time. If stakeholders don’t have an IT background, additional training can help expedite their learning. 

2. Enlist change champions 

The next point of a successful PPM project is to elicit change champions internally – these are your folks who will assist in advocating for and promoting change from within your company.  Change champions are the key communicators for the project, sharing updates with the greater internal team and working to de-escalate conflict when necessary. Their main goal is to remove barriers of change, while also creating institutional supports for any upcoming changes. With such a critical role, it’s best to get players identified as early as possible. 

When you can identify internal leaders to generate excitement and adoption amongst your team, their efforts tend to be much more successful than those made by external partners or vendors. Don’t just assign somebody to this role, make sure that they truly have a positive perception of the project. Without a genuine excitement for the changes coming up, your advocate will struggle to spread motivation, especially to folks who are more resistant to the change. 

The best way to pick a promising change champion is simple: look out for individuals who have taken a positive outlook to the project changes, then harness their positivity to help bring along any team members who are more hesitant towards the project. 

Change can be scary and there’s always going to be team members who are more risk averse – hearing from other internal peeps who are excited for the project can really help bring them around and drive the project forward. 

3. Prepare for change with a strong communication plan 

Building out a communication plan is one of the key pillars of preparing for change. There are three key pillars to a strong communication plan: communicating early and often, enacting a comprehensive training plan, and providing training reinforcement after go-live.  

But even before those three steps, business leaders should start by forming a clear understanding of their firm’s internal culture and identify who is going to be open to the oncoming changes and who will be resistant to it. 

Nobody likes to be surprised by new ways of doing work. Alert employees of oncoming changes as early as possible and in a way that explains what’s in it for them, what’s in it for the organization, and provides context into why these changes are taking place. Providing this transparency and explanation can really help generate positivity and excitement for the changes, especially when accompanied by additional training reinforcement.    

There are many potential formats for how these trainings can look: lunch and learns, lab hours, or office hours. Regardless of what you call them, they all encourage getting people in a (virtual or physical) room together. Why? This hands-on time with an expert asking and answering real world questions within the tool is absolutely invaluable. We’ve seen that it can really help team members learn in the context of their own work and get over the hump of understanding and adoptions their new solution.  

Any given project has several levers or driving forces that are out of our stakeholders’ control but taking the time to prepare a strong communication plan with additional training for team members is a sure-fire way to keep PPM projects on track.  

4. Consider data migration & reporting requirements early 

What data needs to move over from your legacy system and why?  

Data migration and reporting requirements are another item that we find often gets overlooked in projects. In some cases, they can be very complex, requiring sophisticated and time-consuming efforts. For that reason, it’s important to understand the drivers early on in the implementation to allows our project team ample time to carefully develop the most efficient approach possible for migration. 

To approach both reporting and data migration, you must identify what reports and dashboards in your current process will be critical in the future state. With that, it’s also an opportune time to consider why you need to move those select processes forward: are they really a driving force, or is it just because you’re most comfortable with them? This is especially important with reporting – There are many efficiencies to be gained by using ServiceNow’s available tools and slightly shifting your expectations around recording.   

5. Give yourself enough time to not only develop the solution but become an expert in it.  

Given project timelines, this last point can’t always happen but it’s definitely a nice-to-have. PPM implementations can bring a high degree of change to your organization, so giving yourself a runway that’s long enough to go beyond just developing a technical solution, to actually help your organization become experts in it, is another key component of a successful implementation.  

If you’ve never used ServiceNow before, this extra time can help ensure your team is fully enabled and confident in their skills before go-live. Pre-Go-live training is the best way ensure you don’t take on more than your team can handle, and it can even continue past your project’s rollout to make sure that your team remains fully enabled past its Go-live date. I recommend addressing this with a phased approach, starting off with a pilot. 

PPM in Action:   

For example, we’re currently working on a PPM proposal for a Medical University client who wants to implement PPM so they can roll out Electronic Records Management for their medical records. These are huge programs and multiyear initiatives, so we are proposing a pilot to start off. Those extra hours will help with adoption and reinforcement, allow our team to fully understand their business environment, and ensure employees are fully enabled on the platform as they kick off this new big initiative. 

PPM differs from other applications in that it’s not always introducing a huge amount of automation. In fact, in some cases, it’s going to add more work, so that folks are spending more time within the tool entering information, tracking projects, and tracking portfolios – but this is where you get the benefit out of it. An added focus on post go-live adoption reinforcement is a good strategy for firms looking to ensure they have strong adoption rates long after their project rollout.