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Project Portfolio Management, Transformation

Navigating 3 Common Challenges of PPM Transformation (Part 3) 

Because change doesn’t stop once the system goes live.

Published By Debra Aizikovitz
Navigating 3 Common Challenges of PPM Transformation (Part 3) 

In the first two posts of this blog series, we shared how one large biotech company defined its pain points and business goals for its PPM transformation process and the five steps it took to beat the transformation odds. (If you’re just jumping in, read part one and part two of the story first.) 

In this post, we’ll examine the unanticipated challenges the PPM Transformation Team faced along the way and how they adapted to overcome them. 

Top Challenges for the PPM Transformation Team  

Initially, the teams felt they were ready, with all the preparation boxes checked – then the reality of the change happened. The PPM Transformation Team did not anticipate the time it would take for the implementation team to learn how to work together.  

There was a lot of “storming” in the beginning. It became apparent that organizational change management was needed for the implementation team first before the change could be driven into the organization.  

The PPM Transformation team completed some preliminary work educating the teams on organizational change management to kickstart the messaging. The implementation showed a way of working and clarified the “why” and “how” they would make this change happen. From there, the implementation team was ready to tackle the challenges of driving the change across the organization.  

Most change in organizations is slow and requires careful guidance and thoughtful, consistent leadership to stick. 

Challenge: A Lack of Senior Executive Support 

A major gap was that the organization initially had limited senior executive support for the change, leading to internal confusion at the company. The PPM Transformation Team had to directly ask for support to gain the buy-in at the senior levels; it was not assumed!  

Solution: Aligning Stakeholder Pain Points to the Transformation Program 

The Transformation team spent time clarifying and aligning with the leaders on the business vision by highlighting the alignment of stakeholder pain points to the transformation program.  

It was especially important to highlight the alignment of the company’s business growth models to the transformation. The main goal of this transformation was “silo-busting”: Breaking down functional silos to improve cross-functional collaboration and increase visibility by showcasing how the new PPM process and tools would promote a combined technology organization.  

The PPM Transformation Team also hadn’t clearly outlined how they would measure the results of the transformation, so they partnered with executives to understand how this initiative aligned with other technology measurements.  

Challenge: The Need for More Training 

Another challenge was the lack of understanding of the training. It was assumed that the PPM Transformation team would train the teams, and the teams would understand how to use the system. The people managers pushed back, saying there was not enough training or understanding of the “what’s in it for me” for their teams to get onboard fully.  

Solution: Lunch & Learn Sessions 

The PPM Transformation team began hosting “Lunch & Learn” sessions with deep dives into topics/training/processes that were brought up by management and people through the change surveys. This exercise was not originally planned as a change technique, but it became a real win! It was a smart decision late in the implementation that became a regular cadence for the PPM Transformation team even after the implementation.  

Challenge: Lack of Specific Transition Guidance 

The next challenge was that teams needed more guidance than anticipated to know how to transition from the old to the new system. Although the planned training extensively covered information about the new way of working, it did not include guidance on an individual level of how to make the transition and how the changes would affect each person’s day-to-day role.  

Solution: “Office Hour” Sessions 

The user base included over 200 people, so this could not be communicated through a simple email. The PPM Transformation team had to plan additional sessions to explain the more specific “why” and “how” of the changes. These sessions focused on the people change aspect, with close interaction with the people managers. 

The PPM Transformation team hosted “Office Hour” sessions that allowed people to ask questions and raise concerns about the people, process, and technology. The implementation was delayed by a few months, so a renewed focus could be made on the people change. The team used surveys to understand better when people would be ready to go live with the changes. 

Change is a process, and this process does not stop when the system goes live. 

Hindsight is 20/20 

Other minor challenges throughout the implementation were related to people change and needed attention to address those change impacts. Overall, those minor organizational change management challenges were managed quickly and with the support of management.  

Hindsight gave the team the perspective that they should have acted on instinct and made a recommendation for any change impact as it related to the people, process, or technology. Change is a process that does not stop when the system goes live.  

Outcomes from Organizational Change Management 

When the team proved that people were ready – they went live! It was not that the technology or process was ready; there was unanimous agreement (proven through surveys) that they were ready!  

The outcomes for organizational change management were that we took a slow and steady approach, listened, and reworked when needed. The implementation team understood that if we did not have the people change established, adoption would be slow or not accepted at all.  

The PPM Transformation team showed early in the implementation that we must succeed with the people’s adoption and senior management buy-in, or it would be considered a failure. The biotech company started on day one to see the value because they brought together both business and technology into the conversation to acknowledge these transformation benefits:  

Accelerated Delivery 

Fit for purpose, repeatable project management lifecycle processes that drive controlled and efficient delivery and alignment with business expectations 

Near Real-Time Decisions 

Single source of truth for enterprise portfolio and holistic analytics with insights across all business units that enabled fast, informed decisions 

Joint Business & Technology Governance 

Early visibility to demand for commentary and planning, along with alignment and prioritization of investments to ensure technology teams are working on the right stuff at the right time 

Better Outcomes 

Better focus on delivering value, as it is perceived by the business units 

Foundations for the Future 

Fully integrated business process and technical design that proved their ecosystem to be positioned for expansion and maturity over time. The ultimate goal was an internal community of practice as one technology team!   

The Winning Strategy: A People-First Approach 

In a perfect implementation, it is assumed that people and the processes they use will move along with the technology changes – training will be understood, and the new processes will make sense to the people.  

The reality is that most change in organizations is slow and requires careful guidance and thoughtful, consistent leadership in order to stick. It’s a constant reminder that organizations do not change – people do!  

Looking back, the PPM Transformation team was pleased they took the time upfront to think about the people change. They focused on communications, executive sponsorship, educating the people managers of their role, and helping individual people move through the changes.  

It takes creativity and curiosity to drive organizational change management in any organization, so people feel valued and independent to change on their own time. This is what it takes to beat the transformation odds!  

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Written by Debra Aizikovitz

With 30+ years in the project portfolio management field and an emphasis on strategic planning, Debra is a key thought leader who will help customers drive their enterprise strategic planning and delivery of investments to become a strategic planning powerhouse with a touch of organizational change management.