A few weeks ago we had a great discussion on Agile’s PPM (Product Portfolio Management) tool in our webinar session and user group meeting. PPM is a web-based, enterprise system supporting the management of phase-based programs and projects with seamless integration to PLM. In addition, it manages sub-projects, processes, deliverables, schedules, resources loading, task management and collaboration discussions between users. PPM synchronizes with other Agile PLM modules to automatically track program status leaving the team free to focus on execution.
PPM aims to provide solutions to many common program management issues:
- Real-Time Status Reports to support data driven projects and portfolio priority decisions.
- Collaboration Tool keeps discussions, lessons learned and critical notes within the project and out of individual computers and email backlogs. It also improves design reuse between teams leading to reduced project cycle times.
- Task Manager lists task and action items for each user. The user can then easily update the status or mark complete when done reducing the number of emails and meetings required to keep the team in sync.
- Resource management to avoid over allocations which lead to missed deliveries.
PPM is a highly configurable tool so I recommend spending time up front to design the processes, rules, templates and reports that match how your organization operates. Templates can be set up for everything from high level corporate metrics to the schedule, resources, and deliverables required on projects. Templates are the key to identifying the objects within the PLM system that will also be tracked in the PPM system. This is what creates the tight synchronization between the product and project data enabling PPM to automatically track the project status.
My background is in product engineering and program management for semiconductor IC development. Upon initial introduction to agile PPM I looked for: ease of use, value add and return on investment. After all, we will need to convince a whole organization to switch from tools they are very comfortable with to a completely new software solution.
I found PPM to be fairly intuitive to use. With just a brief introduction to the software I was able to take an established template and edit it for my more specific project needs. Then I easily created a couple projects. In the past I always had grand plans of setting up some project schedule templates but never seemed to have the time to use them so I see a huge time savings with PPM templates. I really like the Gantt chart editor. It looks and operates just like other mainstream scheduling tools I’ve used in the previously.
I see a lot of potential in the reporting capabilities. While there are some good standard reports, this is one area where I see the need for initial customization to create the reports that the program managers and team members are currently generating manually. I used to spend a significant amount of time pulling together 1-page monthly status reports for Operation reviews which would be out of date within a week. This tool has the capability to auto-generate those reports with real time data.
Engineers and other team members primarily use the Task Manager and Collaboration tools. The Task Manager obtains the required tasks for an assigned resource from the project template (basically, the line items on the schedule). The assigned resource can accept, delegate or cancel the task. Of course additional tasks and action items can be added. I practiced adding and updating tasks and found it very simple to complete with just a few clicks. This is another area where I see great potential to add customization to streamline the tasks listed. For example, once a project is kicked off the entire project’s associated tasks (regardless of when due) show up in the assigned resource’s task list. Setting up custom rules can limit the user’s view to only those task needed for the current or next phase. The collaboration tool is as simple as sending and replying to an email but within the tool. The user can even add attachments.
In summary, I believe Agile’s PPM tool does address a number of program management issues resulting in an improved return on investment by reducing resource costs, cycle time and the effort team members spend on non-value added (but required) tasks. I found it easy to use for the Executive who needs to track the overall project health, the Program Manager who will have the most interaction with the tool, and the Task owners who will use the tool to track requirements and collaborate with others. I see the initial customization, template creation, and tool set up being key to a successful roll out and utilization within any organization. Finally, while agile PPM can be used as a standalone tool, there is a significant benefit to the product data integration from other PLM modules.