Project Directions

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Project Management software directions, from an Oracle viewpoint!
Updated: 8 hours 2 min ago

Oracle Apps strategy gets the nod from Forrester Research

Tue, 2008-11-04 14:27

A new research report out of Forrester titled Which Has The Better Apps Strategy: Oracle Or SAP? (subscription required) was recently published.

The last time Forrester published a comprehensive strategic review of the vendors was in 2006 and as noted in the new research report, much has changed since that time.  Back in 2006 they called it a “battle of the architectures” and SAP was given the nod by Forrester.

Since that time however Oracle has closed the gap in terms of enterprise apps revenue (with a 33% compund annual growth rate versus SAP’s 13% ignoring currency fluctuations) and out of eight criteria for success identified by Forrester, Oracle has the advantage in 4 and SAP only 3 (one resulted in a tie).

More importantly, the criteria where Oracle is considered the leader shows that we have the focus on the most important aspects of our customer’s businesses.  For example we lead in Vision, Support for Openness and Standards and the Path to Dynamic Business standards – all of which point to a better future for our customers with Oracle than with SAP.

The traction we’ve gained since 2006 is starting to pay off and the momentum will continue going forward.  I can’t wait to see what Forrester thinks in 2010!


Oracle Buys Primavera

Thu, 2008-10-09 09:08

See the full press release here.

 

Oracle Buys Primavera Creates First, Comprehensive Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solution for Project-Intensive Industries
Redwood Shores, CA – October 8, 2008
News Facts:

Today, Oracle announced it has agreed to acquire Primavera Software, Inc., a leading provider of Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solutions, to accelerate its momentum in delivering mission-critical operational applications.

Primavera’s PPM software helps companies propose, prioritize and select project investments, and plan, manage and control the most complex projects and project portfolios.

Together with Oracle’s applications and infrastructure software, Oracle expects to provide the first comprehensive enterprise project portfolio management solution that helps companies allocate the best resources, reduce costs, meet delivery dates and ultimately make better decisions, all by using real-time data.

Oracle Enterprise PPM will be tailored to project-intensive industries such as engineering and construction, aerospace and defense, utilities, oil and gas, manufacturing, and professional services.

Primavera employees and management are expected to join Oracle to form a global business unit (GBU) focused on Enterprise PPM, and to help ensure a smooth transition for Primavera customers and partners. Primavera’s CEO Joel Koppelman is expected to lead the business unit as Senior Vice President and General Manager.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the second half of 2008. Until the deal closes, each company will continue to operate independently. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.


Oracle, the Innovation Company

Mon, 2008-09-29 11:34

Fresh on the heels of our very successful OpenWorld in San Francisco last week I wanted to highlight this favorable blog post from Joshua Greenbaum at ZDNet.com. 

In it Joshua highlights a few topics that are also of particular interest for Projects customers.  First of all there was a good presentation of the Fusion apps that impressed the author.  To quote him: “Oracle has made good on its promise to deliver Fusion Apps, and has greatly exceeded my expectations in doing so. A very impressive debut.”

Second, he recognized that our strategy for Apps Unlimited is delivering on our promise to continue to enhance the products already being used by our customers.  E-Business Suite (of which Projects is one application) has been enhanced in many ways and we showed and discussed the roadmap for Projects 12.1 at the conference.  Customers can find out more information on Metalink for all of the details on that release.

Joshua also discusses the enhancements to the Oracle Business Intelligence applications.  We presented a paper at OOW this year about the OBIEE solution coming for Project Analytics.  It was very well received and like our customers we are very excited for it’s release.  It will open up a a whole new level of analytics to our customers and give them even greater insight into their projects.

Finally the author touches on the AIA (Application Integration Architecture) strategy of Oracle.  Rolled out last year AIA is Oracle’s toolset to glue all of the acquired products together.  As Joshua writes:

“This product, which orchestrates all the different processes across the vast, and disparate, Oracle Applications stack, is the place where the vision of Oracle becomes reality: There is no way for Oracle to pull off rationalizing its massive acquisition strategy without AIA making all the interprocess communications between, say, Glog, Siebel, Oracle Financials and PeopleSoft HR (and SAP, while we’re at it) seamless, easy, and fast. Absent a highly performant AIA middleware layer, Oracle’s dream of cross application process functionality becomes a user nightmare.”

For Projects, we are no less interested in leveraging AIA than any other part of the company.  We’re excited to be able to tie our applications in with some of the best of breed products that we’ve acquired such as Agile and Hyperion.  We’d very much like to hear from our customers as to which apps you would find most useful to integrate with and provide input on our AIA roadmap.

 


The insidious effects of Productivity claims

Thu, 2008-06-05 12:14

Interesting little tidbit in CIO Insight this week about productivity.  Parallax View – IT Spending – IT: A Bright Spot in an Economic Slowdown.

There’s nothing wrong really with trying to see the silver lining in an economic slowdown (ie. that workers are increasing their productivity while the economy slows), but I think we need to see beyond the short term effects of this productivity surge as they call it.

The writer’s feel that businesses haven’t been investing as heavily as they did in in the 1990’s and I agree with that.  I cut my teeth in the business world during the go-go days when everyone was installing ERP systems to head of the doomsday scenario that Y2K was sure to bring.  I felt fortunate to be in consulting those years because it was lucrative but I really should have been in sales.  I think you just had to sit by your phone for a few years in the late 90’s and fortunes rained down upon you.

Back to today’s reality however, I think the game has changed significantly.  The low hanging fruit is gone.  What major or even medium sized company doesn’t have an ERP system already?  There’s even plentiful solutions for the SMB market.  Where to invest the IT dollars isn’t as much of a no-brainier anymore but I think the returns to be had can be significant if you’re actually aligning your IT projects to your business needs.

Anyway, I started out talking about productivity and what’s left unsaid behind the numbers.  I tend to think that productivity is going to go up during recessions because companies force less people to do the same work that was done by more.  Whether companies actively reduce their headcount or let it happen by attrition it’s natural that the ones left behind will be obliged to pick up the slack.  You know they want to do it because the alternative is looking for a new job when there are plenty of others doing the same and businesses aren’t hiring.  I think this is, at best, a very short term solution.  I say we should look for productivity to increase going into the downturn but start to lag just like everything else.  Despite fearing for their jobs, people still get burnt out.  They will start to spend more time complaining about the way things are versus how they used to be.  They might still stay at work until 9pm and come in at 7am but the output during those hours just is not going to be sustainable over time.

One of my favorite sites, iTulip, posted this great article on the insidious unseen effects of Inflation.  Although the topic of the article is inflation, I think you can draw a great parallel between that and what happens during an economic slowdown.  In the iTulip article they used a restaurant as the business to illustrate how inflation changes the way they operate.  You can read between the lines though and see that all companies could react the same way – all businesses have people and they have inputs to their end product.   A restaurant or company cutting back can cut their fixed expenses by reducing the number of people, or they can try to lower unit costs by substituting cheaper products or providing less quantity for the price.  While having less shrimp in your pad Thai is a bad thing, I’m more focused here on what the effect is on the employees left to hold it together.

The quote from the article hits it right on the head:

Management tries to lower fixed expenses (versus per plate of food unit costs) by reducing staff. Customers experience this as slowness and crankiness among the remaining overburdened wait staff.  If your wait person is cranky and unresponsive, count how many tables they are covering before passing judgment. These days it’s probably too many.

The morale of their article is that well run, properly capitalized businesses that have a lot of cash can use these recessions to steal the customers from their weaker competitor’s.  The key is to not do the things that are forcing your competitor’s to go out of business.  Don’t raise your prices as much, don’t begin to skimp on the quality of the products you offer and most importantly, don’t let the service you provide slip because you’ve decided to rest all the work of many on the shoulders of less.

Bad things can happen when you push people to the point of breaking…


Are your projects failing? How to avoid the Pitfalls

Tue, 2008-05-27 10:20

In a recently published article entitled Why Projects Fail (And How to Avoid the Pitfalls) published by Enterprise Systems, Senior Director of Strategy for Oracle Projects Colleen Baumbach outlines many of the common mistakes that lead to project failure.

I think one of the best points Ms. Baumbach makes is at the end where she says the accumulated years of project failures almost creates a mindset from the start that a project is doomed.  As she notes, there are countless studies that have been prepared showing how dismal project success rates are.

How are companies addressing this?  According to a Forrester study published in early 2007, twenty-six percent of IT leaders planned to hire project managers and 59 percent planned to train their current staff in project management in 2007.  They noted that those numbers changed very little from 2002.

Further reasoning behind the rush to acquire or train more qualified project managers: 

“The reason for the continued emphasis on project management skills is because IT’s value to business remains contingent on it’s ability to deliver projects which meet business requirements both on time and on budget. IT staff accustomed to more technical roles struggle to transition to project management, CIO’s argue, and complain that educational institutions are not putting adequate focus on these skills through coursework.”

It should be a good time to be a project manager as long as you know how to avoid the pitfalls.


CFO’s rate Data Integrity a Critical Issue

Thu, 2008-05-22 10:23

In a recent article from Baseline titled, One in Nine CFOs See High Return Benefits from IT, they report that of the 629 CFO’s surveyed, close to half of them rate improving data quality in their enterprise as a critical issue.

Here in Oracle Projects one of our greatest assets has always been to promote our tight integration with the rest of the E-Business Suite, such as Financial’s and HR.  When products are built from the ground up to be integrated together, you eliminate many of the problems that occur from having disparate 3rd party systems all trying to share data.

Even if you must use special best-of-breed or niche products to help manage your business, then CFO’s and CIO’s should at least look into our AIA strategy to help them build tighter integration and hence improve their data integrity.


PMXPO – Final Thoughts

Mon, 2008-05-19 22:57

I guess I didn’t get back to my thoughts on this cool virtual conference that day but wanted to get it done before I forget!

What did I like:

  • No travel to a conference!
  • Ability to pop in and out of sessions as I liked
  • Easily browse the vendor offerings and chat if you’d like
  • Could continue to work while listening
  • Their briefcase feature made grabbing vendor and presentation information extremely easy – no having to leave to someone’s website to get materials
  • One click entry of contests (where is my Xbox 360 bundle or iPod Touch??)  Since you’re logged in I liked the fact they didn’t make you have to re-enter any information or fill out a contact card
  • Reminders for presentations that come in your email so you don’t miss a session
  • All presentations and materials are available later if you missed a session

What I wasn’t so hot on:

  • You could easily tune out because you’re continuing to work – next thing you know you missed 5-10 minutes of what the speaker said or have no context of the slide you’re looking at
  • The content was pretty much focused on new Project Managers – both myself and a couple of colleagues that attended didn’t find many sessions all that riveting
  • The networking is very difficult to do – you basically know a name and company (sometimes!) of a person and most people didn’t even put a picture on their avatar.  I can’t imagine you’d ever really meet someone new on this format unless you want to pester someone with a message.

Those are my top of the head thoughts.  Overall I thought it looked fantastic – they did a great job making it look clean and professional.  I would definitely attend next year although I hope the topics presented get a little bit more out of the box for more experienced PM’s.  Maybe they can offer more than one session at a time to be able to cover more ground in the day and let people choose what interests them.


PMXPO – It’s better than I expected!

Thu, 2008-05-15 09:04

Just a heads up that I’m attending the virtual PMXPO 2008 right now.  It is much cooler than I thought it would be.  It’s just like being at a conference without all the hassles of travel and that annyoing thing called walking between sessions and booths!

Right now I’m listening to the keynote speaker and there are several more sessions coming throughout the day.  I don’t think it’s too late to sign up so just go to http://events.unisfair.com/rt/pmexpo and sign up now.  I’ll have more details on what I liked about it later.


OpenWorld 2008 – Open for Business

Sun, 2008-05-04 21:26

In case you missed it, registration for OpenWorld 2008 – the premiere event for anything related to Oracle each year – is now open.  I happened to be at our HQ the last couple of weeks and got to scout out a possible location for our annual Projects party, typically held on the Tuesday night of OOW.

I can’t say where the location is of course, but I wanted to leave you with a little taste of what the view COULD look like if we go with this spot.

 

 


8 Ways to Save your next Project…and how we can make it happen!

Sun, 2008-05-04 20:43

On the Baseline site recently there was an article posted about the recurring theme of IT projects running chronically late.  The title of the article is 8 Ways to Save Your Next Project.

Here I’m taking that article and giving it an Oracle spin!

1. Get your head out of the software

Most project managers spend too much time in their project-planning applications and not enough time doing the briefing and communicating for which they are solely responsible. You should be spending the bulk of your time talking to and corresponding with project constituents – your team, the stakeholders, vendors, consultants and key end-users. The “soft” skill of communication is integral to project success.

Oracle Spin: Totally agree!  Our Project Collaboration module pushes the task of tracking progress and creating issues and managing documents and deliverables to your team members.  Why have the PM have to ask for status updates and then enter those when it’s best done if the hands of the task owners?

 2. Plan and define as much as possible—but don’t go overboard

A key component of project management is the thorough and meticulous planning of every aspect of a project, but a perfectionist could spend all his or her time in the planning stage. There’s no way to anticipate every variable so at some point, you have to pull the trigger.

Project managers are increasingly using rapid project deployments and iterative models that have been successful in the software development world. These models are based on the principle that in some ways it’s better to start the project and see what you’re up against.

Oracle Spin: Our project creation templates take the pain out of making new projects!  Why create a project from scratch when you already know 80% of what you want it to look like because you’re doing the same thing over and over?  From pre-defined templates with most of your relevant information included, to actually choosing a past project to copy from to build your new project, we’ve got you covered when it comes to saving time setting up your details.

3. Manage scope creep—for real

Like a turkey on Thanksgiving, you can rely on the fact that the project you think you’re heading for may bare only a passing resemblance to the one you end up with. With the increasing complexity of data centers and the Pandora’s box of surprises once you get under the hood, it’s advisable to game out and document the potential sources of scope creep. For instance, the team may want to take a different approach than planned, management may want to change, add or expand the deliverables or you may uncover a technical aspect you didn’t know existed.

Oracle Spin: Our Change and Issue management feature helps you keep on top of those constant changes that occur in your projects and even lets you see the impact of accepting a change request before you approve it!

4. Don’t be lazy with risk management

If you need 200 servers delivered at the same time for a worldwide mail server upgrade, it’s not enough to know what the risk is if the vendor doesn’t deliver. It’s time to manage the risk by deciding ahead of time that, as reliable as your vendor has been in the past, there’s little margin for error. Going with two or three vendors might be more complicated but in the end, it may save your project if only 20 severs aren’t delivered on time instead of 200.

Oracle Spin: Nothing to spin here since we believe Risk Management is something every good PM will do – in this scenario it’s a business decision that just might make sense for the given project.  If you want, you can model several different versions of a budget under various costing scenarios by different vendors so you can see what cost impact that redundancy will have.

5. Get a grip on expectations

Ask vendors and consultants for the best, most likely and worst-case scenarios and then use your own resources to calculate the aggregated risk so you can determine the probable outcome.

There are risk management software applications that can help you do the job. There’s no way to guarantee that a project won’t be delayed or go over budget, but taking off the rose-colored glasses will reduce the likelihood of extreme variances.

Oracle Spin: Check out one of our newest acquisitions called Crystal Ball – this best of breed predictive modelling software suite of analytical tools includes Monte Carlo simulation, optimization, and forecasting.

6. Govern with strength

Even with all the good work you did up front, problems and roadblocks will surely arise. Don’t blow it when it comes to actually addressing the problems. To the degree you can, refer to the approaches you documented and discussed with your team. If planned properly, your team should be able to tackle the problems early on before they become major hindrances.

Depending on the event, governance may include gaining approval from management to sign off on project changes that effect the project budget or time frame beyond a certain point. For example, if changing direction means the project will cost 10 percent more and take 10 percent longer, it may be time to bring senior stakeholders into the loop.

Oracle Spin: Again I refer to our Issue and Change Management features of our product which will help you assess the impact of unplanned project bumps.  If you’ve tracked an Issue (and if you’re using Project Collaboration, any team member can create an Issue!) and now it’s time has come, you can easily roll it over into a change request and route it for approval.

If you need enterprise strength Governance, check out our complete solution here!

7. Prepare for intervention

If your approaches are better in theory than in practice, it might be time to intervene with the project plan. Create an intervention plan before the project starts and communicate the plan to everyone directly and indirectly involved. The plan may include steps to take when adding resources, for assessing project-management practices and even changing the project leader.

Oracle Spin: Oracle Projects allows you to store and share documents with all of your team members to keep track of important items such as the Charter, Statement of Work, Risk and Compliance Procedures, templates etc.

8. Drive behavior to use the technology

Whatever you do, don’t rest on your laurels when the technical aspects of the project are completed. Creating a plan to ensure that people actually use the technology you just spent 18 months implementing will serve you well. If you and your organization want to see your expected return on investment, make sure you have a hand in educating and training users.

Oracle Spin: And if you want to see that your project ROI has been positive, be sure to use our Earned Value reports and calculations as you progress through the project.  So even if the end users decide they really didn’t need that whizz-bang new application that you built, at least you’ll make sure you were managing your project to expectations and within budget and you’ll have a great story as you’re looking for your next project to run!