Podcast: A Project Manager's Guide to Business Performance Management

Over the last three years, business performance management (BPM) has gained momentum, expanding its horizons into all areas of business. Simultaneously, project managers have been broadening their soft-factor management skills, impacting project success. Consequently, the convergence of stakeholder management and BPM will enable organizations to streamline service delivery, optimize operations, and improve customer satisfaction. In this podcast, TEC analysts Neil Stolovitsky and Lyndsay Wise sit down to discuss the increasing role that BPM plays within project management.



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This episode examines the following questions:

  1. How is business performance management (BPM) relevant to project management?
  2. How can project managers use BPM tools to address stakeholders involved in a project?
  3. What current performance management (PM) applications can be applied in the PM world?
  4. What type of project information is required to create an actionable stakeholder management solution?
  5. Stakeholder management is about managing people. So what are some of the challenges in tracking the soft factors that can make or break a project?

To learn more about Project Management and Business Performance Management, please refer to our showcase, or explore related articles and white papers.

Neil Stolovitsky: Thank you, Lyndsay, for joining us today. Business performance management [BPM] has recently gained popularity in areas such as [human resources] HR and sales. How is business performance management relevant to those working in project management?

Lyndsay Wise: Business performance management is defined as the use of software to help organizations optimize their business performance. BPM allows organizations to automate processes, align performance initiatives to the organization's overall strategic initiatives, and manage and assign tasks through collaboration. Project management applications have similar overlaps in terms of identifying what projects are being worked on, the status of projects which can be tied to the metrics identified in BPM, and the interactions between projects. For example, how resources are allocated, how they are meeting their deadlines, etc. can be compared to the way collaboration works within BPM.

NS: Project managers are generally trained to measure concrete metrics, such as budget overruns, project deadlines, and specifications. However, as we all know, the most difficult aspects to measure in a project are the soft factors, such as stakeholder management and work styles. How can project managers utilize BPM tools to address stakeholders involved in a project?

LW: That's a good question, Neil. There are two main ways that project managers can use current applications of business performance management. The first goes back to what you were saying about stakeholder management—to develop and track stakeholder buy-in. This can be done by utilizing data visualization tools such as scorecards to track which projects stakeholders are involved in, whether they are related to multiple initiatives, how stakeholders are performing against assigned tasks and deadlines, or even rather how their assigned resources are meeting their deadlines and how that affects the overall project, and the like.

The second application of BPM that project managers can take advantage of is the fact that performance management provides a framework to ensure that stakeholders' objectives and expectations are being met. This is accomplished through the use of metrics. Using sales as an example, organizations can track current sales, compare actual performance to targets, and forecast future sales goals based on trends. The same type of information can be used for project managers. For example, the level of past buy-in can be tracked to help identify the probability of a stakeholder's buy-in for future initiatives. This can be used as a trend, taking into account other information, mixing project data with more of the soft factors that go into managing stakeholders within a project.

NS: So, Lyndsay, what are some of the current applications used in performance management that can be applied as well as benefited by those in the project management world?

LW: The good thing about performance management solutions is that applications of the tools are constantly being expanded to meet the needs of other areas within the organization. Employee performance management provides an excellent example of how BPM applications have been brought to the next level. Organizations have moved beyond the simple management of an organization's financial performance towards the management of it employees. Employee performance management can be used to match an employee's goals to that of the organization—basically matching what an employee wants to do with what a company needs to get done. It can be used to identify how employees are achieving against the goals created to identify top performers for retention and leadership development. All of these tie in soft factors in terms of utilizing information that doesn't reside in databases to develop a performance-based solution.

This is key in how project management can apply performance management tools and techniques. Since employee performance management is a newer application of BPM, project managers can gain huge insight into what is currently being done—for example, [by] applying how resources are performing against set tasks—to identify who are the assets to the project—additionally, attaching stakeholder involvement to project success. These are just a few ways that the project management world can apply what is being done within performance management today to get immediate value from these solutions.

NS: What type of project information should a project manager seek, Lyndsay, in order to create an actionable stakeholder management solution?

LW: Well, there are basically four types of different information that are required. The first is to identify what projects each stakeholder is involved in. This information can be used to identify the success rate of projects that stakeholders are involved in. Also, a rating scheme can be developed to identify the level of buy-in and whether there are patterns based on types of projects that the stakeholders are more likely to buy into.

The second type of information that is required is identifying collaboration efforts—both for project overlaps as well as resources—including the collaboration required by the current stakeholders and how that might affect other projects within the organization.

The third type of information is to identify task responsibility. Basically, what this means is identifying who is responsible for what tasks, and how the tasks are related to one another.

And the fourth and final is the success record of people, and this really relates to the past projects. Project success can tie in to future stakeholder buy-in. So, for example, resources tied to previous project success are probably more likely to garner future buy-in from stakeholders.

NS: So at the end of the day, really, stakeholder management is all about managing people. So, what do you see as some of the challenges in tracking the soft factors that can really make or break a project?

LW: Well, some of the challenges—especially because stakeholder management is really focused on identifying the soft factor information, as you said—are how to develop metrics and ways of monitoring the work style of the stakeholders involved, as well as the resources involved. As well, another factor that's a challenge to consider is how to identify the skill sets of both the stakeholders and the resources. The third [challenge] is to measure the position of power—basically, how do you do this. And the fourth is how to identify the work environment. And all of these really tie in to the same idea of how to make these soft factors into more of a concrete and structured way to really develop the metrics to help organizations and project managers specifically rate different levels on how they will be able to really manage and identify potential stakeholder buy-in.

NS: Thank you, Lyndsay, for providing us with insight on a topic that's not often discussed in the project management world.

LW: Thank you for having me, Neil.

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