By Sylvie MacKenzie, PMP on Jun 03, 2012
Excerpt from PROFIT - ORACLE - by Monica Mehta
Yasser Mahmud has seen a revolution in project management over the past decade. During that time, the former Primavera product strategist (who joined Oracle when his company was acquired in 2008) has not only observed a transformation in the way IT systems support corporate projects but the role project portfolio management (PPM) plays in the enterprise. “15 years ago project management was the domain of project management office (PMO),” Mahmud recalls of earlier days. “But over the course of the past decade, we've seen it transform into a mission critical enterprise discipline, that has made Primavera indispensable in the board room. Now, as a senior manager, a board member, or a C-level executive you have direct and complete visibility into what’s kind of going on in the organization—at a level of detail that you're going to consume that information.” Now serving as Oracle’s vice president of product strategy and industry marketing, Mahmud shares his thoughts on how Oracle’s Primavera solutions have evolved and how best-in-class project portfolio management systems can help businesses stay competitive.
Profit: What do you feel are the market dynamics that are changing project management today?
Mahmud: First, the data explosion. We're generating data at twice the rate at which we can actually store it. The same concept applies for project-intensive organizations. A lot of data is gathered, but what are we really doing with it? Are we turning data into insight? Are we using that insight and turning it into foresight with analytics tools? This is a key driver that will separate the very good companies—the very competitive companies—from those that are not as competitive.
Another trend is centered on the explosion of mobile computing. By the year 2013, an estimated 35 percent of the world’s workforce is going to be mobile. That’s one billion people. So the question is not if you're going to go mobile, it’s how fast you are going to go mobile. What kind of impact does that have on how the workforce participates in projects? What worked ten to fifteen years ago is not going to work today. It requires a real rethink around the interfaces and how data is actually presented.
Profit: What is the role of project management in this new landscape?
Mahmud: We recently conducted a PPM study with the Economist Intelligence Unit centered to determine how important project management is considered within organizations. Our target was primarily CFOs, CIOs, and senior managers and we discovered that while 95 percent of participants believed it critical to their business, only six percent were confident that projects were delivered on time and on budget. That’s a huge gap.
Most organizations are looking for efficiency, especially in these volatile financial times. But senior management can’t keep track of every project in a large organization. As a result, executives are attempting to inventory the work being conducted under their watch.
What is often needed is a very high-level assessment conducted at the board level to say, “Here are the 50 initiatives that we have underway. How do they line up with our strategic drivers?” This line of questioning can provide early warning that work and strategy are out of alignment; finding the gap between what the business needs to do and the actual performance scorecard.
That’s low-hanging fruit for any executive looking to increase efficiency and save money. But it can only be obtained through proper assessment of existing projects—and you need a project system of record to get that done.
Over the next decade or so, project management is going to transform into holistic work management. Business leaders will want make sure key projects align with corporate strategy, but also the ability to drill down into daily activity and smaller projects to make sure they line up as well. Keeping employees from working on tasks—even for a few hours—that don’t line up with corporate goals will, in many ways, become a competitive differentiator.
Profit: How do all of these market challenges and shifting trends impact Oracle’s Primavera solutions and meeting customers’ needs?
Mahmud: For Primavera, it’s a transformation from being a project management application to a PPM system in the enterprise. Also making that system a mission-critical application by connecting to other key applications within the ecosystem, such as the enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain, and CRM systems.
Analytics have also become a huge component. Business analytics have made Oracle’s Primavera applications pertinent in the boardroom. Now, as a senior manager, a board member, a CXO, CIO, or CEO, you have direct visibility into what’s going on in the organization at a level that you're able to consume that information. In addition, all of this information pairs up really well with your financials and other data. Certainly, when you're an Oracle shop, you have that visibility that you didn’t have before from a project execution perspective.
Profit: What new strategies and tools are being implemented to create a more efficient workplace for users?
Mahmud: We believe very strongly that just because you call something an enterprise project portfolio management system doesn’t make it so—you have to get people to want to participate in the system. This can’t be mandated down from the top. It simply doesn’t work that way. A truly adoptable solution is one that makes it super easy for all types users to participate, by providing them interfaces where they live. Keeping that in mind, a major area of development has been alternative user interfaces. This is increasingly resulting in the creation of lighter weight, targeted interfaces such as iOS applications, and smartphones interfaces such as for iPhone and Android platform.
Profit: How does this translate into the development of Oracle’s Primavera solutions?
Mahmud: Let me give you a few examples. We recently announced the launch of our Primavera P6 Team Member application, which is a native iOS application for the iPhone. This interface makes it easier for team members to do their jobs quickly and effectively. Similarly, we introduced the Primavera analytics application, which can be consumed via mobile devices, and when married with Oracle Spatial capabilities, users can get a geographical view of what’s going on and which projects are occurring in various locations around the world. Lastly, we introduced advanced email integration that allows project team members to status work via E-mail. This functionality leverages the fact that users are in E-mail system throughout the day and allows them to status their work without the need to launch the Primavera application.
It comes back to a mantra: provide as many alternative user interfaces as possible, so you can give people the ability to work, to participate, to raise issues, to create projects, in the places where they live. Do it in such a way that it’s non-intrusive, do it in such a way that it’s easy and intuitive and they can get it done in a short amount of time. If you do that, workers can get back to doing what they're actually getting paid for.