PM Today Podcast: PPM Implementation And The Path To Maturity


When it comes to implementing a PPM solution, it’s about far more than just picking the right toolkit. At its heart, this is a change and transformation process with many factors to consider.

In this podcast, PM Today’s Associate Editor, Amy Hatton, talks to David Walton, Founder and Managing Director of leading PPM technology vendor, BestOutcome.

Together, they discuss the real challenges of travelling a PPM maturity roadmap, how technology can best serve the changing face of Project and Portfolio Management, and strategic issues to consider when you’re aiming for maturity and implementing the tools to support that journey.

Stream the podcast now to find out more…


Amy: Okay, so hi, everyone, and welcome to this, the latest episode in the PM Today podcast series. My name is Amy Hatton. And of course, many of you know me as the Associate Editor of PM Today. And I’m here today talking with the lovely David Walton, who is the Managing Director and Founder of BestOutcome, provider of the leading PPM solution for the public and private sectors, PM3. David, hi, thanks for joining us today.

David: Hi Amy. It’s an absolute pleasure to join you today.

Amy: It’s lovely to have you with us. Thanks so much. Obviously, a lot of our listeners know you anyway, and know the work of BestOutcome. But I’m just going to start, for any who don’t by just asking you to say a little bit about yourself and about BestOutcome and how you came to be where you are today in the in the PPM space.

David: Yeah, sure. Thanks, Amy. I’ve been in Project Programme Management for twenty or thirty years, really – more years than I care to remember. And I started as a project manager at the Stock Exchange, and then went to PwC, running big programmes and projects. And then in 2000, I started BestOutcome. And we started off as a programme management consultancy, managing some very big transformation programmes for some of the big retailers, setting up PMOs, and so forth. And PM3 came out of that really, of running big programmes and projects. And we felt that many of the tools out there were very bottom up, very detailed and weren’t really fitting the business change programmes and the PMO’s requirements. So, we then built PM3, and it’s a PPM solution that is used widely in the public sector, private sector, and enterprise PMO clients as well.

Amy: Okay, brilliant. Thanks, David. I think one of the things that our listeners always find fascinating (it’s one of the reasons I was so keen to have you on the podcast today) is hearing from technology vendors who have actually developed their solutions out of a lived experience in the PM sector. Let’s start by talking a little bit about the evolution of PPM – project and portfolio management. Obviously, you’ve just described your experience in the sector – and it spans, as you say, back past the last twenty or thirty years. So, you’ve really watched the evolution of PPM as indeed have I. From your perspective, looking at the challenges of implementing a PPM solution for the very first time, what would you say are some of the biggest pain points and concerns when you’re first moving into that maturity journey?

David: Yes, it’s very good question. The first thing is to work out exactly what maturity you are and what you want to achieve. We receive a number of tenders, from potential clients about what they what they want from a PPM solution. And what strikes me, sometimes, is that the maturity they’re asking for in the tender doesn’t really match the maturity they want, or actually have. So, they’re going for a Rolls Royce/NASA type solution, when really what they want is a more simplified solution. So, the most important thing, first of all, is to really sit down and think: what do we really want? What is the eighty/twenty? What is our level of maturity? Because the danger with a PPM journey is if you do select the wrong tool, it may sound very obvious but you’re on a hiding to nothing from the get-go. So, you really need to see what your level of maturity is, what you want to achieve within two, three, four years – and look for the market and look for the tools that will match that maturity. So, with PM3 for example, you can cut down the tool set yourself and start with a core part of that product, which matches your maturity at that point in time. And as you grow in maturity, you can switch on more sophisticated parts of the tool. So, for example, resource capacity planning, and we often get asked – our biggest requirement is resource capacity planning. And we say, well, that’s great, we can do that. But we suggest you do that in phase two, because get the plans sorted out, first, get your basics sorted out, get your processes sorted out, get people comfortable with the product. And then phase two, you then move into resource capacity planning. What we often see is people diving into the more complex areas first, or the more sexy pieces first. And that, to me is a mistake, trying to pick a tool, which doesn’t match your maturity. And quite often, it’s a tool that has the most widgets, rather than anything else. The other important thing is, you need to select a tool and an organisation. You don’t want a partner who is selling your tool, does some training and then runs away. What you really want – or this is what we try and do at BestOutcome – is you want a partner that’s going to help you train your staff, mentor, support, guide, and help you with the processes around PPM. Because PPM is a really big potential tool that can deliver great potential benefits. So, you’re selecting a tool, and you’re selecting a partner, and the partner needs to match your organisation as well as the toolset in terms of maturity.

Amy: Okay, yeah, that makes a lot of sense actually, David, and I’ve certainly seen many organisations fall into the same trap of looking for the whistles and bells solution. Let’s just go back to this maturity roadmap. So, by definition, if we’re looking at aligning the PPM solution, and the PPM consultant, if you like, to your level of maturity, obviously, the first thing you need to be doing as an organisation or a PMO within an organisation is understanding where that maturity level is at the moment. Now, in my experience, that can actually be quite a difficult parameter to establish. So again, looking at possibly a PMO, or a project practitioner or a portfolio manager, who needs to be considering for the very first time: “well, what maturity level are we at right now? How can we measure that? How can we define that?” Do you have any advice to offer our listeners in that area?

David: Yes, there are some external consultancies that do PPM maturity, there are a number of models out there. Usually, they’re on a one to five scale, from innocence to excellence. And excellence, number five, could be for example, NASA. So, when you’re building a space programme, you can’t afford any mistakes. So, your maturity, your PPM maturity has got to be absolutely top. But really, most organisations should be aiming for probably two or three as a level of maturity. So, to understand where you currently are, there are external models out there, which you can use, you can use external agencies as well. You can also do your own internal audit, and that is really about looking at the process areas around PPM. So that could be for example, financial planning, financial modelling, benefits realisation, resourcing, scheduling all those areas, and do an audit of where you think you are in terms of maturity.  A lot of times it’s about the level of consistency across the organisation. So, you might have financial modelling or financial planning in a project, for example, in one area being done very, very competently, but what you need to see with maturity is how well are you doing it across the organisation, or across the areas you’re looking at. The important thing about maturity assessment, it’s about consistency and standardisation across the organisation. And you need to ask yourself some questions and scale yourself on this one-to-five model of innocence to excellence. And without pre-empting the result, most organisations probably are at level one or maybe level two, probably a level two to level three is where you want to get to. Everyone’s working in the same way. And they’re using the same processes that have been defined as part of your maturity roadmap.

Amy: Yeah, David, that makes a lot of sense. And just thinking about what you said there about measuring your level of maturity across the organisation – because of course, you’re absolutely right. Not everyone in the organisation is a specialist project practitioner.  There are far more people now I think, who are finding themselves involved in Project Management, without the Prince2® and the formal training and possibly the capacity and resource that they might need to support them on that very formal level. And of course, they’re playing a key part in delivery across organisations, across the enterprise everywhere. I mean, I think that’s a really positive thing. But it strikes me that it does present specific challenges for the PMO, or the project manager or the project office, in terms of actually supporting those people and incorporating their skills and experience into that maturity roadmap. Would you agree that’s a challenge?

David: It’s a very interesting point, and it’s a point close to my heart, I’ve just written a blog on this actually, which is due out in a few days. And we’re seeing a lot of accidental project managers, people who haven’t been formally trained, running projects, and I am a bit concerned about this trend, really, because it really commoditizes project management. I like to think of the BBC Apprentice programme when, each week, these budding entrepreneurs, they get together as two teams, and each week, someone says, “who’s going to be the project manager this week?”. And it really assumes that anyone can be a project manager. that’s just not the case. With a project manager, you need some experience, you need some training, you also need some aptitude. And we are seeing a lot of project managers who are accidental project managers, as you say, private and public sector, and it is a concern. And I think the worry for me is it devalues the project management profession. And if you have a project manager who’s an accidental project manager, who is running a project of hundreds of thousands of pounds, or millions of pounds, could be, and that person hasn’t really been formally trained, I think it’s a really, really big risk and a really, really big concern. I think organisations will need to wake up to the fact that if the accidental project manager is here to stay, then there needs to be extra support and extra tooling, so they are effective in their job. So, what we’re doing with PM3, for example, we were not interested in thousands of widgets, you know, we have a rich functionality PPM product set. What we’re also doing now is making it a PPM solution. What we mean by that is we are wrapping PM3 with a learning management system, of how to use PM3, but also a one-on-one project management course of how to start a project, how to run a project and how to close a project down – the basic three stages of running a project really. And this is very, very important because if you’ve got an accidental project manager who doesn’t understand the difference between a risk and an issue, and a milestone and a task and so forth, these may seem semantics to some people, but they are very, very important. For example, an issue is something you need to address today – now. It’s happened, you need urgent action. A risk is something to be looked at, evaluated and mitigated or avoided. So, these are important concepts really. And so, what we’re doing is having this wraparound PM3, for example, to help these accidental project managers, be better at their job really. The other thing we’re doing within PM3 is PM3 Genie, which is a widget or a bot in the tool that can guide people in building better project plans – i.e. help people deliver better risk schedules and so forth. So, what we’re doing, we’re recognising that the accidental project manager is here to stay. And we’re developing a more holistic solution to support the accidental project manager. I think there’s a number of tools out there in the marketplace that are more task management tools look very sexy and very glitzy. And I think accidental project managers to get drawn to this I think that can be a mistake, because you need tools that meet the project management or PPM requirements, not just something that is simply a task management tool.

Amy:  I think that’s a really important point. And almost in a sense, it’s almost slightly denigrating, isn’t it to those who’ve actually been through the training and worked so hard to get their qualifications and their frameworks and their methodologies down?

David: It is exactly that. And also, I think, I mean you can train me to be in marketing or sales, and, you know, I may not be very successful at it, because you need certain aptitudes, and certain characteristics to be good at certain roles. And if you try and put everyone in the round hole of project management, I think that’s just wrong. And I don’t think that’s going to work. And I think it’s going to cost organisations a lot of money in the long term when major projects fail.

Amy: How does that then align back to the principle of keeping the tool and the solution as simple as possible?

David: It’s a very good question, because there are lots of tools out there that are very, very complex and have every single process area of PPM under the sun covered. And they are very, very daunting. And again, back to the maturity level, if you’re picking that sort of tool across the organisation, and it’s a one size fits all, then the accidental project manager is going to be overwhelmed totally with that type of toolset. So, with PM3, for example, we have a different approach. As I mentioned before, we have a tool which can support complex programmes across the organisation or enterprise PMOS. But also, for accidental project managers, you can have a cut down version of the tool for them. So, they have a different set of screens and tabs. So, we have this philosophy of decluttering the application. So, for example, a project manager who is doing a simple project, maybe an accidental project manager, will only see the screens or tabs and functions in the toolset PM3 that they need to see to do their job. Nothing else is relevant to them, therefore they shouldn’t see it. And the admin can switch that on and off themselves very, very quickly, very easily. So that allows the accidental project manager to see a cut down part of a tool and understand the tool better and get better out of the tool. If you then have the other scenario where you’ve got complex projects, then the project manager, or the programme manager, who has been trained, has a lot of experience and needs more functions to deliver their programme or project, then they see a greater set of tabs and screens that matches their requirements of the tool. And they get the benefit out of it as well. And these programmes and projects do have often considerable budgets, and therefore you’ve got to make sure that you have a tool set, and also the processes around the tool set that matches the different requirements for different types of projects – from small, simple to medium to complex, to transformational programmes. And that’s how we handle it in PM3.

Amy: Let’s just talk about…I’ve written so many articles in my career, and in my time with PM Today about the horrors of projects that are being managed in silos, managed with, shall we say, a well-known spreadsheet piece of technology that is part of an extremely well-known office management technology suite? Look, I’m just going to ask you the question, because it’s been preying on my mind for a while now. What’s wrong with that? Can’t we all just crack on with our day jobs and not worry about PPM solutions and customised technology and all that kind of thing?

David: Yes, it’s a very good question. Our biggest competitor really is the spreadsheet. It sounds bizarre because a spreadsheet is not a PPM tool. Let me repeat that: a spreadsheet is not a PPM tool. And we often see simple spreadsheets to very, very complex workbooks with twenty or thirty tabs that someone’s spent six months building as a PPM tool. It’s not a PPM tool. It’s like having a blank sheet of paper. And you’re not really picking the right tool for purpose. So yes, for maybe simple projects, you can get away with it. But there’s no planning functionality in a spreadsheet, you have to build it yourself, there’s no dependency functionality in there, you have to build it yourself. So you’re building all these things yourself. It’s not really multi-user, you don’t really have version control. One of the benefits of a PPM tool really is you have one version of the truth, everything is in one central Cloud-based application, typically. A SaaS product like PM3, where you know the versioning is there, it’s one version of the truth. With the spreadsheets, they get copied, they get different versions. So quite often what happens is different versions or old versions get presented as the current information on a project or set of programmes, and that is very, very dangerous. One of our clients, what they say to their users, is: “I don’t see want to see any highlight report – or any report – unless it’s from PM3. I can then see the provenance of the information where it’s come from”. If it’s in a spreadsheet, it can come from anywhere, it could be made up. And the other factor about spreadsheets is ninety percent of spreadsheets have significant errors in them. They’re great tools. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fantastic tool sets. But they are also, I think, with project management, they are very, very dangerous. And they can have lots of mistakes, you have uncontrolled versions out there. Then you have a situation where you have somebody in an organisation has spent six to nine months building a spreadsheet system, which is basically now masquerading as a PPM tool. Well, the obvious question is, if you’ve got six months to build that tool, what should you be doing in your day job? And if that is affecting the outcome or delivery of a big project, then I would suggest that the total cost of ownership of a PPM tool is a lot less than actually a very, very complex set of spreadsheets.

Amy: And we all know what happens when somebody puts a plus or minus in the wrong place in a spreadsheet. All it takes is for somebody to key in a slightly incorrect calculation. And when that comes out six months down the line, you suddenly realise that you’re £100,000 away from where you should be in the budget. You’ve got a real problem, haven’t you?

David: Yeah. And also, with COVID, what happens is people are emailing around the ether – the Internet – spreadsheets, and people are updating them and emailing them back again. It’s very, very inefficient. And it’s just not a sensible way to go forward.

Amy: Well, yeah, David, and I think that that comes back to one of the biggest pain points, actually, that I hear about from our listeners and our readers at PM Today. And that’s to do not so much with the tools themselves, but with the technology vendor market, and how it’s looking these days. I mean, you know, I know we all know it’s incredibly saturated, incredibly competitive. There is a huge breadth and scope of different vendors and providers out there. I do not envy any practitioner who’s trying to make a decision about choosing a PPM solution for the first time, it must be incredibly confusing. And of course, if you get it wrong, there are significant implications for that. So, what a nerve-wracking thing to have to do! So, from your perspective within the sector within the marketplace, what advice would you give to our listeners in terms of navigating that marketplace and making sure that you make the right decision for your organisation?

David: Yes, you’re absolutely right. It is a very saturated sector. There’s a lot of tools around and there are also a lot of tools that I think are masquerading as PPM tools. And what I mean by that is that they’re not really PPM tools. They’re task management tools. They look very glitzy – moving boards around or tasks around the screen. But that’s fine. And if you’ve got projects or simple projects that require that, then absolutely fine. But if you’re looking for a real PPM solution, which again has resource capacity planning, has sophisticated reporting out of it, and all those other good things…financial management…then those tools are probably not right for you. So, the first thing you need to do when you navigate this market is: look at your maturity or where you are and look at the type of tools that you really need. And look at the marketplace and look at what are the true PPM products out there. In any market there’s small, medium, and large ones, there are some enterprise ones there, which really are…you know…they may be right for you, but there can be multimillion pound implementations. And they may not even respond to your tender or requirements because they only look after the very big organisations. So, you need to look at what are your requirements and look at the marketplace and start to sift out possibly, for example, the more task management systems, which aren’t PPM tools. Also look at, for example, the very, very big enterprise ones. If that’s right for you, again, for your maturity absolutely fine. But for a lot of organisations those are too big, too expensive, too wieldy. And the more functionality they give, sometimes it’s a lower level of success in implementation because the user adoption is so low. So, you’ve got to pick the right tool set. And how do you do that? Well, you then need to look at the partner organisation. Is that partner organisation going to sell me that product, do some training, and then run away for the hills? Or is that partner organisation or the vendor going to be with me for the long-term duration? Because the PPM journey should be a minimum of three years if not longer, really. And for that to happen, then you need to be confident that the partner has the skills, has the expertise. So, do you want somebody for example, who’ll run around the widgets are the application? Or do you want somebody who’s got some project programme management expertise? Who can apply the toolset and relate the toolset to your current situation of running projects and programmes? You also need to be slightly careful because there are a lot of very, very small players in this market. So, do you really want to invest in a product that has maybe two or three people in the organisation? That’s it? With consultancy, that’s fine, you can have two or three people in a consultancy organisation, that’s not a problem. But with the software, especially these days with GDPR, information security…so for example, we’ve invested a lot in ISO 27001. Now, our data centre has it. But really as an organisation, we have it as well, and each year we invest in that, and we invest the cyber essentials. So again, you need to look at not just the set of widgets that a tool is going to provide you. You need to look at how they’ve organised their application architecture, is it is it robust and so forth? Because you’re looking at a long-term journey here. The other important point, I think, is to look at reviews. If you type in the product, type in PM3 review, for example, you can look at review sites, and you can see a general trending of how this company interacts with you, what level of service they provide. And the next point really is, I know it’s basic, but you also need to go and speak to a reference site. And you need to ask them, how they found the product, how they found that vendor. And that’s a very, very important part of the selection process. And most organisations will fit into the medium size, so take out the small ones, take the task management applications, take out the massive ones, and then focus on the ones that are more likely to hit your requirements. So again, what services do people provide? We provide, for example, an implementation process, which includes training, but also mentoring, and of course we have a learning management system around our product as well.  People focus far too much on the widgets in the tool, the functionality of a tool. They need to focus on, yes, the functionality of the tool, but also the partner organisation, the services they offer, the type of company they are, the level of support required, the processes that the company that’s selling the product have put in place to make sure you have confidence that this is a secure product, it’s a stable product. And it’s going to live with us for three, five years going forward.

Amy: Okay, great. Thanks, David. Great advice there. And I really particularly like the message around partnership with your technology solution provider. I think that’s becoming increasingly important, in this day and age as things get more complex in the technology space. It’s funny, isn’t it? I mean, listening to you talking about security, I was just thinking back to ten/fifteen odd years ago now, when the Cloud first started to emerge into the market. And at that time, I remember people were really very, very suspicious of it, this idea of moving from on-premise to a cloud solution. It’s kind of almost turned on its head now, hasn’t it? It’s almost like, if you’re not using a Cloud solution, not only are you going far too heavy with your solution, but you’re actually losing out on all of that work that’s been done to secure the Cloud and make it a really secure hub to hold your data.

David: Yes, I think ironically, if you go to an on-premise solution, when we first started that we did have a couple of clients who were on-premise, but now no client is on-premise. The danger of being on premise is you think it’s a more secure solution because it’s within your own walls, so to speak, but actually, it’s probably a less secure solution. Because if you go to an Azure data centre or data centre in the UK or wherever, then they have invested huge amounts of money in security, you know, physical protection. When we went to visit our data centre, when we first started, it was a bit like going into a NATO facility, it was very, very tightly controlled, who could go in, and the security was very, very high, and quite rightly, that’s their business. So, security is really, really important, and what we offer our clients is, yes, of course the data is encrypted across the internet. But we also offer encryption at rest, which is another level of security that a lot of people want to go for, which is fine. I always think security should be very high up on anyone’s list, both as a private sector, organisation, or public sector, and sometimes I’m quite surprised by the fact that a tender comes to us, and again, it focuses on the functional requirements, can it do this, can it do that. And it doesn’t really ask for, ‘well, send me your certificates for cyber essentials, ISO 27001, show me your certificates for your data centre. That’s really, really important. Because if you have a security breach, that’s serious stuff. That’s very, very serious.

Amy: And just tying into that point, whilst I’ve got the ear of an expert, like you, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about where we’re going with things like AI automation. Talk to me a little bit about automation – because I sense that that’s a bit of a buzzword coming in the PPM sector, you know, automating RAG statuses, automating issue, escalation, risk escalation, even, that kind of thing. Do you think it’s going to start playing a large part in the work that we do? And how do you feel about that? Are there risks attached with that? Is it something that you guys are looking to build into PM3, for instance, is it something that’s already there?

David: It’s a very interesting point, actually automation, because I’m sort of caught between two stalls here. We automate number of things in the product, in terms of RAG statuses, we have up to nine or ten RAG statuses per project, you know, in terms of budgets, or schedules, or risks or stakeholders, and so forth. And it’s very hard for a tool to automate the overall RAG status from the underlying nine or ten. So, for example, your budget may be red, because you’re exceeding budget by 200%. But everything else is green. So, the tool may look at that and think, ‘well, you’ve got eight greens and one red, therefore, overall, it’s green’. But in my view, actually, that project is red, because you are spending a significant amount of money over and above what’s been agreed in your budget. So sometimes it’s difficult to do that automation. And what we do in PM3 on the RAG statuses for example, we objectively define what red and green means for each RAG status. And it’s guidance for the project manager to go through and say, ‘well, this project is 25%. Over the budget currently forecast therefore, I’m now Amber. What you get then is consistency across the organisation in what Red Amber Green actually means. But automating everything around that can be difficult. The other area of automation is around, we often get asked if you’ve got complex workflows in the product. And we don’t because it takes a lot of effort to build complex workflows. And it takes enormous amount of effort to actually then maintain them and change them. So, automation, what we’re doing a PM3 is having some automation, which is requested, almost, like our PM3 Genie where you can click on it, and it’ll give you suggestions on how to improve, for example, your project plan. And I think that’s really, really good because it’s giving guidance. Our philosophy around PM3 is, let’s not try and automate everything. With PM3, we give guidance advice, and we’re helping the project management community and the programme management community do stuff better, by giving advice, guidance, hits, tips and so forth. But to automate everything, I think is a mistake, but where we are going with our product, PM3, is with our PM3 Genie, and giving this advice, guidance, rather than sort of sophisticated automation, I’m not sure it’s going to work yet really.

Amy: And that kind of brings me into the area of sponsorship and governance. Sponsorship is something that I’ve seen emerge over my own time working in the sector. Looking at the process of implementing a PPM solution – so going right back to the beginning, we’ve assessed our PPM maturity, we’re looking at the solution we want to implement, now we’ve actually got to implement it and onboard this and get everyone using it. That looks to me very much like a piece of change management work. And it leads me to wonder to what extent, you feel that strong sponsorship has a role to play in the success of an implementation like this, and of treading a PPM roadmap like this – a PPM maturity roadmap like this. You must deal with Project Sponsors all the time in your work. So, what advice would you have for our listeners who tend to be more on the practitioner side of things when they’re managing those relationships and those parameters?

David: Yes, I think if you’re implementing a PPM tool, it’s a change management exercise. That’s number one. And again, when you’re selecting your tool and your partner, your vendor, are they addressing the implementation as a project, as a change management activity? If they’re not, maybe they’re not the right vendor for you. So, it’s a very, very important change management activity, because you’re introducing a new tool, a new solution, a new process, potentially. And there’ll be a number of people who possibly are wary or change blockers to that particular implementation. So, you need to treat the project as a change project. So, you need to look at what is the compelling need to change? Why is the status quo not acceptable? What’s our change story here, that needs to be articulated and communicated out to the practitioners who will be using PM3, but also the users, stakeholders who will see the reports or view the system online. So, it needs to be a communication and change management activity. So, let’s look at the compelling need to change and also explain the benefits. What’s in it for me? Especially to the project manager, what’s in it for you? Why should I, as a project manager, learn this new tool? Is it yet another thing I have to do? Well, actually, with PM3, for example, we’re saying, we’re not asking you to do anything over and above what you need to do on your daily, weekly, monthly job to run your project. You just do it in PM3. And you don’t do things twice. It’s no data duplication, and all the reporting is automatic. So, it should save you time. And it also allows you to focus on the outcomes of your projects, rather than writing detailed highlight reports, for example. But sponsorship is very important or change champions. So, we have an exec sponsor for the PPM implementation, who’s somebody who’s as senior as possible, really, who can really champion and really drive behaviours. So, it has to be those strong positives about, this is going to really help you, mister project manager, that’s a bit of a carrot, I suppose. And the second thing is, there needs to be a little bit of a stick approach from the sponsors, which say, unless you do it in PM3 you won’t get funding, you won’t pass to the next gate, and I won’t accept it at a governance board meeting. Those are very, very powerful messages that go out to the community. But it really needs sponsorship to walk the talk and stick to their guns really. So, when we do a PM3 implementation, we look for two change champions, one at the senior sponsor level and one at the PMO level. They become our super users, our experts and they’re the people who can help mentor and overcome any potential objections to using the tool from project managers, if you have that in place plus your compelling need to change, good communications, and obviously your implementation plan or your change plan within PM3 itself, of course, then you are on the way to a successful implementation. And if you look at project delivery, generally, the number one cause of project failure is lack of sponsorship. So, if you’re going in as an organisation, you’re buying a PPM tool, and you haven’t got sponsorship, then stop now. Because you’re about to waste your organization’s money, you need to get that sponsorship to be able to drive the implementation through and make sure it’s a success. And again, back to your earlier point, it will only be a success, with all that change management activity, if you pick the right tool, which matches the level of maturity that you need. If you don’t pick the right tool, then even with the right sponsorship, the chances of success will be very low.

Amy:  Okay, David, I think we’ve just got time for me to squeeze one more question in. Just going back to you and your own career with the very extensive experience you’ve had in the PM sector, which you described right at the beginning, if you had one top tip or golden rule that you could share with our listeners that you believe would help them in their careers, what would it be? Not to put you on the spot too much…I’m fascinated to know!

David: Right, I think the golden rule with project management, it’s around the people aspect of things. So, I would say two words: no surprises. So occasionally, you see organisations that they have no Red RAG statuses, so you’re thinking well, everything’s Green, everything’s Green or Amber. That’s very surprising, I suppose. A lot of project managers are very wary, for example, of highlighting problems. And they try and be over optimistic and they think, “well that problem will go away. So, I’ll make it Green or make it Amber”, for example, ‘and in three months, we’ll recover that time, or we’ll save a bit more money or whatever it may be. In my career, when I’m running big programmes and big projects, then I wouldn’t say I would relish putting a Red up there. But if it was an issue that I needed addressing, then Red is a way to get people’s attention. And why people get paid the big bucks on the steering board and the sponsors and so forth, it’s for them to take some decisions. So, if you have a Red on a project, then don’t be afraid to say it’s Red. And we need to make some remedial action. And that is possibly reduce scope or get some more budget or whatever it may be. But the danger of not saying it’s Red too early is that problem, or that potential problem, becomes bigger and bigger and bigger. And when you do eventually have to say, it’s red, it’s blood red scarlet…and then people are very unhappy with that process. So, it’s far better to be upfront early and say it’s Red. However, it’s not just a problem – the solution I recommend, the road to Green, is this. And the chances are, you’ll have a more honest discussion with your sponsor, and your users, rather than trying to hide or obfuscate the real true health of your project by saying it’s Green, or it’s Amber.  So, my advice or my golden top tip would be, be honest, and don’t be afraid to confront some big decisions and say, as early as possible, it’s Red, we need to take some remedial action, this is what I recommend we do.

Amy: Awesome. Well, David, what can I say? I think that’s all we’ve got time for today. But thank you so much for joining me on today’s podcast. It’s a fascinating subject. And I think a lot of things you said could warrant a podcast in themselves. But for today, we’ve come to the end of our time. So, I really appreciate you being with us. Now, of course, anyone who wants to know more about BestOutcome, or PM3 can visit your website. I believe that is And are there any specific areas of the website you would direct them to?

David: Thanks for having me on the podcast, Amy, I’ve really enjoyed it. On our website, we have a knowledge centre, I write lots of blogs, lots of articles around many of the aspects we talked about today. There’ll be some blogs on sponsorship, for example, selecting a PPM tool, the business case for a PPM tool, and a whole range of other blogs and articles are available on there for you to look at and download if you want to.

Amy: And, of course people can always follow you on your social media channels as well, for all the latest from BestOutcome and lots of news and views on the PPM sector. And of course, for those listeners who don’t follow us on a regular basis, you can visit PM Today’s website,, where you can similarly follow us on social media. I also welcome listeners connecting with me on LinkedIn, as the Associate Editor of PM Today. I’m always happy to connect and have a conversation. I think, really all that remains is for me to say thank you once again, David. It’s been a real pleasure speaking to you today.

David: Bye Amy, Thanks very much for having me.

Amy: And for our listeners. Thank you for joining us. We look forward to being with you again very soon on the next PM Today podcast. Bye Bye.

Amy Hatton
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