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Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt
This blog will be largely about the new Changepoint, a leading provider of on-premise and hosted PPM (Project Portfolio Management) solutions, once owned by Compuware.
Compuware has been spinning off companies, probably under pressure from its investors (but, as far as i can tell, being reasonably careful to find good homes for its children), leaving it with the profitable, but rather static mainframe business and Compuware APM, which itself is poised for growth.
One of these new companies is Uniface, which I’ve already blogged about; another is changepoint and the third is its professional services business, now known as Lochbridge. All three were sold to Marlin Equity Partners, which buys successful but under-performing companies in order to facilitate rapid growth and doesn’t interfere too much in their day-to-day operations. Uniface and Changepoint certainly seem happy with their new owner and I imagine (I haven’t talked to it yet), Lochbridge is too.
Now, with access to new funds, Changepoint has acquired Daptiv Solutions, a leading provider of pure SaaS-based PPM software, to complement and, possibly, modernise Changepoint’s on premise and hosted PPM offerings. This acquisition seems timely to me because, although I like both PPM and Changepoint, neither seems to have gained popular acceptance outside of that group of Enterprise customers that really understands PPM. A SaaS (Software as a Service) offering allows the more visionary evangelists for well-governed business automation to set up a Proof of Concept for their company without incurring significant cost overheads and the associated risks. It may also allow smaller players to join in. That said, I actually believe that SaaS or its variants (PaaS, Platform as a Service, perhaps) will probably become the norm for enterprise computing in the future, although I’m not foolhardy enough to predict when. The idea, with SaaS, of letting the enterprise concentrate on doing (and managing) automated business instead of managing software and hardware simply seems too attractive to ignore
So, what is PPM and why would you be interested? Well, simplistically (but correctly): PPM is about doing the right things, right. According to a paper in the PMI (Project Management Institute) knowledgebase, PPM is the natural evolution of Project Management.
Now, formal project management often doesn’t work very well, for various reasons:
- It is often equated with the use of a particular tool, which may just track timesheets rather than support effective management of anything. Tools can help, but you need management maturity and process (and the right people) first.
- Projects, with the implication that you can break up work delivery into independent efforts with well-defined goals, commitment of well-defined resources, and a definite end-point, don’t really exist (especially for IT work efforts). For a start, projects are related, and several projects contribute to the achievement of a business goal (completion of just one project often doesn’t add value). Then, projects never finish, as their value is almost all delivered during the ‘maintenance’ phase, when the outcome of the project is being used. And, you almost never get 100% of your allocated resources, because your key resource for the current project is probably also a maintenance resource for several other ‘finished’ projects.
- ‘Good’ project managers often manage by charisma and experience and formal project management often just gets in the way. Resources are wasted in bending a tool to deliver plausible Gantt charts and so on; and risk is not recognised until things go wrong and it isn’t controlled well. Presumably, since project management tools are quite common, if they worked, then IT projects would be routinely delivered on time and in budget.
So, why is PPM better? Well, because it manages portfolios of related projects, sharing resources, in support of the strategic business goals of the organisation, which is generally more useful. It tends to use dashboards rather than spreadsheets, and it tends to involve the whole organisation (so, it should help build bridges between IT and the business). And you should be able to manage the evolution of your project portfolio against the evolving business environment.
So, all you need to do is to buy Changepoint and tell people to do PPM? No, people and process maturity come first, before choosing tools—and you may already be achieving a good degree of PPM by, for example, managing continuous delivery of software against business goals, with an end-to-end devops feedback loop (covering business service delivery, not just code delivery) and transparency through dashboards that support business managers as well as IT management. It would be a shame to waste that, if so.
However (and this blog is in no way a technical review of Changepoint; if it were, I’d be looking at how well it supports and complements modern Agile techniques), in the past I’ve formed a good opinion of Changepoint. Once you’ve decided how you want to manage a technology automation portfolio in order to deliver business outcomes, then good tools—and good training—will help you institutionalise your good process; and Changepoint will be worth evaluating.
The new Changepoint company will be larger (some 300 employees, operating across six continents, with over 900 customers and an extended user community. Both the existing Changepoint and new Daptiv product lines will remain and be supported; although there will be some technology cross-fertilisation (I hope). There will be, presumably, an opportunity to streamline operations and the stated aim is to “substantially increase revenues, profit, growth and customer reach/retention”.
According to Brandon Evans, Changepoint Vice President of Technology, “Together, we will maintain, support and advance both product lines. Changepoint is now in the enviable position of having proven world-class software solutions that span across varying delivery methodology requirements of customers, and will continue aggressive development to meet and stay ahead of the ever-changing needs of our markets”.
I wish Changepoint well. More than that, I hope to see wider adoption of PPM approaches generally, in the interests of better-governed IT.