The Internet of Things and Portfolio Selection in Oil and Gas

Much has been written of late of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its impact on many industries.  Oil and gas, despite the ongoing price decline, is no exception.  For those of you not familiar with the concepts of IoT, the idea is that moving forward we’ll have a myriad of tiny Internet connected devices embedded in all of our field equipment.  These devices will be focused on monitoring and sending data back to the mothership for review.

IoT always reminds me of a science fair project I did with my daughter a couple of years ago where we had to measure the vibration caused by a solar powered toy when subjected to light of different colors.  To measure the vibration, we simply downloaded a seismograph app onto an old smart phone, then configured it to transmit the data back to a PC for collection and analysis.  In effect, we turned an old junk drawer smart phone into a remote earthquake monitor.

The potential applications in the oil and gas and process space are limitless.  Imagine equipment that knows when it is breached, or functioning sub optimally….or have been subjected to stresses outside of approved operating limits.  A ticket can be issued and a maintenance team dispatched.  That’s at the tactical side of things.  (And, on that topic, here’s a post on scheduling maintenance tickets.)

What about the broader perspective?  What happens when, in monitoring the data, we identify that equipment manufactured by a specific supplier is prone to failure or that we’re statistically having more incidents in a specific location than we should?  Such data prompts an investigation, and more often than not, that results in a project request: a process improvement exercise, a supplier evaluation, an investment in new materials.

This is where we come in with project and portfolio selection.  How does a company implement a structured methodology for assessing the business case of these projects?  How are the investment requirements to support one project balanced against the needs of the overall organization?

After all, what is the point of implementing a sensing mechanism to feed data back to us when there’s nothing in place to structure decisions based on that feedback?

(For more on sensing mechanisms, please check out this post.)

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Strategic Planning as C-Suite Taylorism

I’ve been reading Henry Mintzberg’s The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning of late.  It’s been a bit of a slog, primarily because I’ve been trying to read it on flights (which puts me to sleep) or at my daughter’s roller derby practice (which causes the other parents to mock me mercilessly*).

There’s an interesting thought presented very early in the book that has caused me to reflect a fair bit as I’ve been delivering presentations on strategic planning over the last couple of weeks.  The basic concept is that strategic planning is really an example of Taylorism as applied to the C-Suite.

A quick sojourn into the world of Taylorism…..otherwise known as Scientific Management: this is the concept that all work can be broken down into a series of manual steps.  This work is performed by the workers at the rubber-meets-the-road tier of the organization.  The workers are then watched by the supervisors, whose job it is to ensure the workers follow the agreed upon procedures.  The supervisors then implement the procedures defined by the manager class who by dint of their intellect and college education are qualified to develop the procedures that trickle down.  The entire thing these days and in some sectors smacks somewhat of the Eloi – Morlock dynamic, but in all fairness brings a fascinating perspective to the operating theories underpinning many modern organizations.  In fact, I might propose that most organizations I’ve worked with ostensibly reject the concept of Taylorism while simultaneously building the structure to support it.

Anyways, in a net-centric, information worker type organization, an alternative model has arisen – that of the empowered worker understanding the primary problem to be solved and then working independently or as part of the self directed group to push the goals of the organization.  (See posts here and here…..and this post on Yammer’s role in enterprise project management.)

The  book points out though that attempts to processize the strategic planning, well, process, have repeated the same structure, but this time pushed it upwards into the C-Suite and removed much of the art of strategic planning by replacing it with a mechanism to review goals from last year, adjust and issue a new plan for this year.

Attempts to implement strategic planning processes have removed some of the artistry of planning, and replaced it with a rote set of processes that must be followed at a specific cadence.  We see that with the emerging prominence of two distinct project portfolios:

Reactive Portfolio Proactive Portfolio
  1. Collect the list of requests for the next annual plan.
  2. Prioritize these requests.
  3. Perform constrained optimization.
  4. Release to execution.
  1. Define the long term goals and investment areas for the organization.
  2. Decompose the goals to develop a project portfolio leveraging the principles of enterprise architecture.
  3. Prioritize the project portfolio.
  4. Perform constrained optimization.
  5. Release to execution.

In the first portfolio, the reactive one, we simply have to collect all of the requests from the organization, run them through an analytical hierarchy that was defined per some other set of formal processes, and we have a portfolio.  In the second portfolio, the proactive one, we swap out the sensing mechanism of order taking with one that is a bit more proactive, i.e. mapping fundamental strategic change to the scope of the projects in the annual plan.  Regardless of which portfolio you support, the general premise however is that if we follow these two approaches to the letter, we will have success in our strategic planning.

So the question now becomes, if Taylorism has been widely rejected in many information worker organizations, and if strategic planning is merely Taylorism writ large, then what would a rejection of Taylorist strategic planning processes look like?  Well, it might look a lot like decentralized program or asset based planning.  Specifically, funds would be allocated flexibly to the asset based off a prioritization matrix that identifies the importance of the asset and how well the asset is meeting its target performance.  (See this post on the program as a benefits management framework.)

Each asset would then be owned by a specific individual, a program manager who would be responsible for allocating funds to best guarantee the asset meets the needs of the organization.  The prerequisite for this to work?  A clear definition of where the organization would like to go – and how each asset supports that definition.  Note how this structure meets a clear need, that of transferring ownership of the project and the defined initiatives to the teams responsible for doing the work.

That is what a strategic planning function would look like if we designed it in a manner consistent with the principles of modern information worker process design.


*…despite my protestations that reading a book like that at roller derby practice reflects the duality of man…you know, the Jungian thing).

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Project Online: Step 1…Kill the Default PWA Site

After more than a year of watching folks adopt Microsoft’s Project Online, one thing we’ve noticed is that most organizations tend to have multiple Project Web Apps (DEV, PROD, Marketing, IT, etc.).  Additionally, many organizations prefer to modify the default URL to something that’s a bit more user friendly, i.e. the default site often becomes /sites/projects or something like that.

The issue is that the default button within Project Online is hardwired to go to the URL.  If that site is deleted, that button becomes useless.


One thing that we’re recommending as the standard then is to delete the default Project Web App (preferably before anyone has configured it.)


After deleting it, provision a new team site at that location, i.e. with the same url:


Grant access to everyone in the organization to this page.  And now you can create a couple of PWA sites.


….and add those links to our site at /sites/pwa.  You now have a project landing page hooked into the navigation button that can be used to redirect folks as appropriate.


Posted in Admin, Project Online, SharePoint | Leave a comment

[Utilities] PMO Strategies & Capital Investment Governance Webinar

Excited to announce this upcoming utilities-focused webinar on March 12 (2:00-3:00 EST) with UMT and Frank LaRocca, Director of Business Improvement Services for ConEdison.

  • Learn from ConEd’s experiences and insights on building governance and an enterprise PMO for multi-billion dollar capital investment portfolios.
  • Hear about the latest innovations in agile operating models that deliver and exceed historical performance across electric, gas and steam operations.

For more information, to register and/or to see the case study, please click here.

Posted in Events, PMO, Portfolio Management | Leave a comment

Know Microsoft Project? Move to Colorado

From Governor Hickenlooper’s State of the State speech:

We have launched an initiative that pulls together state resources from several departments, with the single-minded objective to assist long-term unemployed workers find work.

People like Wendy Stedman.

Last year, Wendy walked into a Colorado Workforce Center in Centennial and enrolled in the Dislocated Worker Program. A veteran who served this country honorably, she had lost her job working in I.T. and communications systems.

Wendy’s workforce specialist provided her with resume and interview skills coaching. Together, they determined she would be more marketable with some specialized training.

Wendy was approved to attend Microsoft Project certification classes, and her previous employer re-hired her as a Technical Project Manager.

Please join me in asking Wendy to stand so that we can congratulate her on her new job and thank her for strengthening Colorado’s economy.

The investments we make in our workforce development programs benefit not only the long-term unemployed but also employers and the entire state.

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Want Value from Prioritization? Stop Focusing on Prioritization

What’s the best way to prioritize projects and initiatives within the portfolio?  This is a common question – with equally common answers.  Usually, the response is to implement a structure that maps projects to strategic initiatives.  Increasingly, the answer is that projects should be mapped to programs and programs to strategic assets.

The problem, of course, is that simply prioritizing your projects doesn’t do a whole lot.  The real question is what do we do with that prioritization?  What are the data points we need to support the prioritization.  At the end of the day, the goal is not prioritization itself but to ensure that organizational resources are applied to the correct work.  To ensure we get value from the prioritization exercise, we need to see how that influences downstream decision making.


Hence, we want to look at the downstream impact of the prioritization exercise.  How will the work prioritized in the portfolio management process be integrated into the work of the various organizations doing the actual execution? If we don’t have clear line of sight into that process, then improving the prioritization mechanism will yield minimal value to the enterprise.


From the resource perspective, the general goal is to provide clarity on the entire work queue – what are all of the requests outstanding and in what order should those be performed.  From an organizational portfolio analytics standpoint, the general goal is to understand what that resource is working on, and to translate that into meaningful terms at the top of the enterprise.

Similarly, what are we prioritizing except organizational constraints?  How do we know those constraints unless we’ve already accounted for ongoing commitments and work in progress?  What are we prioritizing if we don’t include the work in flight in our assessment of how to support changing business priorities?

Note that I’m not diminishing the importance of prioritizing the project portfolio.  In fact, I generally recommend that as the first step in establishing a project management framework.  The trick is not to stop with prioritization, but to treat that as the start of the journey – and to understand how it ties in with all of the other processes within the overall framework.  That’s how to get value from prioritization.


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Adding Tasks to the Timeline with VBA

Toodling around in MPP 2013 today and came up with this quick code.  It runs through each task and adds the ones flagged in the Flag1 field to the timeline.  Note this is barely tested – and I would assume it needs to be run on a view where the timeline actually appears.

Sub AddTasktoTimeline()

    Dim T As Task
    For Each T In ActiveProject.Tasks
        If T.Flag1 = True Then
            SelectRow Row:=T.ID, RowRelative:=False
            SelectRow Row:=T.ID, RowRelative:=False
            TaskOnTimeline Remove:=True
        End If
    Next T

End Sub

Posted in Project Desktop, VBA | 1 Comment