046 – Process, Data & Maturity: is it BS or does it really matter?

046 – Process, Data & Maturity: is it BS or does it really matter?

We all  assume that following process, better data and improved maturity will fix all our PM issues. That make sense, but is it true? What does the data say?

This was our question last fall going into PMO Symposium. Then we realized, we’d be surrounded by hundreds of amazing Project and PMO leaders who could help us understand this better! So, we engaged with 65+ Project and PMO leaders to collect data measuring different aspects of project success, what processes & tools they used (or didn’t) and what data they used. Some of the answers were just as you may expect – but a number of them were really surprising!

In this episode, we walk through the findings of that study.


We also recorded a video version of this podcast so you can see the graphics – check it out here Be aware though – this is a raw cut of the video – bloopers, doorbell rings, f-bombs and all

You can also download a copy of the presentation, here.



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Check out this episode!

Show Notes

Process and tools [3:18]

Process, tools, and system integrations are often unrealistically heralded as the way to fix everyone’s problems. But the problem is, they often don’t, at least not on their own. Sometimes they’re helpful, and sometimes they’re not, so Kim and his team sought a way to quantify this phenomenon.

Survey Background [5:35]

At PMO symposium, Kim and his team put together a survey for project leaders. Those surveyed included project managers, managers, directors, and executives- almost all of them, interestingly, were in leadership positions. The idea was to get actual data about what processes actually really helped projects be successful. The data that came back was interesting in many aspects- some of it raised more questions, and some of it created very strong correlations. Here, we’ll walk through those results (and offer some slides, if you’re watching our show on Youtube).

The Survey:

How does your organization view Project Management in your organization? [8:45]

15% of respondents said Project Management was perceived as a road block that made everything more complicated, and 38% thought that Project Management was purely administrative in nature. This means more than half of those surveyed saw Project Management either as unhelpful or purely administrative. 28% felt their organization saw Project Management as a project enabler, and 19% saw it as both an essential function and a core competency of what they do.

How does the maturity of Project Management correlate with project success? [11:37]

Maturity refers to the ability of the organization to make qualified decision and administer repeated processes, versus working more ad hoc and “fighting fires.” As it turned out, there is a slight correlation with maturity and project success, but it was not dramatic.

An interesting way to think about this is when questioned about how many fires they had to fight- surprisingly, it’s a pretty similar number irrespective of maturity. This raises the question too, if those more mature organization actually encounter more fires, or if they are simply more sensitive to them than less mature ones. Regardless of this, it does prove one thing- everyone fights fires.

How does process compliance correlate with project success? [18:01]

Does following process make you more successful? Results found that following process created a 4 times improvement in ability to close a project (and very slight improvements in other project success criteria such as scope).

How does project data quality correlate with project success? [21:23]

We saw that quality of data contributed to 62% better resourcing, 33% better customer satisfaction, and 5 times better ability to close projects.

How does have PM tool integrated with other systems correlate with project success? [23:45]

It was found that in some aspects of project success, such as scope, there wasn’t a clear correlation. It did, however, have a correlation with increased customer satisfaction. We postulated that this had to do with seeing processes better and increased delivery.

Having no tooling also had the greatest correlation with having more fires to fight. We postulate this has to do with ability to plan projects effectively.

How does tracking time sheets correlate with project success? [26:53]

There was no correlation found between the use of time sheets and project success. So, implementing time sheets won’t save you, from a project success point of view (although, you may still need to track these for financial or other reasons).

How does tracking project financials correlate with project success? [28:12]

This was the stand out result of the survey- in every single measure of project success, you are better off if you track financials. We think this allows you to have a better sense of which decisions are better, and that it gives you a way to quantify the problem. They can also help facilitate discussions with sponsors and stakeholders.

The results [33:00]

So, what we’ve found is that some of these, like tracking project financials, might be effective ways to increase project success. However, you shouldn’t rely on tools to let you fight less fires.

So why is this? The feedback loop [36:00]

Looking at the data, we tried to come up with a theory to explain why we got the results we did. We came up with what we call the feedback loop, that when your management team looks into your systems and they see useful data, they will be more interested in using it. Because of this, project managers put more effort into this data. This creates a positive feedback loop, and the management team can make more informed, good decisions.

Key Takeaways [39:10]

  • There will always be fires to fight, regardless of maturity
  • It’s worth the efforts to drive data quality, as it does correlate with project success
  • Better process quality increases 4 to 5 ability to fight fires
  • Overall, aim for better project financials, as that has the strongest correlation with project success

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