PIEMatrix: Projects as Processes, not Tasks
by Paul Dandurand, PIEmatrix
This chapter will describe the attributes of new cloud-based software called PIEmatrix. This may inspire you to learn more about new technologies in the market and their contributions to making business life easier with visualization and knowledge sharing.
PIEmatrix is a growing company that provides solutions for turning complex projects into smart, dynamic, and repeatable processes that drive effectiveness. What’s new is that PIEmatrix takes a process and visual focus on project management. This means the approach to projects is not task focused like other traditional tools, but rather drives the right path for a successful project outcome with better processes.
What Is the Tool? PIEmatrix
PIEmatrix is a simple and powerful web-based platform that companies can deploy across their organizations’ functional areas, such as HR, product marketing, sales, finance, operations, etc. It’s made visually easy for non-project experts and therefore friendly to people outside of IT.
In new product development (NPD) functions, projects are iterative in that after you complete one project, you then go at it again with a follow-up product and so on. In addition, organizations that have short time to market need processes that are very similar from one project to another to be efficient. Because these types of projects are repeated, companies can establish standard processes for execution that drive effectiveness.
These repeatable processes would include common phases, steps, roles, and deliverable file templates. Furthermore, since all projects are relatively complex, they can have multiple process streams that run in parallel. For example, an NPD lifecycle could have the first process for project management, the second for product ideation, prototyping, and development, and a third for compliance preparation and regulatory auditing. All of these are done in parallel across the phases of the project’s lifecycle.
The PIEmatrix model visually displays these process streams as stackable“layers” and the phases of the lifecycle as “pie” slices, hence the name “PIEmatrix”. “PIE” represents the top-view slices like that of a pizza pie, and “matrix” represents the layers that intersect the slices like flipping the pie onto its side and seeing the cheese, sauce, and crust in each slice. The layering of the stacked processes can be viewed as subprojects. This makes it easy for certain team members to visually focus on their own subproject (process layer) during execution without being overwhelmed by the entire complexity of the overall project or program.
PIEmatrix has a dashboard that visually displays the project pies graphically on a single page showing progress and milestone indicators in real time. The simple color codes show the progress of different states. Dark green represents what is completed, and light green means in progress. Yellow means risk (check it out before it gets worse), and red means trouble (solve me today).
Finally, PIEmatrix is made for all the people working on or having some stake in the project. It has easy-to-follow steps with knowledge tips for assigned work. There is a built-in team collaboration system with messaging and email notifications. It also provides personal to-do lists and calendar pages for a quick view of what’s hot on your plate this week.
What Are the Benefits of this Graphical Technique?
- Creates an “alive” organization that adopts best practices very quickly
- Increases efficiency because it provides a lightweight process framework
- Produces effectiveness since the work being done has the right steps for success
- Allows management to simultaneously see the big picture and dive into the details
- Provides an executive dashboard for free as a simple outcome of project reporting
Which Business Problems Do We Solve?
This tool solves many business problems that have prevented companies from getting innovative products to market more quickly. These problems include unpredictable project execution, insufficient project metrics and program management, lack of consistent and smart product development processes, underutilized cross-functional teamwork, and the age-old problem of repeating mistakes (lack of organizational learning).
Predictable project execution is achieved by applying the core principles of planning and execution with best or proven practices. Planning can be improved with this tool because there are both a set of standard processes for launching a project and a set of processes for project planning. PIEmatrix has a built-in planning tab for managing process steps, dates, and people assignment. This is done either in a Gantt view or a people-list view.
The PIEmatrix structure is perfect for process streams on large projects where different groups focus on different processes, yet they are still dependent on each other. The cross-functional dependencies are clearly represented by the layers of pies that comprise the total project, and it is easy for management to see where there are possible breakdowns and act before they occur.
Finally, because it is easy to incorporate new learnings into the PIEmatrix framework, it encourages teams to do so. Because all teams use the same model, the teams that pass through the phase where the new learnings were inserted must now adopt it. Knowledge dissemination is instantaneous.
What Are some Considerations?
Implementation of a system this comprehensive can have risks if the upfront investment is not done properly. It’s recommended that a targeted quick-win project be done first in a contained group (functional). This presents a focus on what to target for the first process. Expect a fair amount of time to invest in building complex, key processes. The best approach is to start with a simple process for immediate execution. The teams can then add more complexity to the process over time. The PIEmatrix real-time dynamic deployment feature makes it really easy to enhance the best-practice process continuously over time.
If the organization has a high degree of process sophistication with documented processes, then this is not a large barrier. However, if an organization is not accustomed to process management, it will require some effort (and behavior change) to get PIEmatrix deployed across the enterprise.
Most importantly, it takes leadership to instill a culture of discipline, recover from stumbles, and continue the path toward improvement. Having top leadership support is essential for success.
A large software organization was using this tool in their engineering department to manage employee-training programs around the world to help solidify the recently installed global development process. The key problem was that employee turnover (changing to new jobs, shifting out of engineering, or leaving the company) had a significant impact on the consistency of training quality to engineers and managers. The firm chose PIEmatrix to help capture the organizational knowledge and minimize the impact of the loss of knowledge as people moved on.
Below is a generic visualization of a stack of five projects in a five-phase project management system. The Axis project represents an initiative to capture post-mortem project data across the company using a project-history approach. The Axis project has an issue because the train-the-trainer materials are not complete yet (red indicator), but otherwise all the projects are running without issues. The Finance Integration, which is to train all project managers on how to create project budgets, is ahead and has completed nearly two thirds of the Define slice (phase). On the left-hand side of the visualization, there are navigation bars that can lead you to metrics and project data summaries.