10/06/2021 | Written by Alessandro Turco

Project Portfolio Management in the IT sector with BPMN and DMN templates

Technology helping run IT projects

Finding a prompt to model business processes and decisions

Here at Cardanit we do our best to offer a Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) and a Decision Model and Notation (DMN) editor that helps you focus more on process modeling and less on the modeling process. We appreciate the value of the standards and we are aware that they are complex.

I recently listened to a podcast featuring B. J. Fogg, the author of the book “Tiny Habits”. He explained one of the key ideas of his research: any action requires a good combination of three elements to happen and those are motivation, ability and a prompt. The more motivation you have, the less ability you need. Vice versa, if you have low motivation, you can do only things that are easy for you. But, in any case, without a prompt, a cue you cannot start moving.

I don’t know whether you love your job or not. Chances are that you do like process modeling if you are reading this blog. However, we designed Cardanit with the aim of lowering the ability threshold. We want to make BPMN and DMN accessible even to those people whose first thought in the morning is not whether a send task is more appropriate than an intermediate throwing message event, or how much a “U” table is clearer than a “F” one. So, motivation and ability are covered. Let’s talk about the prompt.

B. J. Fogg’s lesson reinforced one of our recent considerations: we need to improve the “prompt” part. Together with a renewed editor homepage we decided to partner with valuable consulting firms and to offer ready-to-use templates addressing common and challenging problems. We started from Project Portfolio Management tailor-made for the IT sector by QUIN, an Italian consulting firm we teamed up with.

Project Portfolio Management, an important process to handle the right resources

Project Portfolio Management is a process often left unmanaged, especially in growing and less structured businesses. This quickly results in shortage of resources (human, but also IT and other types of resources, depending on the case), loss of synergies and increasing conflicts. QUIN observed this behavior in several companies and they report that the root causes are often:

  • Missing filter for incoming projects
  • Projects tend to run local optimization of resources without considering the global company-wide optimum. Enterprise architecture suffers the most from this.
  • Project managers are sometimes unaware of possible synergies or conflicts among projects in terms of resources and activities.
  • Top management can't focus on the big picture because there are so many details changing at a high pace.

QUIN relies on established methodologies to handle these situations, some well known and available in the public domain ones like ITIL and COBIT as well as their own proprietary assessment protocols. The BPMN-DMN template they designed for Cardanit is the generalized version of a real workflow modeled for an IT company of around 200 employees.

BPMN and DMN templates to successfully analyze projects

Process template for managing the portfolio Management

The BPMN part explains how to manage the project funnel. The main actor is the Project Management Office (PMO) that is responsible for the management of the portfolio. However, it is not the PMO that instantiates the process: a project can enter the funnel either via a Demand Manager or through the Enterprise Architecture department of the company. In both cases, the PMO carries on the assessment of the project collecting the required information from the stakeholders. A decision gateway determines the path of the project that can be dismissed if it does not align with the company strategy or does not guarantee a sufficient ROI. After the approval, there are some coordination steps to be performed before the assignment of the PM and hence the project kick-off. The “Initiate Project” is a call activity in the template: this is your prompt! Here’s where the specificity of your company starts to count. Create a new diagram tab and map how you would handle this phase of the process. We have also a video to explain how to work with call activities.

QUIN also provided a DMN part for this template. The project approval decision is the central activity in the process. They suggest using DMN decision requirements graphs to decompose the final decision and to highlight the relevant components. Moreover, QUIN suggests a decision logic useful to rationally agree on the output. The final decision regarding the project approval (which is the one performed by the homonymous Business Rule Task in the BPMN model) has two inputs: the “Contribute to strategy” provided by the top management of the company and the “Priority assessment” which is the output of another decision. As you can see in the “Logic” tab, a project is approved if the contribution to the strategy is high (regardless of the score in the priority assessment), or if the contribution is medium and the priority is high or medium. In all other cases the project is dismissed. The logic of the “Priority assessment” decision involves more inputs (Architectural alignment, ROI, Resource availability and Risk level), but it is not more complex. Both DMN tables are of type “U”, meaning that there is one and only one rule corresponding to each combination of input values.

Decision template for managing the portfolio Management

If you are a business analyst for an IT company, or you are a business consultant working on an IT case, you are familiar with these concepts. QUIN experience, but also our experience as a software house, tells that a growing company sooner or later is involved in enough projects to require a proper project portfolio management. The template we offer is a good first step on the path to success. You can play with it and adapt it to your environment: what is a “low”, “medium” or “high” ROI for your company? Use the magic wand to transform the plain tasks into User Tasks and assign them to the right people in your organization. Use another decision table to define the “Risk level” in a clear way (and remember to update the Decision Requirement Graph accordingly). Is this a good prompt to start modeling with Cardanit?

We believe that these BPMN and DMN templates can be helpful also for other industries. With minor changes, they can satisfy the needs of every company willing to switch from local optimization of scattered projects to a global alignment with company strategy and policies.
Contact us if you need assistance with the template in Cardanit and contact QUIN if you need their help in implementing the process.

Alessandro Turco
Alessandro Turco
Alessandro Turco has a PhD in Applied Math from the International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste and a Master in Management from the School of Management of Milan Polytechnic (MIP). He has been working for ESTECO SpA for ten years, starting as a researcher for the Numerical Method Group. He is now the project manager of Cardanit, the BPM solution from ESTECO.
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