Stumped on managing projects? Try the One Page Project Manager (OPPM)

When CIOs became CIOs, they may not have thought that full-time project management was a part of the deal.  However, as more and more expectations get pushed into the IT realm and as organizations seek to leverage technology for a competitive edge or to reduce costs, it seems like there are always more projects in the hopper than there are people to do them.

As even the smallest of technology departments moves to embrace more mature project management methodologies, it can be really tough to know where to begin, particularly when one throws managing of the entire portfolio into the mix.  After all, it’s one thing to manage or oversee a single project, but it’s an entirely different beast when one adds the full oversight of the portfolio into the mix.

Decent oversight of the IT project portfolio is critically important to the success of the organization and is an item that should be required under any good IT governance structure, which I discussed in my previous post.

There are any number of ways that CIOs might tackle the seemingly arduous task of completely formalizing the project management discipline in the IT organization.  However, unless major resources come along with the task, Herculean efforts won’t generally be long-lasting.  Me… I prefer a somewhat simpler approach and want to get the following mileage from IT project management efforts:

  • Easy to understand and digest metrics and status of all major initiatives.  Preferably, I’d like a one-page summary, which can be shared with the executive team and project stakeholders.
  • Quick understanding of the major players for each project.  For example, when looking at a specific project, what group or groups are primary stakeholders?  Which groups are secondary stakeholders?
  • Information regarding which projects are at or ahead of budget?  Which projects are facing budgetary challenges and how far off are they?
  • An understanding for how each project aligned with business long-term strategic goals and high level current year tactical goals.

What you see above is a very portfolio-focused executive level look at what I like to see in my own environment.  Of course, project management is about more than just the portfolio.  The portfolio consists of many discrete projects that need to be managed.  In a perfect world, all projects in the portfolio will be managed in the same way and have the same informational outcomes along the way.  Further, the hope is that, with the right management along the way, projects will be successful 100% of the time.

Because the portfolio consists of the many projects that are underway, it can make sense to use the same tool to manage both.  There are hundreds of project management systems out there ranging in price from free to well beyond crazy expensive.  Each separate system has its own strengths and weaknesses and it can take months for an organization to fully integrate with such systems.  In my own dealings, I took a slightly and admittedly less advanced approach, but one that I liked.  Frankly, my organization as not ready for an intensively complex fully automated project management system, nor could the budget support such as purchase.

Through colleagues in higher education, I discovered the One Page Project Manager (OPPM) tool.  For me, I had one of those “aha!” moments when I first saw it.  I could immediately see how OPPM fit together and why, at least to me, it seemed so elegant.

As the name implies, there is a major “one page” nature to OPPM.  In fact, in the book that explains the methodology, the author cautions readers against moving to multiple pages.  For each project, there shall be one page!  In the figure below, you can see a sample from the OPPM web site that shows you what the oversight group recommends as the baseline for an individual project.

This layout provides at-a-glance information about a single project.

  • Major.  Tasks. This section shows the high level tasks for the project.
  • Objectives.  Shows the project objectives that are met by the task
  • Timeline.  Provides information about when the task will be worked on and completed.
  • Cost.  Displays current budget metrics so the project manager can take action if necessary.
  • Owners.  Identifies the various owners of the task.  This identifies who has responsibility.

The OPPM for the PMO

Now, extrapolate this to a higher level.  Instead of showing individual tasks, each line shows a project.  Instead of the objectives showing project goals, the objectives become organizational strategic or annual goals.  Where you see Owners, those become owners of the individual project identified as primary and secondary owners.  This high level OPPM—called the OPPM for the Project Management Office—adds a little additional information per line.  Each project gets capital and operating budget column into which the individual OPPM budget status flows.

Get your own OPPM

You can get your own OPPM templates for a pretty low price, too. The template pack includes great instructions on how to use the tool.  The group also has three books on the OPPM, one dedicated to OPPM for IT.  I’ve read the OPPM for IT book and found it to be an outstanding resource.  If you would rather have a prebuilt environment to do your own OPPM, the OPPM group has created a monthly service that does this for you, too.


Personally, I love the simplicity that OPPM brings to the table.  While incredibly experience PMs may find it too simplistic, those new to the game may find it to be the perfect balance between