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Automating governance using PPM

One of the most important functions of Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is to gain better control of projects and give proactive warning signs to project managers and executives when projects start to go off track.

A critical question we often get asked by clients is how the governance process of a PPM can be automated to ensure ease and efficiency with compliance across the whole business. Workflow automation has dramatically changed our perspective of work. What began as an email automatically sent from one person to another has evolved into the automated completion of unproductive, redundant, manual processes faster and more accurately than a human could perform them. To answer this question, we must first define PPM Governance and its benefits to business process flows.

What is PPM Governance

PPM governance is the framework, functions and processes that guide tasks and activities in project, program and portfolio management.  It provides guidance and aids decision-making and oversight while leveraging the use of software to automate repeatable, multi-step project transactions. Business process solutions tend to be complex, connected to multiple enterprise IT systems and tailored specifically to the needs of an organisation. A business process can be any set of activities that help a business reach a specific goal. In the context of PPM automation, it’s a set of repeatable project tasks involving a series of steps touching multiple levels of projects and managers. It is becoming more common for organisations to apply Business Process Automation (BPA) driven by continuous improvement of technology and rapid innovation as part of a digital transformation strategy to streamline their workflows and operate more efficiently.

Stage-gate approach

The stage-gate approach is a conceptual and operational road map for moving a project from conception to launch. It takes large goals and breaks them into smaller, more manageable stages. In this scenario, each phase must be completed before additional resources are applied to a subsequent stage. This allows focus to be directed more clearly on achieving goals, preventing time wastage, enforcing discipline and preventing errors.

At each ‘gate’, you must ascertain whether you have completed the steps in the current stage that will allow you to move on to the next by deciding on one of the following actions: Go, Kill, Hold, Recycle.

If the current stage has been satisfactorily completed, the Go option gives it the green light to move to the next phase.  Conversely, the Kill option is a red flag indicating that there is no reason to invest any more time and to shut it down.  Hold tells stakeholders that, although the project is viable, it is not yet ready to move to the next stage. Recycle says the project may be developed further if certain changes in scope are made. Each of these stages can make or break a business process flow.

What is business process flow?

The sequence of stages of a project and the steps that are necessary to complete each of those stages make up a business process flow. These steps comprise the actions, resources, deadlines and outcomes of a project. 

Business process flows can be linear or parallel. A linear flow is a process flow that starts and finishes nicely and neatly. A parallel flow is when business process flows trigger other business process flows, or you have multiple parallel stages or steps happening concurrently.

Whichever flow is occurring, it can progressively get more complex to accommodate. Process flows additional financial approvals for selected stages.

How to use Business Process Flows in PPM

Having strong business process flow is an effective way of promoting continuous improvement and agility while also embedding good governance.  In PPM it allows you to standardise processes so that all stakeholders know exactly what those processes comprise and how to get them done while ensuring consistent compliance. It also gives you the agility to identify your bottlenecks, the costly blockages that slow projects down, and quickly assign resources to fix them. As we know, projects can scale up and they can scale down, so a clear business process flow can help in the onboarding and offboarding of resources during these fluxes. 

Microsoft Workflows past and present

In 2016, Microsoft introduced a way of creating and managing automated workflows between apps and services. They called it Microsoft Flow. This simple tool allowed organisations to connect apps and services through the tasks and processes that drove them, whether simple or complex.  At the time, it turned the growing SaaS industry into opportunity with the ability to fully automate and customise workflows running in the background. 

Fast-forward to 2022, and the newly badged Power Automate platform is doing even more to automate workflows across your favourite Microsoft applications such as Dynamics 365, SharePoint, OneDrive and Teams, allowing cloud-based automation for everyone exactly where they need it.

Utilising Microsoft Power Automate in a PPM context requires a bit of organisational self-reflection to identify your plan of attack.  To do this you must follow these steps:

  1. Pick your processes. Identify the procedures that are inefficient, repetitive, overly complicated or too costly, and rank them to choose your top candidates for automation.
  2. Do your research. How have other organisations automated similar processes? Consider your choices for building and implementing automated workflows—will you call in IT professionals, or can citizen developers in your company use a low-code workplace automation tool to build their own powerful automated workflows? Work out your key performance indicators and how you’ll measure success.
  3. Manage change and drive adoption. After launching your new workflows, it’s important to make sure they’re adopted across the company—the more people who use automated workflows, the more effective they’ll be.
  4. Communicate with and train your employees. Make sure everyone knows that new tools are in place to help make their working lives easier. Provide the documentation, training and recognition they need to make adoption easy.
  5. Evaluate and refine. Immediately start to measure the success of your new processes. By keeping track of predetermined key performance indicators, the effectiveness of automated workflows will become clear, and you’ll be able to make appropriate adjustments.


Gaining control of processes is one of the most important functions of Project Portfolio Management (PPM), and workflow automation has dramatically changed the way we manage projects. By governing the framework, functions and processes that guide tasks and activities in project, program and portfolio management, we’re able to remove repetitive and mundane tasks and streamline the business process flow.

Having strong business process flow is an effective way of promoting continuous improvement, strong governance and agility while standardising processes so that all stakeholders know exactly what those processes comprise and how to get them done.

We have helped many organisations embrace the automation of project governance, and we would be happy to provide further insight and expertise into how you can best do this for your business.

For more on the subject of automating project governance, catch our webinar on the subject here.

Please reach out to us here and we will be happy to advise and showcase to you why project governance is certainly worth your consideration.

By Briana Hughes

Delivery Manager

Briana has 7 years of experience working in multiple delivery roles across many industries. Briana has a passion for PPM, which is complemented by her background in technology and desire to improve the way clients work while leveraging technology automation.