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Spiral Adoption

Chasing the Rainbow

Today’s Project Portfolio Management Software packages have incredible features to help teams collaborate and visualize their project based work like never before. Some of the best are also intended to be customized to meet specific business terminology and events. Given that resources and schedules are often shared, this powerful combination of insight and adaptability can help companies reach an elusive goal that faces every PPM Software implementation: how can you increase adoption across related departments?

Provide and Conquer

This diagram illustrates "Spiral Adoption", a new techique I developed on a recent project. Here’s how it works.

Dept A licensed Workfront for their On-Demand Project Management Software, entered their data, and used it to generate the status of their Project based work. Several Related Departments relied on the Dept A data but for a variety of reasons did not have direct access to the Project Managment Software. To share the data, Dept A generated a Daily Extract to Excel and posted it on the network. The Related Departments pulled copies of the Extract, transformed it to suit their own needs (e.g. dropping certain columns and rows), added their own updates (e.g. new status values, revised dates, % complete), and created their own Excel based reports (e.g. pivot tables, summary tabs). Unfortunately, despite these best efforts, the process was time consuming, inefficient, and prone to wasteful confusion caused by stale-dated reports.

Given the realtime nature of the data and excellent reporting features, Dept A quickly became recognized as the most current and reliable source of Project information. Management wanted to consolidate both the timing and the format of their reports. They asked Dept A to add extra custom data fields to cover the key data points from the other departments. There were thousands of Tasks already being tracked and edited within the Related Departments. To minimize the impact on those teams and avoid data entry errors, we used a web-based applet that let Dept A users upload an Excel file of edits from the Related Departments straight into Workfront.

In short, the Project Management Software effectively widened to accomodate Dept A, B, C, and D, giving Management the comprehensive reporting they were after, but without substantially impacting how the Related Departments were performing their work.


There were some very interesting and pleasant side effects to the Spiral Adoption technique:

  • Dept A now prepares for review meetings by exporting the rows and columns they need to Excel, editing on the fly in Excel during the meeting (faster, no internet required), and then uses the Excel Uploader to push up the changes
  • Dept B moved all of its data needs into the Project Management Software, became full fledged users themselves, and dropped their entire extract > update > Excel loop
  • Dept C created a tailored view of only their information and effectively owns and administers that data via the Excel Updater
  • Dept D has no immediate plans to change their processes, which is fine because…
  • Management now has regular, reliable, comprehensive reporting across the departments

The Spiral Adoption technique offers a way to consolidate data without duress, and instead win over additional departments on merit, over time. If you’d like to know more about the Excel Updater for Workfront, please drop a comment to this article.