Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
- The right Project Portfolio Management software tool can boost the effectiveness, performance and influence of your PMO significantly.
- With so many different options in the market, making your choice is not easy. When looking for a piece of software, consider the vendor’s business model and experience, and the tool functionality, but don’t overlook other criteria such as usability and scalability.
Which Project Portfolio Management tool is the best fit for you?
The support of the right tools can make or break the success of a PMO. On the one hand, having a robust PPM platform that really fits the needs of the business and creates value for end-users and decision-makers is a proven PPM performance accelerator and will help boost the influence of the Project Management Office. On the other hand, investing energy and money into a tool that fails to deliver the expected value or meet internal expectations may harm the PMO’s credibility severely. Hence, the importance of making sure that the PPM solution of your choosing is the absolute best for your company.
Today’s PPM software market is quite crowded. Organizations large and small have a broad array of diverse Project Management or Project Portfolio Management platforms to choose from — from technology platform extensions to high-end IT solutions, and from collaborative project team software to adaptive enterprise PMO platforms. The sheer number of options may in fact seem daunting! This is why we’ve come up with this blog post, which provides evaluation and choice criteria to help you ensure that your Project Management Office picks the best tool.
The right PPM tool: one of the PMO’s greatest assets
PMOs may come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have something in common: for any Project Management Office, having a powerful PPM software platform is a source of enormous improvement in the management of projects, activities, resources, and portfolios.
The value of Project Portfolio Management software is a vast subject that would warrant a dedicated article, but here is a rapid overview:
A PPM platform offers a central data repository that consolidates all information to make it accessible to all stakeholders in real-time, wherever they are. Audit trail and data backup mechanisms ensure the stability and integrity of the information. In other words, project managers, project team members, and PMOs enjoy flawless visibility over the life of their projects. They can easily find, sort, filter, and compare data in one click, and get the valuable information that’ll help optimize management. All the more, state-of-the-art PPM platforms come with advanced analytics capabilities that crunch the numbers to unearth the powerful insights buried in the data. Data intelligence is particularly important when assessing candidate projects, when considering which projects to prioritize, or when optimizing the make-up of project portfolios.
Across-the-board process optimization
In addition to eliminating the need to waste time searching for information, PPM tools boost productivity by automating a number of other low-value, repeatable tasks and operations — for example reporting. What more, powerful and intelligent resource allocation capabilities help make sure that staff is optimally assigned and that the business makes the best use of its talent. Meanwhile, budget and cost management features are similarly optimizing project management by making sure that every dollar is invested or spent optimally.
We could go on for pages on end about the usefulness of capabilities dedicated to risk management, about PPM tool collaborative features, and so forth. But this is not the heart of the matter here. The important point is, a Project Portfolio Management tool can truly make all the difference in the world.
Different kinds of PMOs
As mentioned earlier, the term “Project Management Office” encompasses a huge diversity of very different roles, practices, approaches, and functions. In fact, one could say that no two PMOs are alike! However, for the sake of practicality, it is possible to classify PMOs into a handful of broad categories.
The Delivery PMO
A first common type of PMO is the delivery-oriented Project Management Office. For this PMO, the mission is clear: projects should be delivered on-time, on-quality, on-cost, and meet the expectations of all stakeholders.They’re actively engaged in day-to-day operations, with a hands-on approach to project management. They aim to do more in less time. They seek to eradicate inefficiencies in order to maximize the productivity of project managers and team members, and they prioritize planning and budget adherence.
The Process PMO
In a quite different vein, the process-oriented PMO is all about the method. They’ll devise and implement carefully thought-out processes and methodologies for the management and delivery of projects and portfolios. They believe in the utmost importance of consistency, accountability, and replicability, so they’ll establish a sound governance for PPM, with clear command and decision chains. They typically place emphasis on standard metrics, best practices, and structured workflows.
The Data PMO
In yet another style, the data-oriented PMO focuses on PPM-related insights. They’re only interested in the process so long as it supports the organizational ability to ensure data quality. To them, data visibility is at the crux. Solid data is the foundation that supports value. This PMO seeks powerful analytics to run value and risk analysis, or to simulate hypothetical scenarios. They typically have — or try to get — the ear of key decision-makers, and they’re usually more inclined to manage at the level of the portfolio rather than monitor the ins and outs of every project.
Here again, this short overview doesn’t quite reflect the sheer diversity of all PMOs out there. Still, it stresses the fact that different PMOs will probably need different tools.
Different kinds of PPM solutions
The PPM tool landscape is no less varied.
Leading enterprise software vendors (you know them: the likes of Microsoft, IBM, SAP, or Oracle) can provide PPM-oriented tools and capabilities to some extent, often in the form of additional modules or extensions to broader-purpose platforms. These do quite a good job for basic project management, and they offer quick and effective fixes for many of the most common business issues. They are helpful to those PMOs who are struggling to secure a budget dedicated to acquiring a proper PPM platform. However, these technology platform extensions typically won’t enable your teams to grow PPM core competencies and are not designed to support process maturation.
The organizations which are not after long-term maturity growth or a highly-structured, functionally robust work environment may opt also for collaborative work management solutions designed to facilitate execution by project teams. Collaborative project team platforms such as Asana and Trello are usually easy to procure and adopt, and can deliver instant impact and ROI. But they don’t necessarily offer adequate capabilities for such activities as resource, portfolio and financial management. And again, they don’t really support formal project management.
Sophisticated IT platforms
At the other end of the spectrum you’ve got high-end IT solutions. These top-shelf platforms provide large and mature enterprises with a full range of advanced, sophisticated features to manage and optimize absolutely everything. But there’s a catch: such IT PPM solutions involve a complex and lengthy implementation process, and steep learning curves may slow down user adoption. And they don’t come cheap.
The last type of solution is possibly the one that best meets the needs of most PMOs. PPM specialists like Planview, Planisware, and our Sciforma provide Adaptive Enterprise PMO platforms that strike the right balance between functional performance and usability. They’ll help the PMO coordinate multiple project teams across different domains. Task management and collaboration features are empowering project managers and project teams. Strategy and portfolio planning capabilities cater to the needs of executive-level decision-makers. All that while remaining comparatively affordable and easy to implement.
What you need to look for in a tool – Key functionalities
To pick the right tool among the countless offerings in the market, another approach is to determine which are the critical features and capabilities that you really need in order to meet your most pressing challenges. Here is an overview of the Project Portfolio Management software functionality that businesses typically find most useful:
Your tool’s resource management capabilities should enable your project managers and your resource managers to get a comprehensive and detailed picture of resource capacity and attributes in order to optimize allocation across multiple projects and programs. The goal is to make sure that financial, technical, and human resources are fully utilized and that each worker is assigned to the projects that’ll make best use of his or her specific skills and competencies.
Financial, budget and cost management facilities are designed to optimize financial value at the level of projects and portfolios. They come with an array of analytics and metrics to assist in ROI and value calculations, and they help project managers track costs and expenses against budget baselines. When properly leveraged, robust budget management capabilities can really help prevent or mitigate budget overruns — a strong point to make to economic buyers!
No one likes risk (do you..?). However it’s a fact of life that we all have to deal with. No PPM software can eradicate risk, but a solid tool will help the PMO anticipate early enough to take preventive or mitigation action. Based on the wealth of project and contextual information that it consolidates, your PPM platform can automatically detect potential problem areas, notify the concerned manager, and even provide smart recommendations.
Strategic project selection
Last but not least, project selection and prioritization are key challenges for many PMOs. In addition to evaluating the potential value, return, and risk of candidate projects accurately, the PMO needs to take into account their strategy alignment — that is, their ability to deliver results and value against the strategic goals and plans of the business. Having the right PPM tool will significantly help by providing data-based insights that’ll guide decisions.
What you need to look for in a tool – Approach & User Experience
While a tool’s functionality is doubtless of key importance, that’s not all there is to consider when making your choice. Here is a short list of some of the key points to check when shopping for a PPM solution tool.
Ease of use
Providing users with quality experience is a must. The usability of your PPM solution will vastly influence the speed and extent of user adoption. Today’s workers have grown used to the kind of seamless navigation experience and one-click machine interaction that smartphones offer. They’ll expect that level of user-friendliness from your PPM platform. Both project managers and decision-makers will particularly appreciate neat and user-friendly interfaces and powerful visualization to see the key data and insights at a glance.
Besides interfaces and navigation, your platform should be accessible to all users — even to those without much technical or PPM background. Ideally, users should find it easy to get to know the tool and perform at least basic operations. This is of key importance. A software tool should be seen as an enabler, as a service even. Not as the result of a PMO whim that’ll actually increase complexity and administrative overhead.
Ease of implementation & Customer Services
In a way, admins are users too. They probably wouldn’t thank you for picking a tool that’ll require months of strenuous work to implement and integrate. You should ideally be able to implement your PPM platform within a few weeks as long as you go for the default settings. This means that you really need to pay attention to the out-of-the-box features of the tools you are considering: if they don’t match your expectations and requirements, you’ll probably have to engage in extensive customization effort, which will delay implementation and benefit realization.
The software vendor who provides your tool should also commit to being there for you and supporting you throughout the implementation process. When in doubt or faced with roadblocks, don’t hesitate to leverage your vendor’s expertise!
You’re probably expecting your organization and PMO to evolve and grow over time. So you need a tool that’s able to evolve and grow with you. Your Project Portfolio Management solution should be able to serve its purpose months and years from now, and be scalable enough to adapt based on user demand and requirements. Pick your solution with growth in mind!
Finally, the Project Portfolio Management platform and vendor of your choosing needs to be able to guarantee the security of your information. Cybersecurity threats are increasingly prevalent worldwide, and new regulatory requirements around the protection of data privacy are raising new challenges for businesses. Cloud-based PPM offers users great flexibility, but don’t forget to cover your bases!
While having the right tool can bring so much to a Project Management Office, we can never stress this enough: investing in a PPM tool that doesn’t fit the PPM needs of your PMO and users is more detrimental than helpful. In order to identify the platform that will meet your expectations, try to really understand what it is that your PMO needs, and carefully examine the respective offerings of the various vendors in the market. In case you need additional insights, don’t hesitate to check platforms such as Capterra or g2 for peer feedback and independent tool reviews. Happy tool hunting!
For more information about PPM tools we recommend: