Selecting a Project Portfolio Management (PPM) Solution: Three Key Criteria
By Tushar Patel
Project Portfolio Management (PPM) software will bring several benefits to any organization, regardless of size, industry sector, or maturity. PPM software will increase your visibility into the work your resources are executing, enable you to prioritize new work that is being requested, make your organization run more efficiently and ultimately increase the ROI of your projects, resources, and applications – resulting in greater business value. When choosing a solution and vendor, there are several criteria that should be evaluated, here are my top three:
#1 – Top-Down Portfolio Approach
I hear time and time again that CIOs and PMOs struggle with demonstrating business value – one reason is because they are hyper focused on execution. Execution is important, in fact, it is really, really important (more on this later). However, I would argue that strategically planning your projects and resources before you start execution is even more important.
A top-down portfolio approach begins with organizational goals or initiatives and then works down towards execution of projects and tasks—ensuring first that you are initiating the right work at the right time, then worrying about getting it done on-time and on-budget. It is a strategic approach that unlocks more business value by helping you answer important questions:
- Are we working on and investing in the right projects?
What are our people or resources working on?
Are we aligned to the corporate or organizational goals?
What is our contribution to the organization?
Once these questions are satisfactorily answered, then organizations can focus on execution and efficiency in the project delivery stage. A true top-down PPM solution will have a unique set of features such as flexible portfolio hierarchies for both projects and applications, organization-wide resource demand and planning, public dashboards for stakeholders, and support for waterfall and agile projects.
#2 – Focus On Resource Management
Resources are an organization’s most valuable asset and it is critical that they focus on the right work at the right time to deliver the highest value from their projects. Resource capacity is typically one of the biggest challenges in any organization. More often than not, we do not have enough resources to complete the work that is being requested of us. For sustained competitiveness, it is imperative to take a hard look at resource efficiency, optimization, cost savings, or increasing alignment to the business. Take this for example, a 1% efficiency increase for 150 resources results in approximately $200,000 or 3,000 hours of annual savings. What could your organization do with that?
It is critical that your PPM solution have robust resource management capabilities – most specifically, predictive planning, adaptive execution, and tracking for accurate measurement.
Predictive Planning: Ability to leverage predictive analytics to analyze, plan, schedule, and optimize resources to achieve maximum benefit or value for the organization. A robust planning solution will identify resource gaps and recommend project roadmaps based on resource capacity.
Adaptive Execution: Once you have a plan, it is bound to change due to market shifts, competitive actions, or customer’s (executives) simply changing their mind about what is important. A PPM solution should enable you to be agile with resources in the execution phase; tools that help re-allocate resources, make adjustments to the plan using what-if scenarios, and simplify requesting resource approvals should be high on the requirements list.
Tracking / Measuring: How do you ensure that your project portfolio had an acceptable ROI if you cannot accurately measure actuals? Having the ability to track how much was actually spent on approved projects enables PMOs to demonstrate their contributions. This all starts with your resources. Ensure that your PPM solution makes it easy for the organization to get accurate data. Ask your vendor if they support casual time user licenses or if they have a mobile solution for users to track and log time. These might seem small, but can make a big difference when gathering accurate data.
#3 – Internal Implementation & Integration Team
If you are looking to implement PPM software, you have recognized that your organization is in need of some change or improvement. In fact, implementing PPM software is really a change management process because if done correctly you will be making incremental improvements that will result in major benefits for your organization. Depending on your organization’s culture, this process may or may not be easy. Either way one thing is for certain: your PPM software vendor should have an internal implementation and integration services team to help with product adoption. The software is only part of the solution, the other part is the vendor’s people. The people, most specifically the services organization, will ensure a smooth and successful rollout of your PPM initiative. A few questions that you should ask about your vendor’s services team:
- What is their philosophy and approach?
Can they support your specific post-sales needs?
Do they have a proven, prescriptive approach?
Are they an internal resource or from a 3rd party?
While there are no perfect answers, a few things to look for would include an experienced team, an approach that starts with learning about your business challenges, an implementation process that follows a plan-configure-deploy approach, and vendors who provide services in a fixed-bid approach – so you do not get nickel and dimed down the line.
So, why only three key criteria? I have not focused too much on execution – arguably the most important criteria of project portfolio management. Execution capabilities within a PPM solution are table stakes. All PPM solutions must support managing projects, tasks, and milestones from within a consolidated interface, and enable some basic reporting of project health, risks, and status.
The true power of PPM multiplies when you put together the elements of top-down planning, resource management, and implementation with execution. As you narrow your search for the ideal PPM solution and vendor, think beyond just execution of projects and challenge yourself to think holistically if your goal is to increase the business value to your organization.
Tushar Patel is Vice President of Marketing at Innotas. Innotas is a leader in Leader in cloud solutions for Project Portfolio Management and Application Portfolio Management.