In Depth: PPM Tools Comparison: How to Choose the Right One
Learn what to look for in a PPM tools comparison based on your organizational maturity (as defined by Gartner), goals, and needs.
Step 3: Consider Current, Near Future, and Extended Future Goals
The road to project portfolio management maturity is not a straight line, nor is it a succinct series of predetermined steps. PPM capabilities can only evolve at a pace that considers an organization’s tolerance for change. Goals may shift as other priorities take precedence and certain capabilities may be more easily adopted than others at any given time.
Here are the most typical goals in implementing a PPM solution, arranged from those that require the least amount of change to the most:
- Centralization of projects
- Resource management and time tracking
- Work intake, demand management, and prioritization
- Project budgeting and financials
- Investment and capacity planning
- What-if analysis and portfolio optimization
- Strategic alignment and continuous planning
To reduce the risk of having to reevaluate tools later, consider goals along a continuum. What is “must have” immediately, near future, and extended future? What is “nice to have” along the same timeframes? The ability to prioritize goals will aid in selecting a solution that can scale to meet those goals as the organization becomes ready to take on additional capabilities.
Step 4: Compare Features
All PPM software is not created equally. To effectively achieve the above goals, certain software features should be present.
- A simple, highly functional user interface: If the tool isn’t easy to use, few will utilize it. Make sure the user interface is customer-configurable to provide the data that users and business leaders need most.
- Applications that are optimized for collaboration and communication: Cloud-based PPM applications ensure easy access to real-time data, enabling team members and leaders to easily see who is working on what, bringing accountability and transparency.
- Options for visualizing and organizing projects: The selected PPM solution should provide a high-level, global view regarding the progress and sustainability of multiple projects. When information is arranged in a meaningful way, it builds momentum and creates a framework for realistic views into project performance.
- Functionalities to effectively manage resources: Demand and capacity planning is pivotal in project portfolio management. Find a PPM solution that offers the ability to create “what-if” scenarios and offers time tracking to not only allocate resources more effectively but to understand context and interdependencies.
- Robust reporting and analytics: Data-backed decisions require historical and real-time data that enable forecasting and roadmapping for more predictability. Customer-configurable dashboards and reports should provide just-right data for each stakeholder.
- Supportive of different work methodologies and organizational needs: Because teams often work differently to fulfill the needs of the organization, a PPM solution must be flexible and versatile while still serving as the single source of truth.
Step 5: Compare Features
Many organizations seek the research and guidance of peer review sites, such as IT Central, TrustRadius, and Peer Insights before making decisions. Consult industry analyst firms such as Gartner, IDC, and Forrester.
Gartner is a preeminent authority on many business processes and tools, including PPM software. Its annual Magic Quadrant for Project and Portfolio Management evaluates and ranks top PPM software providers based on their ability to execute and completeness of vision, delineating each vendor as a PPM “Leader,” “Challenger,” “Visionary,” or “Niche Player.”
Keep in mind, the goal is to bring together projects and resources in a single project portfolio management solution. Project management “tools” will address only part of the program and won’t enable ongoing growth into prioritization, planning, work intake, and demand management. Look for a purpose-built PPM solution that provides consolidated functionality that can scale and grow as your needs change.
Step 6: Evaluate the Ongoing Support Offering
All of the features and capabilities in a project portfolio management solution are nothing if they aren’t implemented and utilized properly.
The PPM provider must offer varying levels of support in order to maximize the effectiveness of the solution, both during implementation and as needed as the organization adopts new software capabilities.
The best service offerings will provide 24/7/365 online support that includes a virtual training center with various tutorials, videos, community discussions, and even virtual workshops with experienced consultants.
Step 7: Access Scalability
An investment in a project portfolio management tool should be for the long term. No organization wants to undergo the evaluation and implementation of a new product on a regular basis. The goal should be to find a PPM tool that can grow as the company evolves and objectives change. Even if certain capabilities seem to be years down the path towards adoption, it is better to choose a solution that provides that functionality now than to outgrow the software and have to start over.
Step 8: Understand Integration Capabilities and Ease
One of the best ways to optimize the full capacity of a project portfolio management solution is to ensure it can integrate with other systems and applications, such as finance and HR. Integrations help the organization gain further efficiencies as the PPM solution becomes part of the enterprise system. For example, if a customer has a BI reporting tool they prefer that accepts OData, make sure the PPM tool can also support OData.
Not all integrations are simple, however. Ask providers if they offer an easy-to-use API that automatically integrates the PPM solution with other systems without specialized coding skills or advanced training.