Are you looking for a new project portfolio management (PPM) tool? Instead of being overwhelmed by all the shiny bells and whistles in today’s applications, take a more strategic approach. There is no one-size-fits-all solution: The only way to select the right one is to understand your organization’s objectives.
After all, some Project Management Offices (PMOs) are evolving beyond completing projects on time and on budget to helping organizations drive growth, innovation, and digital transformation faster. You should consider a solution that takes your PMO from where you are today and will help you deliver on value now and in the future.
Here’s what to look for in a PPM tools comparison, based on your organizational maturity, goals, and needs.
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Five PPM Maturity Levels
The first step to choosing the right PPM solution is to understand your organization’s current capabilities. The Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Maturity Model1 is a useful tool for determining this and understanding what PPM enhancements you must make.
Here are the five levels of the Gartner model, from least mature to highest:
- Level 1: Reactive: Ad-hoc approach to projects. No formal PPM roles or tools. Use of spreadsheets and maybe a project scheduling tool.
- Level 2: Emerging Discipline: Evolving to a more process-driven approach, but isolated systems and inconsistent data impede business processes. A PMO may be in place. Use of a basic PPM tool.
- Level 3: Initial Integration: A more holistic approach to PPM. Planning and decision-making is done at an organizational level. Portfolio and basic resource functionality is operational. PPM dashboards provide actionable data.
- Level 4: Effective Integration: Focus on delivering business value. Automated enterprise PPM functionality enables consolidated reporting, an enterprise portfolio, and the execution of strategy.
- Level 5: Effective Innovation: Innovation is built into all organizational processes. Enterprise programs facilitate rapid strategy execution. An Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO) is in place. Use of an enterprise PPM suite with innovation support tools.
Assessing Your PPM Maturity Level
Reviewing the five maturity levels, ask these questions:
- Where are you and your organization on this continuum today?
- What are your aspirations for maturing your PPM capability?
- What are your time frames and how aggressively are you looking to mature?
Don’t be surprised if you find you are somewhere in Level 2. This is the most common stage. According to Gartner1, most organizations are stuck at Level 2: “Competitive pressures and changing market conditions are forcing organizations toward Level 3, and most organizations still aren’t ready to make the leap.”
In fact, this is where PMOs and managers are most vulnerable. Why? Because, as stated in the Gartner report, How to Avoid the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ of a Level 2 PMO2:“At that point, they’ve fixed all the things that were easy (establishing common practices) but find it difficult to make the shift to the more agile and enterprise-focused activities that Level 3 and digital demand.”
For this reason, the following use cases for a PPM solution focus on getting to and through Level 2 and operating at Level 3 and beyond.
The 8 PPM Tool Use Cases
Understanding the different capabilities that you need and what a PPM tool should deliver at Levels 2 and 3+ will help you in your search. Here are the eight basic ones.
Improving planning is one of the best ways to ensure your resources are focused on the right things at the right time. PMOs often focus on project execution only, without the means or will to ensure their projects and programs are delivering business value. This is a fast road to obsolescence. Here’s what to look for in a PPM tool at Levels 2 and 3+:
- Level 2: Continuously create and update prioritized plans that optimize resources across the organization:
- Centralize project portfolio management
- Alignment and prioritization
- Level 3+: Analyze trade-offs, set direction, and translate strategy into delivery on business capabilities and integrated roadmaps to implement strategic, operational, and technology changes:
- Portfolio management
- Program management
- Strategic roadmapping
- Investment and capacity scenario planning
- Capability and technology management
Successfully executing on your plans requires focusing people, money, and technology on the right priorities. Too many PMOs get bogged down in process and methodology, creating the perception of prizing methodology and governance over agility. Today’s increasingly cross-functional, virtual teams are using all kinds of different work methods for project execution, requiring PMOs to be flexible and advocate the right best approach to achieve the outcome. In other words, ask yourself – do you want to be a process cop or a delivery ambassador?
The execution capabilities you need in a PPM solution are similar at Levels 2 and 3+:
- Levels 2 and 3+: To deliver business value, PMOs need to support the different ways that teams get work done. While you might get started with one work methodology, you should plan now with a PPM tool that supports both milestone and iterative methodologies as well as structured and unstructured work:
- Ability to plan, manage, and deliver across all types of work, such as traditional, iterative, Agile, and collaborative work management.
- Native support combined with integrations to commonly used work execution tools such as Microsoft Project and Atlassian JIRA: Integrating with functions such as IT, Product Development, Finance, HR, and more creates one system of record for people, work, and expenses.
Reporting and Analytics
To make better decisions faster, your PPM software should provide up-to-date visibility into demand, plans, work, resources, technology, and capabilities across the organization. This will give stakeholders current assessments of what’s going on and if they need to make adjustments to keep the organization on track. Having this information will also increase the satisfaction and engagement of all users as well as quickly demonstrate the value of the PMO.
- Level 2: Intuitive, user-friendly, and easily sharable views relevant to each user:
- Predefined reports and dashboards
- Customizable reports and views
- Level 3+: Advanced analytics that span the entire portfolio and provide C-level performance visibility and governance:
- Predefined reports and executive dashboards
- Highly visual, direct access to metrics, notifications, and analytics, configurable by user role
- Highly extensible reporting and analytics platforms such as BI tools
When change occurs, you need the ability to focus on what matters most and incorporate new demand into the portfolio. Many organizations lack a systematic approach to understanding their pipeline. The right PPM solution can provide a view of complete demand and enable analysis against scoring criteria and resource capacity, for objective prioritization and shortening time to approve new high value projects.
- Level 2: Collect and evaluate demand all in one place:
- Capture all demand (requests, projects, work, ideas, enhancements)
- Manage with status
- Quickly convert approved demand into a project, issue, or task
- Establish governance
- Level 3+: Centralize all types of demand from across the enterprise and evaluate it against your strategic goals:
- Capture all demand (requests, projects work, ideas, features, enhancements)
- Ideation management to generate and evaluate new ideas and ideation campaigns
- Configurable workflow/lifecycles to manage and guide process
- Quickly convert approved demand into one or more projects, tasks, programs
PPM software can be used to effectively plan, track, and measure financial performance. Meeting funding targets is critical. Robust financial capabilities in PPM software can enable leaders to set realistic goals, understand how strategic funding is being spent (which can result in increased capitalization of expenses), and reallocate as needed throughout the fiscal period. Integrations with existing financial systems will provide a full view of budgets, costs, and investments.
- Level 2: Project-level planning and measurement:
- Task-level cost tracking
- Project financials
- Level 3+: Both project-and portfolio-level planning and measurement:
- Task-level cost tracking
- Distinct, integrated project, program, product, and portfolio financials
- Track and manage by versions (time-based, stage), including budget, forecast, and actual
- Define and track investments; Iterative funding
Resource management is about focusing the right people on work that matters, delivering effectively through changing conditions and priorities, and tracking and measuring costs. It starts with capacity planning: By providing visibility into the demand pipeline, a PPM tool will help you determine whether or not the organization has the capacity to tackle requested investments and which resources are right for each project.
Reconciling planned costs to actuals is critical to show the actual spend of projects. This is important for demonstrating return on investment, reporting, and estimating future work expenses. However, your users must accurately report their time spent on tasks and projects, but getting this information is not always easy.
- Level 2: Project-level resource management with user-friendly time reporting:
- Time tracking
- Staffing with hours or headcount
- Staff to project or task level
- Current and future rate applicability
- Capacity planning
- Level 3: Portfolio-level resource planning to stayed aligned with business goals:
- Time tracking
- Multiple assignment types (requirements, reserves, allocations, authorizations)
- Staffing units (days, weeks, FTE, etc.)
- Staff to task (lowest level)
- Current, future, and retroactive rate applicability
- Capacity planning
Benefit Tracking and Realization
Because PPM is about delivering business value, it is critical to demonstrate what you have achieved. This goes beyond delivering on time and on budget to proving the actual benefits realized in support of business goals. According to PMI’s 2017 Pulse of the Profession® report, the highest maturity organizations not only complete 80 percent of projects on time and on budget, but also meet original goals and business intent. These enterprises establish the benefits at the beginning of each project and ensure they are on track throughout. The right PPM solution will help you do this.
- Level 2: Basic benefits realization management:
- Basic benefits tracking
- Custom calculations for metrics
- Level 3+: Advanced benefits realization management:
- Time-phased, version-based benefit tracking
- Configurable metrics for net present value, ROI, internal rate of return, payback period
Adoption and Time-to-Value
No PPM tool will work if your team members won’t use it and stakeholders don’t see the value from it. Choosing a user-friendly solution that is valuable for everyone is paramount. Expect your PPM vendor to be able to offer best practices and their deep domain expertise, and request industry recommendations and consultation from analysts and other sources.
In addition, look for the ability to integrate the applications that run your business. This will broaden everyone’s view of the entire organization, simplify access to data, streamline workflows, and provide the context for better decisions. It will also keep every member aligned to the same goals. Once you select a product, take an adoption-driven approach to implementation that includes training.
- Level 2: One system of record for all:
- An intuitive user experience will ease the transition from spreadsheets or decentralized project management tools to PPM
- Gain visibility into all work and resources
- Level 3+: Focus on the outcomes that matter most to stakeholders to help solve the highest priority problems first and deliver faster time-to-value:
- Configured views, metrics and reports based on users and roles
- A flexible user experience that meets the requirements of users across various parts of the enterprise
- Streamline enterprise-wide visibility into the status of projects, programs, and products
Choose Your PPM Software Strategically
Today’s PPM leaders must intelligently prioritize and deliver projects, products, and services in partnership with their business stakeholders. In its “Seven Deadly Sins” report, Gartner wrote that program and portfolio management leaders need to “Eliminate old tools, processes and attitudes that no longer support today’s need to become more agile and flexible in the digital age.” Use this PPM tools comparison guide to help you determine your maturity level and select a solution based on your requirements.
All statements in this report attributable to Gartner represent Planview’s interpretation of data, research opinion or viewpoints published as part of a syndicated subscription service by Gartner, Inc., and have not been reviewed by Gartner. Each Gartner publication speaks as of its original publication date (and not as of the date of this report). The opinions expressed in Gartner publications are not representations of fact, and are subject to change without notice.
- ITScore Overview for Program and Portfolio Management, Gartner, Lars Mieritz, 16 August 2017
- How to Avoid the “Seven Deadly Sins” of a Level 2 PMO, Gartner, Donna Fitzgerald, 29 December 2016