Project management tool : How to choose your Project Portfolio Management software

After project management comes the time for PPM: manage not just one project but a whole portfolio of projects. Well done! Successful project-based management has brought you to the challenges of Project Portfolio management. How do you move from project management to the simultaneous management of all your projects and what tools do you use ? Have you experimented with project dashboards in Excel, or created your own makeshift tools in your collaborative spaces? There’s no getting away from it, you waste more time collecting and compiling your project KPIs than actually analysing them. It’s time to take things to the next level with a dedicated software solution. This article will give you the keys to choose the right PPM tool for you!

What is a PPM tool?

PPM stands for “Project Portfolio Management”. A PPM tool is a software solution which will assist you in the key processes for managing your project portfolio. A PPM tool can be used for project decision-making, resource management, putting together a budget, financial and risk management, leading project meetings, project reports, and more.

A PPM tool is more than a simple project management software solution. It includes the main features such as schedule and resources management, but it goes well beyond this, forming a platform for all your projects. It is not a tool for a single project team, but for all of your project resources. This platform, dedicated to your PPM performance, forms a real “headquarters” for your projects, bringing together:

  • The directors and managers providing the strategic vision for projects
  • The resources departments: financial department, human resources department, project management (ISD, building, production, innovation, etc.)
  • The portfolio leaders: the PMOs, project directors, programme managers, project leaders, etc.
  • The project teams: project leader, steering committee member, service provider, team members, etc.

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What strategic questions should you consider when choosing your PPM tool?

Below is a list of some questions to consider to assist you in your choice of PPM tool:

How many projects are there in your portfolio?

The question of volume is one of the first to think about. If you have more than 20 projects, you will benefit from acquiring PPM software. Less than 20 and office software should be sufficient. The more projects there are, the more you will need a tool offering organisation and structuring functions for your project base. Management of the users of your PPM tool is directly correlated to the project volume.

Also bear in mind “scalability”. Perhaps you are considering implementing the PPM tool in just one department, but very often the tool will be deployed in other departments or even by the general management. The volume will be directly impacted so it is a good idea to choose a tool able to cope with two or three times the size of your project base right from the start.

What are the issues surrounding your projects?

The return on investment or ROI of a PPM tool is directly linked to the issues concerning your projects. The return generated by a PPM tool depends on the place occupied by projects in your organisation. It is a key strategic factor to make your choice. Below is a list of areas to investigate in your approach:

  • What types of projects do you have? Your projects are directly correlated to your turnover or they prepare your future turnover. They enable you to improve your performance and profitability. They secure your market shares by providing differentiating features. The PPM is strategic and must have tools to match your project issues.
  • The project portfolio management processes are too costly. The management and governance time needs to be optimised.
  • A bad decision on a project has serious consequences. Uncertainty in decision-making processes must be reduced.
  • The projects and resources mobilised are not aligned with the company strategy. The field of vision needs to be widened to encompass the entire project portfolio
  • You have equipped your organisation to carry out projects. Their allocation and usage need to be optimised (capacity planning, budget construction, etc.)

What is the maturity level of your project management?

Has project mode been widely adopted by your department or is project-based management still in the deployment phase? The PPM tool should enable you to disseminate best practices and your project methodology.

Also, consider the subject from a “dynamic” point of view: what is the turn-over in your project teams? How many “new” project leaders will have to acquire your practices?

It is also important to measure the level of maturity with regard to portfolio governance. Are the governance bodies, such as committees for decision-making on project launches and project portfolio reviews, already in place or do they need to be created? A positive impact provided by the PPM tool or a tool already existing in practice?

Have you thought about the TCO – Total Cost of Ownership?

The TCO or Total Cost of Ownership will enable you to properly assess the ROI of a PPM tool. Admittedly, there are costs to implement the tool – build phase – (internal time, software license, skills transfer), but depending on the tools, the recurring costs – “run” phase” – can change the economic equation of your PPM tool. Some important questions to consider:

  • How much will it cost to upgrade the platform? How do you upgrade your platform to cope with developments in practices or an extension of the scope? Is it easy? Does it involve development or configuration?
  • What is the administrative load of the PPM tool? User administration? Technical administration? Upgrades administration?
  • How much does user training cost? You have a complete platform, but how long does it take a user to take full advantage of it?
  • How much does deployment in a different department cost? What is the impact on licenses, settings and training?

What are the main features of a PPM tool?

PMM tools have a wide functional spectrum as they include:

  • Project management functions – planning, resources, risks, budget, etc.
  • Project portfolio management functions – decision support, project template, comitology management, capacity planning, budget construction, etc.
  • Reporting and dashboard functions – timesheet, form, project file, project dashboard, etc.
  • Collaboration management functions – workflow, document management, discussion forum
  • Administration and integration functions – “codeless” settings configuration, reference source management, user and rights management, API, webservices,

The danger is of going overboard with the features to the detriment of what is really important for you. You expect a PPM tool to optimise your portfolio management processes :

PPM issues Key features
Optimise the cost of your projects
  • Time monitoring / Timesheet
  • Capacity planning / workload plan monitoring
  • Financial monitoring
  • Budget preparation
  • Budget envelopes
  • Full exploitation of the resources
  • Consolidation function
  • Resource, budget and cost-effectiveness dashboard
Secure decision-making
  • Project cycle management
  • Advanced project description form
  • Project flash report
  • Decision support dashboard
  • Linking with “business intelligence” / “data visualisation” type decision-making tools
  • Assistance for organising and leading steering committees
  • Project summary sheet
  • Risk management
  • Validation / decision workflow
Improve your project and portfolio management
  • Project templates
  • Methods modelling (agile, V cycle, PMI, Prince 2, etc.)
  • KPI / Report library
  • Management of project and portfolio reference sources
  • API / Webservice for integration into your company’s IT ecosystem
  • Query and filter capacity
  • “Multi-business line” / “multi-department” deployment function
Deliver quicker
  • Gantt / Work sequence
  • Kanban table / Cards
  • Task template
  • Schedule template
  • Validation workflow
  • Notifications / warnings function
  • Post-project management – Run / Maintenance / Business Continuity
Optimise administration of the PPM tool
  • “Codeless” administration
  • Data import / export function
  • Management of reference sources
  • Large volume management function (filters, life cycle, search engine)
  • Batch edit
  • User and rights management
  • Secure access and data

The essentials of a good tool

  • An all-in-one platform
  • An open platform with integration capacity
  • Work in collaborative mode
  • “User-friendly” instructions
  • Adaptable to your way of working
  • The choice of hosting (SaaS or On-Premises)

 

It should be noted that you will preferably opt for a simple, “user-friendly” interface. Obviously, PPM tools are now “full-web” with no installation on the user’s workstation. The screens will also need to be compatible with multi-devices such as smartphones or tablets, even if the majority of usage will be in “desk” mode.

Choose SaaS or On-Premises hosting

Since the PPM tool is a web tool, the question of the hosting mode (and the contractual mode) will arise. Based on your IT policy, you can opt for either a SaaS or an On-Premises offer.

  • SaaS solution (Software as a Service): software installed on the software publisher’s infrastructure and accessible remotely via an Internet connection for a monthly subscription fee. The various packages mean you can opt for dedicated or shared hosting. Check that the data hosting location complies with GDPR restrictions.
  • On-Premises solution: Software purchased and installed directly on the company’s server. This offers more versatile integration capability and enables full control of the data.

Some publishers, such as VIRAGE Group, offer the flexibility to be able to switch from one mode to the other, either by internalising the application in the information system from the SaaS environment, or, if the IT policy changes, outsourcing of the On-Premises platform on the publisher’s private cloud.

The advantages of Project Monitor, the simple, customisable PPM tool

Among the PPM tools on offer, we would like to present Project Monitor. This offer, published since 2007, aims to simply address PPM issues, with the capacity to adapt to your specific needs.

The Project Monitor PPM software solution is a tool recommended by numerous contacts: General Management, ISD, CIO, PMO, Companies & Local Authorities.

These are some of the key factors which influenced the choice for Eram, the Lyon, Bordeaux or Strasbourg Metropoles, the logistics branch of Les Mousquetaires, the Le Vinatier Hospital Centre and Chronopost

Integration into the information system

Project Monitor is able to integrate with all the company tools: Office (Word or PowerPoint), EDM, financial tool, company directory, etc. Its modularity and flexible configuration mean that Project Monitor can be implemented progressively and develop according to the organisational needs.

Requests management

Project Monitor can be used to create and save a new request. Requests are distinguished from the portfolio of projects underway by means of the status, in particular.

Management of large volumes

By providing keys to structure the project base and model the organisations, and functions for batch editing and data transfer, Project Monitor offers valuable assistance for portfolio administration tasks. Your company’s new strategy can be propagated to your entire portfolio in just a few clicks.

Creation of projects using templates

Project Monitor has a project creation wizard to launch all projects quickly and easily. You have a library of templates which you can customise at your leisure to provide your project leaders with standard structures including the requirements of your methodologies.

Budget management

Project Monitor provides powerful financial features as standard, allowing budget management within a project or within a portfolio. It includes functions to construct a budget for a department, particularly for the IT, engineering and services departments, where projects are the main activity.

Resources management & Capacity planning

Project Monitor provides you with a complete toolbox, from modelling your resources (skills, capacity, advanced calendar, hierarchy within the organisation, etc.) to the timesheet. You have the means for comprehensive resource management, including identification, assignment / staffing and scheduling. Project Monitor provides reports enabling you to view team workloads and identify possible under- or over-loads.

Collaborative discussions

Each project has a “Discussion” space where discussion threads can be created, and reports / flash reports / decision monitoring can be drafted for the project.

Organising and leading steering committees

Project Monitor makes it easy to compile a portfolio and display its state of health thanks to the reports available as standard. The dashboards are fully configurable, both in content and in form (addition of blocks to monitor different types of data and positioning).

 More than just a tool, a service hub dedicated to the customer

The tool is a key point in your PPM approach. However, having a contact to help you implement the tool is decisive. With the Project Monitor offer, you benefit from a service to assist you during and after the project with a single team, and network support ready to respond to all your questions:

  • Before making your choice: our experts model your needs to ensure you make the right decision
  • During integration: our functional and technical consultants adapt the Project Monitor solution to suit your practices and your information system (configuration of your platform and integration into your IS)
  • During deployment: our training staff upskill your project teams and ensure your administrators can use the solution independently (bespoke training and support)
  • After deployment: A dedicated Customer Excellence team (support, documentation, user club, Master Class and Webinars)

To sum up, the Project Monitor PPM offers you the benefits of a comprehensive, simple, autonomous solution:

  • 360° vision: scheduling, risk, budget, resources, KPI, EDM, portfolio, etc.
  • Integration into the IS: budget interface, LDAP – SSO, EDM,
  • Advanced project reference sources.
  • Collection of decision-making information from the project teams
  • Team management facilitating information sharing and action monitoring.
  • Portfolio management and decision support with up-to-date information in real time.
  • Scalability, progressive implementation, and development according to the organisational needs
  • SaaS and On-Premises hosting
  • A team to support you throughout the process
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