A distressing concept I encounter occasionally at clients is the desire to use their Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solution as their main information system. I work for a PPM solution provider and am always flattered by this pre-Copernican theory, however it goes against my mantra of using the right tool for the right job.
Here are a few examples of this tool abuse:
a) A procurement management system. Most PPM tools can track financial inflows and outflows on projects but the reporting and workflow requirements that most procurement processes mandate are rarely to be found in these tools. I have no issue if you wish to use your PPM tool as a project-centric reporting front-end to your procurement or general ledger system, but don’t use it as your official financial system of record!
b) A service desk system. Most service desk solutions won’t make good PPM solutions (e.g. the lack of ability to evaluate benefits or track risks or the limitation in managing detailed schedules or financials) and similarly the lack of automated escalation workflow or case & solution record flexibility that is required by most service desk processes cannot be satisfied by a PPM tool. Does this mean that the two should never meet? Of course not! As I wrote in an earlier article, a good service desk process & tool will be the “front door” for work intake and one of the queues from the service desk tool could lead to your PPM tool.
c) An enterprise document management system (EDMS) or knowledge base. Most PPM tools provide you with the ability to store documents or to capture project knowledge, but few (if any) provide the flexibility of a true EDMS (e.g. approval workflow, document revision control, archival capabilities) or true knowledge base (e.g. ranking/scoring of items, rich meta-tags to search for items). Certainly a PPM tool is better than nothing, but should not be the long term repository for such content.
d) A skills database. Although a number of PPM tools can track and report skills or competencies for resources within their resource pools (usually for the purpose of searching for appropriate resources to fit a project need), the lack of career ladder or professional development guides will limit overall value.
Organizations should seek to maximize the return on all of their technology investments, but even though PPM solutions can seem like Swiss Army knives, don’t bring a knife to a gun fight!