Are you ready (for a PPM or EPM tool)?

RubenventSo you want to buy a PPM or EPM (Enterprise Project Management) tool?  Congratulations – vendors will be filling up your e-mail Inbox with ROI calculators, dazzling dashboard screenshots and glowing client case studies to convince you that their solution is the only reasonable choice!

But before you finalize the business case to secure funding, let’s run through a simple list of questions.  If you can’t conclusively answer “yes” to all of them and have the data to back up this confidence, it might be advisable to wait until you do.

  1. Are your PM practices institutionalized (and how do you know)?  If you don’t have some sort of documented methodology, and don’t have the evidence reflecting compliance with those practices, why do you think introducing a tool is going to make any difference?
  2. Do you have sustainable executive sponsorship AND resource management commitment (and how do you know)?  If you have been trying to sell these two stakeholder groups on the benefits of introducing a tool, how do you know they have sufficiently bought in?  Everyone wants to have pretty portfolio health dashboards and detailed views into staff capacity and allocation, but a lot of effort on the part of mid- and senior managers is required to ensure that accurate and complete data is being entered by project teams.
  3. Who is going to support the tool past the initial roll out (and will you have sufficient funding for these resources)?  Regardless of whether a PPM or EPM solution is installed on-site or subscribed to over the Internet, you still need to have internal staffing to provide application support to your end users, to identify and address coaching or compliance issues, and to receive feedback from end users and incorporate that feedback into ongoing improvements to your procedures & the configuration of the tool.  Beyond this, depending on your organization’s needs and the capabilities of your selected tool you may require software development assistance for creating interfaces with your other business systems and report writers to create custom reports from the tool’s centralized repository.  Will the costs of providing this support be absorbed by the tangible benefits achieved by implementing a tool?  If not, how will you justify ongoing funding for it?
  4. How are you going to “sell it” to the primary end users?  Vendors tend to target executives when selling PPM and EPM tools as dashboards and reports make for great eye candy, but to populate those dashboards and reports the burden of effort falls on project managers & team members as they are expected to enter and maintain project data.  Will you be reducing or at least not increasing the administrative work load for these folks?

Don’t get me wrong – PPM and EPM tools can provide significant benefits, but without checking that the prerequisites for successful realization of these benefits are in place you might find that all you’ve done is acquired a costly Rube Goldberg project administration machine.

Categories: Project Portfolio Management | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Are you ready (for a PPM or EPM tool)?

  1. shomacrae

    Administrative programs are not a magic bullet. I would also highly recommend talking to other companies who use the software to ensure it actually works as it says it will. Remember, the software company is trying to sell you a lot of the time, not support you.


  2. kbondale

    Agreed (and thanks for the feedback!) – the most common reason I’ve found for companies not being happy with a tool purchase is a lack of due diligence as you can only blame vendors to a point!



  3. John Senior

    Having, as you say, both “sustainable executive sponsorship AND resource management commitment” is absolutely essential for a successful PPM tool deployment. You need both for the deployment to be a long term success.

    Your executive sponsor(s) must be committed to both establishing and enforcing policies and standards, and you really must have some measure of working resource management in place BEFORE you start the deployment, otherwise, in the long term, the PPM tool will never deliver any true benefits.

    It all comes back to the old adage ” What you cannot/do not measure, you cannot manage”, to which I add, “Whatever you do not manage, you are not in control of.”



  4. So, so true … reminds me of some of the other topics I’ve written on lately elsewhere. People get all whipped up in a frenzy over some great/slick presentation and never give any thought to what it might entail. The team tasked with “doing the deed” ends up highly frustrated and timelines elongate.

    Why some cannot grasp the idea that you have to actually plan how a PPM/EPM tool will fit – and that it is just a TOOL not a best practice in and of itself – is beyond me. Yet it happens over and over and over and … you get the picture.

    Well stated, Kiron.



    • kbondale

      Thanks Mark! I rarely blame the vendors for their seductive marketing practices – the fault is almost always on the side of the client who ignores the failure statistics and thinks that they will be the exception!


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