There was a discussion thread this week in a LinkedIn project management group regarding the pros and cons of two different project management tools. This is not a product pitch, so I won’t focus on which specific tools were mentioned, but suffice it to say that one was a moderately-priced single user point product whereas the other was a very comprehensive but very costly Tier 1 PM framework.
I’ve written in the past in this blog regarding the need to pick project management tools based on how they fit with your defined processes, but that is just one factor which should drive the decision (no pun intended!).
I’ll draw an analogy with cars – I might be capable of driving an exotic Italian super car if I am able to drive a normal, standard transmission car (i.e. both will fit my process needs), but there are going to be other questions which I should answer before making a purchasing decision.
Do my needs match the needs of the manufacturer’s “standard” user? If I am used to driving at city speeds in stop & go traffic and through all four North American seasons, that might not be the best fit with the stereotypical super car driver. As Derek Singleton, an analyst with Software Advice which reviews & researches PM technology, states “It’s important to choose a tool that maps to your team’s project management expertise and experience with project management software. If your company is a small startup that’s used to managing everything in the business with a relatively straight forward web-based system, implementing an enterprise-level project management solution may actually hinder the team’s ability to deliver on projects as they won’t be familiar with how to use the system or how to make use of all the features within the platform.”
Does bigger truly mean better? The Ferrari might be able to go from 0-60 in under 7 seconds, but if it doesn’t have heated driver & passenger seats it won’t be too comfortable in the Winter! Companies put a lot of stock in their vendors being on research companies such as Gartner’s radar, but just because the vendor is deemed visionary doesn’t mean that your base needs will be met. Yes, some of the Tier 1 PPM & PM products are able to automate nearly all workflows and reporting, but if your team is at a low level of organizational PM maturity, simpler will trump sophisticated and you might run into greater data accuracy & completeness issues than if you had implemented a simple tool suite.
Can I afford it? Even if I can afford lease payments on a super car, replacing brake pads or tires might cost as much as a few mortgage payments. Couple that with the cost of super high-octane fuel for such a vehicle and you might find yourself “car rich but cash poor”. Putting those considerations aside, if we purely consider tangible value realized, I’m getting the same utility out of the Ferrari as I would from the Mazda but at ten times the cost. If the only functionality I use within the PM tool suite I’ve purchased is time tracking and rudimentary scheduling, paying for a Tier 1 suite is providing me with no greater value than I’d receive from having purchased a couple of low-end point products.
Car buyers have figured out something a long time back which many project management tool decision makers have yet to understand – there are many good reasons why there are hundreds of times more Mazdas, Hondas & Toyotas on the road than Ferraris!