Driving PMO Impact 1

A PPM tool is software designed to be an enterprise-wide, strategic solution which facilitates more effective project portfolio management. It’s a multi-million turnover industry, full of hundreds of options ranging from free and instantly accessible to costing thousands and taking months to configure and implement.

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant is regarded as the go-to source of information on the market for PPM software.  We are bombarded on a daily basis with statistics, blog posts, webinars on why we MUST have a PPM tool and the benefits it will deliver! So off we go, to the conferences, the expos – to do our research. Maybe we even make some calls to vendors for demonstrations or post on social media to see who uses what out there and what the best solution really is…

Why is this must-have message about PPM tools so powerful?

The Evolve or Die message that PMOs regularly receive is a really powerful one. It’s been 10 years since Terry Doerscher and Mark Price-Perry told us that PMOs need to be more business-driven – the world has moved on again since, and now PMOs need to evolve again to maintain value to an organisation in the age of Digital Transformation.

Evolution is defined as the gradual development of something, but there’s a mismatch between what organisations need from their PMOs vs what those PMOs are able to provide with the tools they have. Many PMOs out there are still struggling to address the business-driven stage of evolution, so how can they evolve even further with just a spreadsheet?

Spreadsheets are great!

Now I’m not knocking spreadsheets – they are still one of the most versatile tools out there, and available to almost every single person who uses a computer for their daily work.  When they arrived on people’s desks in the early 1990s they were truly revolutionary – just like the mobile phone which arrived shortly afterwards.

For PMOs that collect data around project status, finances, risks and issues, milestones – the time, cost and quality metrics of project delivery, or the “Iron Triangle” – spreadsheets are great.

For the organisations where regular reporting cycles result in presentation decks for monthly governance forums – where project status indicators are debated and actions issued for completion by the next meeting – there is no pressing need for a fully-featured PPM solution.

If I was still using the mobile phone I had in the 1990s, I would be struggling.  Using a mobile phone to make a call is just one of the features that today’s devices offer – the apps that give us an overview of everything in one place, making sure we know where to be, how to get there, if we have enough money in the bank to pay while we’re there are the benefits…  and it’s the perceived benefits of owning a smartphone that fuel the market for upgrades and drives innovation.  How many of those 1990s mobile phone manufacturers are still big players in today’s marketplace?

The technology that we have in our homes and in our pockets now has revolutionised the way we live – and work.  There are also benefits for organisations in having a holistic view of all change-related activities, rather than just focusing on delivery metrics for individual projects.

Answering the So What? questions

Changing the status-quo, and the potential disruption that can bring to business as usual, are strategic investments for any organisation wanting to maintain a competitive edge in today’s marketplace. Project Portfolio Management is the term used to describe how we manage the mix of interrelated, dependent, and connected projects. PPM considers the big picture of all projects grouped together; past, present and future – and calculates the optimal prioritisation and sequencing of projects to maximise an organisation’s return on investment.

It takes weeks for PMOs operating with spreadsheets to produce reports that tell stakeholders what HAS happened on projects – and by the time the reports are reviewed (IF they are reviewed), the information is out of date and the response is SO WHAT?

This type of PMO is still having to focus on making sure projects accomplish goals on time and within budget, providing services focused on templates, reviews and progress tracking, and promoting consistency of process, terminology, roles and responsibilities.

So questions of PMO value and talk of “overheads” begins because stakeholders are actually asking these questions about the portfolio… questions that the PMO can’t provide answers to in a timely and efficient way using the tools they have.


Most of these questions are forward looking…

PMOs need to change the conversation around having the tools to do their jobs effectively

Selecting, implementing and adopting the right kind of PPM tool at the right time can drive a PMO forward

Business cases have been successfully built and ERP systems delivered; HR functions are successfully building cases for better tools for talent management. Sales has CRM.

Why have these transformational activities succeeded, but still so many PMOs struggle to build a business case for portfolio management and PPM tools?

Click here for Part 2