Yes, it is the season of giving and while you might be closing your files for the year or wrapping up your last deliverables before putting up your out of office message, it might also be time to consider what your portfolio management options are for the coming year, and how you can find a solution that suits your needs. If you find yourself exploring Project Portfolio Management and would rather cozy up by the fire, here is a handy checklist to simplify the process.

Who are you shopping for?

It might seem obvious to consider the needs of the major players, but it also helps to consider those that will be affected by the purchase. Here are a couple tips as you create your PPM checklist.

IT Leadership:
Most leaders are involved in the purchase as they will want to see capabilities such as reporting and dashboards. They also might want to see how the portfolio aligns with strategic goals of the business and how milestone tracking will provide visibility into health and risk of individual projects.

Head of the PMO:
As PMO managers stand the most to gain from a centralized software solution, they often have the most interest in what functions are included. Ensure this list of criteria is included in your search and divided into “nice to have” and “need to have” for helpful evaluation.

Project Managers:
When it comes to project managers, often simple is best. Clean interface, easy to access, and all the functionality they need to gain visibility and access to project data is key. Keep in mind mobile access, drag and drop options, and equip your PMs with the tools they need to successfully deliver projects.

Resource Managers:
Many times resource managers need to be involved in a PPM purchase because they need to know which resources are being assigned to which projects, help keep an updated skills database, and can help when resources need to be shifted or moved mid-flight.

Business Analysts:
If you plan to do reporting and strategic planning, it might be helpful to involve business analysts in your PPM checklist creation. Keep in mind system integrations so BAs won’t need access to the system specifically, but they will want to know what information can be captured and pulled from the system and how they can leverage that within their BI tool.

Similar to BAs, developers won’t necessarily be using a PPM solution, but you might want to consider what development project data can be centralized into a portfolio management software so the PMO can easily manage and measure the progress. If integrations into development tools such as Jira are necessary, that might be important to include early on. It also might be helpful to sync development resources into the PPM system so you can easily assign and track development resources if you are managing development projects.

If you are working with contractors or external parties, it is helpful to consider what data you might want them to input into your PPM system. Hours/effort spent toward a project, expense tracking, and user permissions are common checklist items when considering contractors needs for PPM.

While finance might only be concerned with minimal areas of your projects, it is important to include them in an evaluation to ensure you are able to capture and deliver information finance might need. It might be as simple as an automated project report or a more sophisticated integration with a finance tool such as Intacct, but either way finance typically has needs when it comes to portfolio management software.

Aligning PPM with the Business

To ensure your PPM journey is a success, align your outcomes with business goals. Here are four key areas where PPM can help align your PMO to the business.
  1. Operational Efficiency: Spend less money on projects that don't warrant investment.
  2. Resource Management: Put the right people on the right projects at any given time.
  3. Business Agility: Be able to pivot and address changing business demands
  4. Customer Success: Get better stakeholder satisfaction from projects

Portfolio Management: Getting the best of your portfolio

Top Down Alignment -  Visibility into projects and programs at every level. Ensure portfolio is aligned with business objectives and measure impact.

Prioritized Initiatives -  Value based scoring and prioritized backlogs keep portfolio functioning at its maximum.

Portfolio Insights -  Evaluate risk, anticipate delays and make decisions based on accurate, up to date information.

Dashboards & Reports -  Create different views for different users and use cases. Track key milestones and KPIs for optimal portfolio performance.

Project Planning:

Schedule, assign, and execute against project goals with intuitive Gantt charts.

View dependencies, deadlines, and key deliverables for all project work from a single screen.

Project Management and Execution:

Manage the full lifecycle of projects from ideation and request through execution and measurement.

Never lose sight of tasks and project details and monitor projects every step of the way.

Keep PMs happy with seamless project management tools that empower them to do more. 

Gantt Charts


Status Reports

Resource Management

Ensure resource managers and project managers are on the same page about resource assignments.

Role-Based Planning -  Search resources by skill or role for easy planning.

Drag and Drop Assignments -  Simple drag and drop allows you to assign resources and move them from project to project.

What-If Scenarios

What-If Scenarios to see which course of action will provide the best case scenario.

Easy Time & Expense Tracking

Mobile Time and expenses allow for accurate, up to date information from any type of user

Work Management

Keep up to date on project work and status

Task Management

Manage tasks and deliverables across the organization.

Easily track time and expense against projects for accurate, up to date information.

Collaborate on projects with team members and keep project documents centralized.

Hit targets through improved deliverables tracking.

Financial Management

Capture project costs and centralize information.

Track time and expense data against projects and improve financial forecasts.

Project financial management is a critical success element and business driver for project investment.

Ensure your finance team gets the data they need for project details.

Forecast and Track Budgets vs.Actuals

Manage Multi-Currency Projects and Portfolios

Integrate with Financial Systems or Auto Generate Reports

Reporting and Analytics

Portfolio Analysis -  To provide insights for all project stakeholders - from executives to end users.

Flexibility -  To generate reports that support your unique business processes, metrics and KPIs.

Visibility -  On-demand insights into the performance of your projects, portfolios, resources, risks, issues, financials, and all other associated data.

Role-Based Access: Permissions for every user type

CIO Dashboards -  Configure executive dashboards to show what’s relevant by role.

PMO Leader Reporting -  Accessible Reporting with Drilldown view information at the portfolio, program, project, or task level to find information and make decisions

User Based Access -  Update status. Submit T&E. View updates and get notifications at every stage

Usability: Drive adoption and realize the value.

Configurable -  Setup solution to it works to your needs.

Mobile Accessibility -  Make it easy to update and add data so you always have the info you need.

Administration -  Self-service administration that doesn’t require technical resource to update.

Notifications -  Proactive notices for updates and on the go.

Security: Key considerations to note compromise security.

Secure Cloud Access - Accessible from any device and any browser for security and accessibility.

Data Encryption - Ensure your valuable information is secure.

SSAE 16 Compliance - Peace of mind that the environment for data is safe and secure.

User Provisioning - Simplified process of providing controlled access to your users.

Avoiding Common PPM Pitfalls

Stay off the naughty list!

Don’t use methodology as a criteria: Top down or bottom up, agile vs. waterfall – don’t pigeonhole into a methodology that isn’t sustainable or scalable

Don’t let software dictate your business: If you have processes in place that are working, make sure you can preserve that. There is a balance between adapting to changes and overhauling your organization and don’t get distracted by bells and whistles.

Don’t take the big bang approach: It might seem like changes all at once is better, but you will need to adjust and grow into the system. Be patient.

Don’t trade governance for agility (and vice-versa!): Just because you want to become more agile doesn’t mean you forego any process or structure.

No regifting! Don’t just use what’s on the table: Just because you have access to something doesn’t mean it is the best for your business. You will be investing time to setup and use, so don’t mistake ‘free’ for ‘easy’

Key Takeaways

  • PPM can help your PMO have a significant impact on the business – but finding the right one can be challenging
  • Enlisting requirements from all relevant parties will help in your shopping  
  • Keep in mind the “must haves” and the ”nice to haves” so you can check off every item on your list

Back to The PPM Evaluation Process.

Rachel Hentges
PMO Influencer
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Rachel Hentges

Rachel Hentges is challenging PMO leaders to think differently about their role. Rachel is the author of key industry related surveys, reports, blogs and more that challenge the status quo of today’s PMOs.