PMO

The Critical Importance of Project Portfolio Management Systems in Challenging Times

Rachel Hentges

Even when the overall business climate is favorable, securing funding for a project portfolio management system can be a Herculean task for portfolio management leadership. A recent Gartner report by analyst and PPM expert Mbula Schoen noted that they often face resistance from both financial decision-makers and the individuals performing day-to-day project work. For those in charge of budgets, a common objection is that the PMO is asking them to make the seemingly illogical move of spending money to save money. For those on the ground doing the day-to-day tasks of moving projects along, it can feel like the PMO is kicking the anthill just to embrace the latest business fad.

Combine those perceptions with a crisis like that of the COVID-19 pandemic and the difficulty in deciding to introduce a project portfolio management system can seem insurmountable. When times get tough, the natural instinct for many leaders is to freeze spending and limit major decisions in an attempt to minimise business disruption. And caution is a good thing. However, being too wary to make strategic changes because you are waiting for the perfect business climate can actually hamper your organisation’s ability to strengthen itself in the midst of a crisis. Read on to learn three key reasons you shouldn’t wait to provide your organisation with the tangible benefits of a project portfolio management system.

A Project Portfolio Management System Centralises Your Data, Regardless of Methodology

You don’t need a global crisis to be reminded that the way people do business has changed. International commerce, teleworking and ever-evolving digital advancements have made offices and cubicles seem obsolete for those managing the technical side of day-to-day operations. However, the benefits of the virtual workspace are only as good as the tools you use to facilitate it. This statement holds true whether your organisation has suddenly found itself needing to pivot to teleworking due to a crisis or if the shift has occurred naturally over time.

This is where project portfolio management systems come into play. One of the key benefits of a project portfolio management system is that it centralises your data and allows it to be accessible to any authorised individual located anywhere in the world at any time. As Schoen explains in her report, “A PPM tool eliminates most of the administration and data collection caused by managing a project with multiple applications. The tool will still require “care and feeding,” but the benefit is the reduction in data massaging from the disparate systems.” Universal access is critical to a functional business, especially in challenging times. PPM tools get the job done — and done well. 

A Project Portfolio Management System Will Save Money

Earlier, we noted that many budget leaders have the perception that spending money on a project portfolio management system will not result in money saved. Their hesitancy is understandable because it’s difficult for a PMO to quantify the true dollar value a project portfolio management system delivers in relation to the initial investment to secure it. The benefits don’t always stack up neatly on a balance sheet. But that doesn’t make them any less authentic. When disaster strikes, every leader worries about the financial impact it will have on the business. You are responsible for caring for your staff and for answering to your stakeholders. A project portfolio management system offers many benefits that can reduce expenses in multiple ways. Schoen says it best when she writes, “You can put a price or a value on the visibility and data integrity you get out of PPM software.” Here are some ways project portfolio management systems can bring value and savings to your organisation:

  1. The PPM centralises data, allowing for maximum visibility of redundancies, easy wins, troubled timelines and productivity.
  2. Speaking of productivity, a project portfolio management system translates into increased accountability by allowing the PMO to access information in real time on who is doing what on which task.
  3. A project portfolio management system makes scheduling and budgeting far easier through benefits 1 and 2.
  4. Forecasting and estimates become more accurate the longer you collect data and build up historic trends. 

A Project Portfolio Management System Increases the Chances of Project Success

There is never an ideal time to have a project fail, but it’s worth arguing that having one fail when your business is already under pressure from outside factors is probably the worst-case scenario. In challenging times, the reliability of precise execution and favorable outcomes bring real value to the table. One way that project portfolio management systems facilitate project success is through automating tedious tasks that bog project managers down and divert their focus from the management of their projects and the delivery of actual business value. Gartner breaks down the ideal capabilities project managers request as follows: 

  1. Status Capture
  2. Risk and Issue Tracking
  3. Collaboration Workspace
  4. Cost Capture
  5. Scheduling

Schoen explains that automation frees up project managers to focus on the value and strategy that drive project success. Project success translates into reliability and security, two benefits that provide stability and underpin your organisation in times of uncertainty.

Conclusion

The burden of leadership weighs heavy when decision-makers are forced to shift their strategy from managing daily operations to implementing crisis management. While the investment in a project portfolio management system might seem like a choice that can be tabled until circumstances are calmer, a tool can actually make the situation far easier right now and result in better outcomes later. Equip your organisation with tools that make it easier to survive and gain strength through adversity.