Reasons Why You Might Choose One of These Magic Quadrant PPM Service Providers Over an On-Premises or Cloud-Hosted PPM Service Provider
- You are looking for mainstream PPM functionality delivered as a service to support immediate PPM process automation and reporting needs.
- You do not expect to have specific needs for extensive customization or deep integration with enterprise systems.
- You are not planning to insource the functionality in the future.
- The data, network, applications and levels of security offered by the provider are considered sufficient.
- The financial model of the service provider (usually a 12-month contract or subscription service) is more attractive than a traditional application purchase because of length, size and/or resources required.
- You want a rapid deployment of core PPM functionality within 30 days.
- You are low in PPM maturity (Level 1 or 2 on Gartner’s ITScore PPM maturity model) and want a core set of PPM application services that will not overwhelm your end users initially but will also provide a path forward to have the service functionality grow over time as the organization matures.
- You have a small end-user group numbering as low as 20 to 30 end users.
- You have a limited budget for acquiring PPM functionality and need a way to test the waters (often to gain additional management support for larger PPM efforts).
Mobile device support is beginning to find its way into the R&D efforts and PPM products of providers included in this Magic Quadrant. Many of these PPM providers are using HTML5 to connect a PPM system to a number of mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones. There seems to be a strong consensus among many of the PPM providers in this Magic Quadrant that building dedicated applications for a series of known wireless and mobile devices available in the field would only create too much overhead and complexity for them. Instead, these providers are mostly leveraging HTML5 development to push out specific features and capabilities to mobile users of their PPM product.
PPM providers are focused on delivering three main mobile capabilities to their customers early:
- Time reporting, allowing end users to report their time from mobile devices into the PPM system
- The ability to approve items within a process flow of a PPM system, which enables managers to approve, for example, time sheets or project ideas or requests, from mobile devices
- Executive reporting to mobile devices, so end users (for example, business managers or project managers) can access and view reports and dashboard information generated from a PPM system from their tablets or smartphones
Consumers should expect slow, but continued and incremental mobile support to appear in their respective PPM products of choice over time, with HTML5 being the main vehicle for delivering it. Providers will be challenged in bringing more and more features and functions to mobile devices, because the nature and characteristics of mobile devices can limit a PPM end user’s ability to perform certain functions easily in a PPM system from their tablets or smartphones. For instance, many PPM systems up to this point have been designed to be accessible via browsers. Historically, the working assumption was that the browser was being launched from a PC, terminal or laptop device. Tablets and other mobile devices, however, may not always include things such as keyboards or a mouse/cursor. Therefore, performing certain functions within a PPM system could prove difficult or even be impossible if attempting to do so through certain mobile devices.
Social networking and collaboration platforms, capabilities and integration points are beginning to find their way into PPM applications. Gartner is seeing a few different approaches to applying social networking and collaboration in a PPM context. Some providers in this Magic Quadrant are relying on classic and basic communication tools and functions, including issue tracking, threaded discussions, synchronization, integration to and from email systems and applications, and other mechanisms that have been staples of PPM software products for years. Other providers are partnering with social networking and collaboration providers, such as salesforce.com’s Chatter, Jive and Yammer. Still others are planning or fully engaged in developing native social networking and collaboration as part of their core products.
Social networking and collaboration in the PPM context seem more like fads that could fade away someday, rather than become a legitimate mainstay PPM capability. But if applied in the right context within a PPM system and project environment, the added features and capabilities could trigger viral adoption among end users. Adoption is key to the success of any PPM software investment.
At the moment, partnerships with third-party collaboration platforms and the resulting PPM-to-social networking integrations do not feel much different from leaving a PPM application and going into an email system to discuss a project with team members or other constituents. That may soon change, however, if something more meaningful and useful evolves from this introduction of social networking and collaboration in PPM software functionality. If providers figure out the right amount of social networking and collaboration ingredients they should add into their products to drive value for their end users, those PPM end users will more likely stay inside the PPM software system to collaborate and communicate, rather than leave that system to use outside personal productivity tools and services, such as email, to hold PPM discussions.
Without adding any new, specific functions, PPM systems have the administrative workflow “plumbing” to be configured for agile development environments. PPM providers, however, are not pretending to be agile development software providers or application life cycle management (ALM) providers. PPM benefits can help development teams manage the body of work that fills a demand pipeline, and a PPM application’s workflow flexibility can support some of the communication, collaboration and reporting nuances associated with agile development methods, such as Scrum.
Successful use of a PPM system to support agile development teams at more detailed levels is mainly dependent on how well that system integrates with a developer’s typical development processes and environment. Developers do not want to be forced to jump from their development workspaces to an external PPM system to record time on agile development activities. Although most PPM providers have not fully integrated PPM processes with agile development processes to allow a developer to “stay put” when working on agile activities with PPM reporting implications, there is a growing trend of PPM product innovation to provide preconfigured PPM applications supporting collaboration, communication and project portfolio-level reporting for agile development. Providers with existing footholds in application development process software markets are already planning to provide transparent PPM functionality in integrated development environments.
In addition, some of the PPM providers covered in this Magic Quadrant are emphasizing the importance of tying application development activities and reporting into PPM practices supported out of the box in their PPM products. For example, Gartner is tracking a number of integrations and partnerships forged between PPM providers in this Magic Quadrant and providers such as Atlassian and its issue and bug tracking Jira product, as well as Rally and its products that support agile development.
Gartner has observed a growing trend of organizations focusing on enhancing the collaboration, communication and reporting that targets the information flow between the project manager (the one responsible for managing and monitoring the work) and the project sponsor (the one asking for the work).3,4
Sweet spot communication and reporting require a “just enough” approach to the level of detail required to fit the audience. For example, task- and assignment-level time reporting is omitted purposely. Key tasks or milestones or phases might be tracked, but the sweet spot does not venture any deeper into more detailed PPM activities. The project manager is producing reports that can drive business-level decisions and actions by the recipients, not delivering detailed activity reports. The sweet spot also avoids pinning the hopes of the entire PPM installation on the automation and mass adoption of processes involving project schedule management and task- and assignment-level time reporting.
Many of the providers in this Magic Quadrant support the sweet spot in many ways. The challenge is to match your requirements with a provider and product that give you this first-line visibility without introducing too much complexity and change management into the processes you are automating.
There are two main types of PPM software buyers with differing PPM needs looking at products in the market:
- Execution-level PPM customer — Project managers, resource managers and team members interested in a project and resource management product to manage the tactical details of project execution and, using reporting services, to communicate progress and expenditures back to business sponsors and management
- Project portfolio-level PPM customer — Business sponsors, steering committees and/or project management offices (PMOs) interested in creating project-related decision frameworks, selecting specific projects based on those frameworks, planning the delivery of those projects or investments, tracking those investments at a high level and reporting on these activities
PPM for the Execution-Level Customer
All the providers featured in this Magic Quadrant offer some level of centralized request, demand, project, resource and time management capabilities. Reporting services can provide consolidated visibility into the current state of projects, resources and spending. These applications support detailed project or work record creation, scheduling and leveling, resource management and allocation, time reporting, and cost management, among other PPM processes. Reporting services, including portfolio-style reporting, can aggregate the data the system collects from users performing these activities within the PPM system.
Integration with other adjacent systems, including IT management systems (such as the help desk), enables users to funnel different types of work items, other than formally defined projects, into the PPM system to do one or more of the following:
- Capture nonproject resource demand
- Source and allocate nonproject work
- Track the use of resources on nonproject and other work items
- Track the cost of managing nonproject and other work items
Some execution-side PPM configurations can be flexible enough to provide lighter versions of providers’ project and resource management features as an alternative to traditional service desk and trouble-ticket management systems. Still other PPM software and cloud-based service providers include general-purpose project creation mechanisms to support different types of projects from different areas of an enterprise, such as marketing, sales, legal, events management, advertising, and other campaign- or regulatory-style work activities.
PPM application value for these customers increases when end users interact more often with multiple PPM features at the lowest levels of work management detail. Adoption among project managers and team members for their daily work efforts is, therefore, critical to successfully deploying the PPM software. Additionally, applying social networking and collaboration features and functions in a PPM context within an execution-side PPM deployment can aid or accelerate daily end-user adoption of the PPM system, because it can curb the tendencies of project team members to go outside the PPM system to handle communication and data sharing during project execution activities.
For the execution-level PPM customer, project portfolio reporting services can be the “shiny objects” that will convince management of the value in automating execution-level processes. Often, an accurate, working assumption in those cases is that management is not interested in anything involving the PPM system itself, outside the reports that can be accessed from it. In execution-side PPM configurations, business managers do not want to participate in the PPM system, beyond having access to reports and personal dashboards.
PPM for the Project Portfolio-Level Customer
Alternatively, project portfolio-level PPM customers will often look for a top-down, stand-alone system that does a lot more than just portfolio-style project reporting — and does it without disrupting the way a project manager works on a daily basis, or dictating the methods or tools a project manager uses every day to manage projects. This top-down system does not carry with it a requirement that project managers and team members be actively using the application every day to aid in how they execute projects. Additionally, a growing audience of portfolio-level PPM customers is now asking for program management support in PPM software and application services to support a growing need to communicate and collaborate during the management of strategic and operational programs.
Among the earliest of project portfolio-level PPM customers were a significant number of companies that believed they must implement PPM software automation at painful levels of detail (such as task- and assignment-level time reporting) in order to put themselves in a position to practice project portfolio management and enhance decision making around projects. Unfortunately, many initial PPM software investments failed when this bottom-up approach to project portfolio management was chosen, due mainly to the levels of complexity, adoption and change management required to get the entire execution side of a project organization using the same system. Fostering adoption of time reporting alone among a group of hundreds of team members and project resources was a formidable challenge for most.
By automating their project execution activities, the assumption was that these companies would be killing two birds with one stone — optimizing work execution and enhancing their ability to manage project portfolios through reporting services. Project managers were being forced to use unfamiliar and often redundant detailed project scheduling and management tools just to help the organization collect enough data to generate tabular and graphical views to assist them in making decisions.
The project portfolio-level reporting often failed to achieve what it set out to do, mainly because providing value was too dependent on automating the bowels of daily work management and incremental time reporting. It was not always all “doom and gloom” though. There were also execution-side successes, especially when careful attention was paid to things such as change management and where the PPM practitioners had stronger management support and championing of the internal PPM effort.
For customers who chose a stand-alone project portfolio management system, rather than trying to automate the activities of detailed project schedule execution, project managers could report at summary levels into this system, rather than becoming a slave to it at the work breakdown structure level and lower.
Recognizing the distinct needs of portfolio-level PPM customers over those of execution-side customers, many PPM providers built independent, stand-alone project portfolio management and analysis components that could be sold in two ways:
- As a stand-alone solution disassociated from whatever PPM software systems or applications are being used for project execution
- Coupled and/or otherwise sold in conjunction with an execution-side PPM system — to support both PPM customer types
- Clarizen prospects can sign up for a free trial license to try Clarizen before making any service contract commitments.
- Clarizen’s Interact capability is an email engine allowing users to define global mailboxes and convert any email into an action, such as a new project, task, note or discussion. Users can also execute common actions, such as submit a request, inquiry or bug report to Clarizen directly through their email application or by using a form, without requiring them to log into the Clarizen system to do so.
- The vendor’s ease of use and simplicity in UI design, along with the interoperability it can provide through its Interact features, allow for viral adoption by end users (for example, allowing users to share graphical, Web-based product and/or project road maps arranged using a Gantt chart format, without requiring the recipients to be licensed Clarizen users).
- Clarizen is often described by prospects and customers as being “broad but not deep” in terms of functionality, and this is relatively true. Clarizen provides high-level PPM features and functions, allowing users to store and manage information on multiple projects in one centralized place. However, there is less depth of functionality and support in core PPM areas, such as demand, project, resource, time, cost and portfolio management, when compared to other cloud-based PPM service providers. Where Clarizen goes deep in functionality, however, is in new and innovative areas of collaboration and interoperability between Clarizen and other applications, such as email.
- Clarizen does not allow end users enough flexibility to customize their own UI and views into system-generated reports and dashboards. As an example, if an end user regularly views a generated report in Clarizen, the service has adjustable column widths, but the system does not save the changes the end user makes to the report format. Clarizen plans to add more UI and report view customization to address these issues in upcoming releases.
- The vendor lacks project portfolio features allowing end users to group projects by type and generate multiple portfolios based on a select group of projects.
- Automation Centre is unique in that it specializes in enhancing communication and collaboration between project managers and team members using an email-based PPM platform.
- TrackerSuite’s cloud-based PPM features support the tracking and management of time, expenses, projects, assets and personnel. Users can track time against different work efforts, and charge additional time to project records in the system, such as maintenance and support efforts.
- TrackerSuite enables users to allocate work at the task level and run reports for different audiences regarding portfolios, project progress and resource allocations, and provides the quantitative analysis and evidence needed to show resource shortages against demand.
- Automation Centre does not have a partner program allowing the company to scale up its service offerings for new customers and deployments when new business volume increases. When the provider becomes busy with implementations, and most of its resources are working on those implementations, a resulting backlog may delay some initial implementations for new customers.
- TrackerSuite does not provide integration to ALM tools (such as Jira) or agile development tools (such as Rally).
- TrackerSuite does not provide any features or functions for program management, nor does it typically support top-down, portfolio-level PPM configurations designed for investment planning, capacity planning and project portfolio optimization.
- AtTask’s cloud-based PPM services provide strong support for enhancing communication and collaboration among managers and team members in a variety of project and work management environments, including internal IT.
- AtTask provides TeamHome and Stream, allowing its customers to apply social networking and collaboration to the work, project execution activities and process automation provided in their cloud-based PPM services.
- AtTask enhanced its professional services and process consulting practices, offering tiered levels, including Basic, Silver, Gold and Platinum. In addition, it is including remote consulting hours for customers interested in customizing AtTask cloud-based PPM services to support their specific needs, and to help aid in incremental adoption and maturity in PPM processes and process automation.
- Although AtTask provides basic portfolio management and reporting capabilities, it does not provide advanced portfolio management and analysis functionality suitable and robust enough for steering committees and PMOs in larger enterprises interested in collecting, vetting and planning strategic programs and projects prior to approval and execution phases.
- AtTask does not provide strong program management capabilities. Although it can be configured for limited program management, customers and prospects that evaluated AtTask against their program management requirements report that the customization involved results in less-than-adequate functionality and usability.
- AtTask’s integration with Microsoft Project, specifically at the named resource level, could be improved. When importing a Microsoft Project file into AtTask, users are required to manually map the resources in the .mpp file to the resource records in AtTask, which may prove cumbersome in project environments where Microsoft Project is routinely used by project managers.
- Daptiv provides a set of cloud-based PPM application services designed to support the project execution needs of internal IT departments and new product development organizations.
- The vendor provides a long list of integration points, including (but not limited to) Atlassian’s Jira, Rally, salesforce.com, SharePoint and ServiceNow.
- Daptiv recently announced mobile support, including the ability for team members to review task lists and report time from a smartphone or other mobile device.
- Although Daptiv provides some capabilities for portfolio management and reporting, it does not provide scenario-based portfolio investment and strategy planning capabilities suitable for steering committees and PMOs of large enterprises interested in collecting, vetting, and planning strategic programs and projects prior to approval and execution phases.
- Daptiv’s remote consulting rates are premium-priced, although discounts are available for remote services and annual service contracts. Alternative options exist in the market for cost-effective pricing and bundles of remote PPM consulting hours.
- Like many other service providers in the market, Daptiv is predominantly single-instance, is multitenant and only offers on-premises deployment for special situations.
- EPM Live’s integration of acquired EPK-Suite assets, with its SharePoint-based PPM platform, is a strong, well-designed integration, giving PortfolioEngine customers the ability to manage projects and portfolios using native EPM Live capabilities, but with the added improvement of doing so in a SharePoint environment. This enables users to leverage SharePoint’s document management, workflow and collaboration capabilities as part of EPM Live’s cloud-based PPM services for portfolio management.
- EPM Live’s count of new customers for each of the past three years is staggering and impressive, with the company averaging several hundred new customers per year since 2009.
- EPM Live’s SaaS offerings include cloud-services branded ProjectEngine, WorkEngine, and PortfolioEngine, providing a series of choices for customers interested in managing and reporting on a single project (with unlimited end users), managing and reporting on multiple projects with tiered levels of end users, and managing and reporting on portfolios of projects.
- Although EPM Live provides some native support for agile development, it does not yet support out-of-the-box integration with specific third-party agile development methodologies and tools, such as Rally or VersionOne. EPM Live’s responses to customers who reported bugs, errors and other technical issues associated with their PPM application services have been reportedly slow, likely because of the provider’s growing pains, having absorbed an acquisition, integrated the acquired assets with its base technology, rebranded its product line and recast its SaaS model — all within a span of 12 to 18 months.
- EPM Live’s single-instance, multitenant PPM services featuring the integrated applications it acquired from EPK Group are relatively new to the marketplace, having been formally launched in the second half of 2011. Until use in the field accelerates, there is not enough complete customer experience data available to determine the strengths and limitations of PortfolioEngine, when it is delivered as a service.
- Innotas provides a single-instance, multitenant, cloud-native set of PPM application services, driven by a distinct, near-exclusive focus on supporting project and work management in internal IT departments.
- The vendor introduced a SaaS-based data integration platform as a complement to its PPM application services, to provide its customers with support for data integration and staging between its PPM services and its customers’ third-party IT systems. Integration points include connections to Rally, Jira, Zendesk, Remedy and UserVoice.
- Innotas demonstrates its ability to scale with recent customer wins involving several hundreds of users per deal.
- Innotas does not readily target product development teams, nor does it provide new product development (NPD) PPM features, such as ideation or funding stage-gate workflows or methodologies specific to controlling time, people and money when prototyping or pursuing new product ideas.
- Flexibility in customizing reports in Innotas to suit the specific needs of end users may be limited. However, Innotas’ native reporting services recognize and uphold all the access rights and levels of any defined user of Innotas’ PPM services, ensuring that users can only access the data they are entitled to see when they make calls to the database.
- Whereas some cloud-based PPM service providers will make limited exceptions for customers asking for an on-premises or dedicated instance implementations, Innotas is solely single-instance, multitenant and does not honor such requests.
- Instantis’ cloud-based PPM services focus strongly on top-down, portfolio management capabilities. In doing so, the PPM services enable customers to define top-down strategies and success metrics in detail.
- The vendor strikes a balance between internal IT and non-IT PPM scenarios (such as product development organizations) for organizations interested in using the service for multiple environments.
- Instantis introduced EnterpriseStream, a native social networking and collaboration capability embedded in its PPM services. It allows users to collaborate and subscribe to projects, and follow their progress anywhere in the system, without requiring them to leave Instantis to access a third-party social networking or collaboration provider’s services.
- Although Instantis lists a number of integration capabilities through a partnership with Pervasive, its own Web service APIs, connectors to third-party software (such as Microsoft Office and Microsoft Project) and its cloud-based services have not yet been integrated directly with products such as Atlassian’s Jira or Rally’s agile development tools by customers in the field — two PPM integrations of interest among internal IT departments.
- Instantis recently introduced resource capacity planning and what-if scenario planning capabilities. These features, however, are relatively untested in the marketplace, and there has not been enough field data available to identify the strengths and weaknesses of this newer capability.
- Instantis recently added UI improvements, such as in-line editing of a project schedule, but customers would like the overall configurability of the application to improve, giving them more control over the placement and population of user-defined fields without requiring customization.
- One2team, a French PPM provider, is a bit unique in that its cloud-optimized PPM services are designed mainly for enhancing communication and collaboration among steering committees, business managers, or program and project managers.
- One2team’s PPM services include a foundational, collaborative environment connecting committee members, managers, and program or project leads to help them communicate while they manage transformational projects, as well as IT programs and projects.
- Key features include the ability to track milestones, demand and risks, as well as generate reports with data from One2team or third-party data sources, and track and manage documents, actions and deliverables. Dashboards and integrated report views are also included, and One2team recently added an integrated resource management tool for IT portfolio management and enterprise PMO scenarios.
- One2team does not provide integration to ALM tools (such as Jira) or agile development tools (such as Rally), although some native agile development support is included as a feature.
- The vendor provides basic support for mobile devices; whereas, the market is embracing and making heavy use of HTML5 development to drive mobile support for time reporting, approval capabilities, and access to reports and dashboards into their PPM application services. One2team does, however, provide a generic application for mobile device support.
- One2team does not provide strong workflow capabilities in its product — an area customers would like improved — including functionality such as graphical workflow modeling and configuration for designing and launching new approval processes and workflows easily in the system.
- Onepoint Software is unique in that it provides a commercially available, open-source, cloud-based PPM service.
- In addition to its main SaaS hub in Europe — featuring a single-instance, multitenant, single database architecture — Onepoint launched a separate SaaS hub positioned geographically to support potential SaaS PPM customers in the Americas.
- Recent notable improvements to Onepoint’s PPM services include mobile support via HTML5-based mobile UI, Jira/GreenHopper synchronization (with bidirectional synchronization currently in development), native project communication features, and added risk and portfolio management features.
- Onepoint only supports Jira/GreenHopper, but does not yet provide out-of-the-box integration with third-party agile development methodologies and tools (such as Rally or VersionOne), which are emerging integration points of interest among internal IT departments.
- Onepoint does not provide direct integration to third-party ITSM systems such as BMC Remedy or ServiceNow.
- As an Austrian-based PPM provider, Onepoint’s initial focus has mainly been on the European SaaS/open-source PPM market, but this may soon change with the recent introduction of a SaaS hub positioned in the Americas to attract new customers and tap into new market opportunities as part of its strategy to become a global provider.
- PowerSteering provides strong top-down, portfolio management cloud-based PPM application services supporting internal IT and NPD project environments.
- The vendor added an interactive dashboard to its cloud-based PPM services, with features designed to enhance program visibility ad hoc analysis — including the ability to sort, filter, group and summarize data, as well as resize and reorder columns.
- PowerSteering 9.2, released in January, includes added resource utilization reports, allowing users to compare planned versus actual resource utilization across projects.
- Although it introduced resource capacity planning and what-if analysis features via its Project Central and Interactive Dashboard capabilities in the second half of 2011, PowerSteering does not provide the ability to compare different project/resource scenarios when performing what-if analysis. The 10.0 release planned for the second half of 2012 will introduce scenario comparison capabilities.
- PowerSteering does not yet provide an integration with Atlassian’s Jira, an integration point of interest among internal IT departments. This is being developed for recent customers.
- PowerSteering provides only basic support for mobile devices, whereas the market is embracing and making heavy use of HTML5 development to drive mobile support for time reporting, approval capabilities, and access to reports and dashboards into their PPM application services. PowerSteering plans to address this in the future and will introduce an open API for building mobile applications connecting to the PowerSteering platform.
- Project Objects — a portfolio-focused PPM provider with operations in Ireland, the U.K., Italy, India and Brazil — designed and launched a single-instance, multitenant environment to deliver its PPM functionality, shifting its focus from on-premises-only deployment and more on cloud-based PPM services. This will enable Project Objects to expand its business and introduce its services to the greater European PPM marketplace.
- The vendor’s cloud-based PPM services offer flexible contract options for customers, who can choose to limit the length of SaaS commitments to Project Objects to three-, six- or 12-month SaaS agreements. This enables customers to test the waters with Project Objects and determine later whether they want to sign up for longer terms.
- Project Objects added a Stage & Gate module to support project life cycle management and process automation for demand management, as well as Workload Analysis and Management Module with Resource Net Availability Analysis/Views capabilities, an Advanced Resource Replacement Algorithm based on matching criteria and resources net availability, enhanced demand management features, and a configurable dashboard.
- Although it has an aggressive product development plan for improving its support for internal IT departments interested in PPM, Project Objects does not yet provide integration to ALM tools (such as Jira) or agile development tools (such as Rally).
- Project Objects does not provide strong collaboration or social networking capabilities as part of its PPM application services.
- Project Objects’ past growth seems to have been limited by its primary focus as an on-premises PPM provider. However, with the introduction of a single-instance, multitenant PPM service, the company is expected to expand its reach beyond its initial target markets via SaaS.
- Tenrox’s PPM services provide strong time reporting and resource management capabilities for project teams interested in enhancing communication and collaboration between project managers and team members in a project environment.
- Tenrox’s graphical workflow engine provides project workflows to integrate project requests, approval and execution within one system object, enabling users to view, manage, rank, filter and sort projects based on specific attributes, key performance indicators or user-defined fields.
- Other recent improvements to Tenrox’s cloud-based PPM services include multibrowser support (Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Apple Safari), as well as split views within its project planning features, so users can edit and maintain tasks, resources and assignments by navigating through the project and task hierarchy, and make changes as required within each task, rather than navigating away from the main task list.
- Tenrox does not readily target product development teams, nor does it provide NPD PPM features, such as ideation, funding stage-gate workflows or methodologies specific to controlling time, people and money when prototyping or pursuing new product ideas.
- The vendor does not provide top-down, portfolio-based investment and strategy planning suitable for steering committees and PMOs interested in collecting, vetting and planning strategic programs and projects prior to approval and execution phases.
- Tenrox does not yet include out-of-the-box integration with third-party agile development methodologies and tools, such as Rally or VersionOne — emerging integration points of interest among internal IT departments.
- VCSonline is unique in that it offers both a typical “per-named-user, per-month” pricing model, as well as a rare, tiered enterprise SaaS pricing model for its customers.
- VPMi provides a standard set of project and resource management features and functions to enhance the communication and collaboration between project managers and team members at a cost-effective price.
- Recent updates to VPMi include support for Chrome, the ability to replace resources on multiple projects, a resource manager dashboard and single sign-on via SAML 2.0.
- VCSonline does not readily target product development teams, nor does it provide NPD PPM features such as ideation or funding stage-gate workflows or methodologies specific to controlling time, people and money when prototyping or pursuing new product ideas.
- VCSonline does not provide strong top-down, portfolio-based investment and strategy planning suitable for steering committees and PMOs interested in collecting, vetting and planning strategic programs and projects prior to approval and execution phases.
- VPMi does not yet include out-of-the-box integration with third-party agile development methodologies and tools (such as Rally or VersionOne), which are emerging integration points of interest among internal IT departments.
Typically, business units come with a certain amount of autonomy. As such, the unit leader will gravitate to choices that directly benefit their business unit but not necessarily to the benefit of the organization. Those choices, even if aligned to overall organizational strategy, may be in conflict or duplication to other business unit choices. On the other hand, choices for the organization may be perceived as something that will disrupt their business and potentially cost money, effort and change. In addition, business leaders became to be so because they are driven to success. Business unit leaders who thrive on autonomy have a hard time following a process that takes away their ability to react independently for their business unit.
The underlying premise of PPM is that of value creation while balancing organizational risk–for the organization. And for PPM to work at an organizational level, all the business leaders need to do more than go through the motions–they need to believe that choices made for the benefit of the organization will in fact be the better choice for their unit and still allow them to react to their specific area of focus.
Defining value statements for executives is not a simple task. Set to high level, the value statements come across as airy; too low, they lose organizational perspective. Value statements need to be real and speak to such things as economic conditions and market position, but they also need to speak to value to the executive. Given the current economic conditions, we cannot continue to react like we have without thinking of the broader and longer implications of our decisions. It is not the time to throw money at our inefficiencies, it is the time to be conscience of unintentional redundancy and rework–and be focused on achieving our organizational goals. By working together, all of our business lines benefit through improved utilization of our resources and ability to deliver on thoughtfully selected initiatives.
Value statements need to come with conversations–lots of them. The PPM champion needs to have the authority to call out the other leaders who decide to not play. Convincing leaders who are successful in their business by being somewhat self-serving may take some time; bring them to a united front. It takes patience and tenacity–promoting the wins and pointing out the failing of not being part of the team.
Value statements for executives must come with supporting governance and processes. The executive steering committee (or whatever it’s called) that is responsible for making decisions on selecting, prioritizing, strategically scheduling and cancelling projects should have a documented charter with mandate and responsibilities agreed by all parties. The analysis criteria for selecting and prioritizing initiatives must be relatively equitable for all business lines to endorse the sense of fairness. It should be understood by all members of the steering group that the selection criteria is simply a guide for discussions, that everyone is accountable to speak their view points–and acknowledge that not everybody will agree with all decisions. Finally, it is critical that the decisions and reasons for the decisions are communicated downward.
Defining Value Statements for the Players
Having spoken about the executive level, now let’s talk about everybody else. Without some forethought, the working parts of the window treatment can look cumbersome. For many roles responsible for executing PPM, it means additional responsibilities. The amount of business transformation and people change is often underestimated when considering the implementation of the PPM concept. Organizations may already have some PPM-related processes: capital budgeting, project financial reporting, project management, risk management and resource management.
However, these processes may need to be refined, expanded or better coordinated. For some roles, this means additional analysis or reporting. If an EPPM solution is being implemented, it means PMs must report or even manage their projects in a tool following consistent standards (where normally they were used to the self-sufficiency of doing things their own way–as long as they produced results). There are also going to be new roles not previously considered for the support of the PPM process and associated tools. Some roles in the table below are typical in a project management team but others might be required within a successful PPM:
It is possible to have window dressing that looks pretty while being useful, too. The challenge comes with trying to derive what is of value for each of the players. At the executive layer, it is about drawing attention to the greater good–balanced with allowance for reaction as needed. Messages at all levels need to be targeted to the specific PPM process roles with consideration to their position and role within the organization.
I quote Michael Greer’s definition of PPM as follows:
“Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is a management process designed to help an organization acquire and view information about all of its projects, then sort and prioritize each project according to certain criteria, such as strategic value, impact on resources, cost, and so on. The objectives of PPM are similar to the objectives of managing a financial portfolio:
- To become conscious of all the individual listings in the portfolio.
- To develop a “big picture” view and a deeper understanding of the collection as a whole.
- To allow sensible sorting, adding and removing of items from the collection based on their costs, benefits and alignment with long-term strategies or goals.
- To allow the portfolio owner to get the ‘best bang for the buck’ from resources invested.”
Greer presents a simple and easy-to-understand place to begin exploring PPM, its components and processes. In fact, the framework’s simplicity is quite elegant as it gives you a way to vet your PPM activities by cross-walking them to one or more of the above four criteria.
The first two elements of the definition focus on communication with project stakeholders, which is critical to a successful PPM process. Getting everyone on the same page regarding the tradeoffs, risks, benefits and overall enterprise value of projects is no easy task–especially as the organization grows in size and global footprint.
The third element is all about governance over the portfolio. It embodies all the activities needed to ensure that projects are properly vetted, prioritized and governed. The fourth element speaks to the value proposition that drives the PPM process. The “bank for the buck” can take the form of ROI, competitive positioning, sustainability or whatever the organization prizes as important.
Basically, PPM is all about formalizing the way projects get value-vetted, approved, prioritized, monitored and deployed. PPM is perhaps the most important function of the Project Management Office.
Of course with the PPM process come a host of issues and challenges, such as:
|Risk of Failure||Resource Scarcity||Risk to Capital||Windows of Opportunity|
|Competitive Positioning||Impact on Sustainability||Achievability||Cultural and Political Climate|
|Regulatory Uncertainty||Economic Uncertainty||Regulatory Urgency||Organizational Commitment and Resolve|
In an IBM article entitled “Project Portfolio Management (PPM): Aligning business and IT”, Ashok Reddy identifies the following challenges facing IT-related PPM efforts:
- “Lack of understanding among business managers about how IT can help achieve corporate goals; many regard IT as a necessary evil.
- In some organizations that recognize the importance of investing in IT to achieve corporate goals, IT projects often do not deliver enough value because they fail to align themselves with business objectives.
- Some IT organizations launch more projects than they can handle effectively; and they neglect to set project priorities based on business objectives.
- IT decision makers in many organizations do not know how to analyze needs and focus resources on projects that would lead to better efficiency and cost savings.”
It is interesting how consistent these challenges are with Greer’s four goals of PPM.
Another perspective comes from Emerald Associates in their article entitled “Portfolio Management Principles and Challenges”. Here they provide a definition of PPM and some of the issues that impair its success:
“Project Portfolio Management aims to maximize the collective value of multiple projects by achieving an optimum balance of cost, return and risk within the organization’s resource constraints. An optimum project portfolio is not simply a bundle of related projects. It is a consciously-designed collection of projects that, as a whole, achieve a higher value to the organization than the sum of their individual contributions; the interplay between the projects balances risk, return and resources so as to create greater value to the organization than an arbitrary or at worst random–collection of projects would.”
- “Inadequate or non-existent metrics for establishing what constitutes strategic success”
- “No defined process for reviewing/evaluating project proposals”
- “No visibility of what is being done throughout the organization”
- “Inadequate tracking of portfolio performance over its full lifecycle; insufficient information to make the tough calls”
Using Greer’s criteria, it is possible to construct a simplified yet effective PPM process. To begin, visualize the PPM as a continuum where projects flow through, each having its own assessment, approval and deployment phases. The below model illustrates this process:
For each phase develop the communication, value assessment, prioritization and oversight activities needed to satisfy Greer’s criteria. Critical to this process is building a consensus to the methods and metrics used. Be sure to keep the paperwork to a minimum and to create an oversight group that is representative of those with a stake in the project mix. Remember to consider the political and cultural dynamics in play. Once you have the framework and process ironed out, you can evaluate which automated tools might provide leverage.
PPM isn’t rocket science. It is a straightforward process that simply provides assurances that the right projects are being commissioned in the optimal sequence in a way that minimizes risk and maximizes the value achieved.
As I commented in a 2009 article:
“Like an investment, projects have a beginning, a middle and an end. In the beginning they are evaluated in terms of their potential to add value to the current environment. In the middle they are monitored to ensure that they are performing as planned. In the end, they are measured in terms of the value actually realized. Contrary to investing however, the relationship between risk-reward concept is not in play. Instead, the value proposition is based on the project’s potential for continued value production long after the investment cycle has ended.
PPM is a critical and integral component of the PMO function. Without the PPM component, the PMO risks becoming overly focused on compliance and governance and not enough on return and outcomes achieved.”
What are your experiences with PPM? What has worked for your organization? What lessons can you share? We at gantthead encourage you to join in the exchange of ideas and promote dialogue with us and fellow members.
- Project Portfolio Management (PPM): Aligning business and IT by Ashok Reddy, IBM, Software Group
- Portfolio Management Principles and Challenges
- Project Portfolio Management: The Issues, Challenges, Business Opportunities and Future Trends by Shan Rajeg Opal
- Challenges Of Program and Project Portfolio Management by Rodolfo Aular-Hernández
- Global Survey Gives Insight Into PPM Challenges from Project and Program Management Level by Mario Arlt, ESI International
Traditional PM frameworks consist of the following components:
- Planning and Design
- Monitoring and Control
The primary misconception about using traditional PM approaches is the assumption that each of these components is done only once per project and not iteratively. Since the framework was first applied to construction and engineering projects, it is easy to understand why the approach evolved to be seen as a sequential process. However, as controversial as it may seem, there is nothing in the discipline that would prevent breaking a project into iterations of the process, especially in the areas from planning and design through deployment. Thus it is very common for those following a tradition PM model to break a project up into a series of time-phased deliverables, each consisting of its own planning, design and execution components.
Another misconception related to traditional PM is the blending of a development lifecycle known as Waterfall with the standard components of the traditional PM model. This has led opponents of traditional PM to falsely assume that under a traditional model, all requirements are developed prior to any design work being done and that all design work is completed prior to any construction work being done and so on, thus rendering the following model:
In reality, this model is rarely ever followed by project managers that utilize a traditional approach. Instead, under a traditional approach a project is broken down into a set of discrete deliverables during the Requirements Discovery phase. The natural physics of those requirements to each other are bundled so that as much simultaneous progress can be made as prudently possible. Thus a more “real world” traditional lifecycle model looks more like this:
This approach allows for a macro view of the project to be developed while supporting rapid development and deployment based on the organization’s functional needs. When combined with a change control mechanism, this approach becomes very flexible and predictable That being said, the general PM framework (Initiation, Planning and Design, Execution, Monitoring and Control, Closure/Deployment and Evaluation) remains intact and has little to do with the development lifecycle being used.
Somewhere during the 1990s, the term “Agile Software Development” began to appear in articles on the Internet and in publications like ComputerWorld. But it wasn’t until 2001 when a group of agile enthusiast penned the Agile Manifesto and formed the Agile Alliance. The agile framework of PM differs from the traditional command and control model in many ways. But perhaps the most significant distinction begins with its set of driving principles. These principles are as follows:
- “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
- Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
- Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
- Build projects around motivated individuals.
- Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- Agile processes promote sustainable development.
- The sponsors, developers and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
- Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
- Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
- The best architectures, requirements and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”
For the most part, the above principles are not at odds with traditional PM approaches; they give voice to the importance of consciously applying them versus leaving them to chance. For all practical purposes, agile PM is an alternative to the Waterfall method of software development and integrates well intended principles into the framework. Consider this depiction of the agile PM lifecycle courtesy of ergosign.de:
It’s quite different from the Waterfall model in that each iteration is comprised of an entire software development lifecycle process. This approach allows an application (or portion of an application) to be heuristically evolved into a deployable state, usually through the utilization of prototyping tools or other rapid application development (RAD) process. This approach works well on small baskets of requirements that are loosely coupled. Opponents of agile PM see the potential for runaway projects that never end, as the universe of ideas of ways to do things better is infinite. In addition, they worry that agile projects are too difficult to budget–and that delivery dates are hard to establish due to its iterative nature. This is one reason those participating in agile projects need to have a true urgency of need to have the project complete and make its way into production.
The strength of agile PM is that it strives to produce usable results in very short periods of time, often in a few short weeks. In addition, by design it fosters collaborative development–which in turn improves deployment acceptance. There is no doubt that agile techniques have much merit and–used properly–can accelerate the development process.
The Scrum approach to project management has roots dating back to 1986, when a rugby metaphor was used to describe a highly iterative and holistic approach to doing product development. However, it was in 1991 that the term was used to describe the process–and in 1995, Scrum made its official debut at OOPSLA ‘95 (Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages & Applications) in Austin, Texas. Scrum is truly unique in its approach and comes complete with its own terminologies like ScrumMaster, Chicken, Pig and Sprints. Wikipedia explains Scrum this way (emphasis is mine):
“Scrum is a ‘process skeleton’, which contains sets of practices and predefined roles. The main roles in Scrum are: (1) the‘ScrumMaster’, who maintains the processes (typically in lieu of a project manager); (2) the ‘Product Owner’, who represents the stakeholders; and (3) the ‘Team’, a cross-functional group of about 7 people who do the actual analysis, design, implementation, testing, etc.
During each ‘sprint’, typically a two- to four-week period(with the length being decided by the team), the team creates a potentially shippable product increment (for example, working and tested software). The set of features that go into a sprint come from the product ‘backlog’, which is a prioritized set of high-level requirements of work to be done. Which backlog items go into the sprint is determined during the sprint planning meeting. During this meeting, the Product Owner informs the team of the items in the product backlog that he wants completed. The team then determines how much of this they can commit to complete during the next sprint. During a sprint, no one is allowed to change the sprint backlog, which means that the requirements are frozen for that sprint. After a sprint is completed, the team demonstrates the use of the software.”
While Scrum is often referred to as an agile approach to PM, its characteristics place it in a class of its own. The concepts can easily be woven into traditional frameworks, making it a viable approach for small and large projects alike. However, its strict rules require a very willing Scrum-trained team for it to be viable within an organization. That being said, there are no Scrum police–so feel free to adapt it to your existing frameworks (perhaps losing the lingo while adopting the process). Personally, I like using a Scrum-like framework with what I call “SWAT teams”, whose job it is to rapidly knock out short-term projects that tend to steal resources from larger initiatives. And while Scrum is primarily used in software development projects, it is adaptable to almost any type of project where there is a need to continuously deliver value in extremely short time intervals.
Like agile and Scrum, Extreme Project Management (XPM) is part of a family of project management approaches known as Light PM. One of the best books on XPM is by Doug DeCarlo entitled eXtreme Project Management. In his article “A Different Drummer: Traditional Project Management vs. Extreme Project Management–An Apples and Cumquats Comparison”, DeCarlo provides this short definition of XPM:
“An extreme project is a complex, self-correcting venture in search of a desired result.”
Unlike Scrum, XPM does not play well with traditional PM approaches. This is mainly due to the premises upon which it is based. Again, DeCarlo sums it up the distinctions as follows:
Traditional PM Framework Environment
As can be seen, XPM is not for the faint of heart. It requires a mindset that embraces the notion that the talent and desire of the people engaged in the project will overcome the lack of structure and deliver the necessary results when needed. Thus XPM may need some birthing time within an organization, starting with small, low-risk projects and then being brought to bear on more mission critical initiatives as it matures.
Summing it Up
So which alternative PM method works best? The answer is, “It all depends.” Each has its place in the project management tool kit. More likely than not, the savvy PM will not standardize on one single approach but rather develop a series of hybrid models that can be applied based on the project’s complexity, duration, delivery requirements and more. I encourage all PMs to develop a working foundation of knowledge on these and other approaches, thus enhancing their ability to consistently deliver value no matter what the challenges the project mix presents.