Is big PPM dead? Why PMOs are turning away from the giant players

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Recently we exhibited our PPM tool, PM3, at the PMO conference in London. It was a good conference that had over 250 people attending and 5 PPM vendors, including us, exhibiting.

When an interested PMO professional asked to see a demo of PM3, I always ask if they are already using a tool.  What struck me was that a good proportion were using a tool and they were fed up with it and wanted to change.

When PPM tools get too big for effective PMO

The majority of people who wished to change their PPM tool, were using one of the ‘big players’ that are always appearing on the top right of the Gartner Quadrant partly due to the scope of functionality that these tools support. There were some common reasons for these organisations wishing to change their toolset.

Firstly, these big tools were so functionally rich that they were hard to use and navigate. Consequently, It took a long time to ‘on-board’ new PMO staff or project managers. Everybody, whether you work in an NHS PMO or the private sector, is busy and they need tools that are intuitive and easy to use. People do not have time to spend hours or days learning how to use a tool. The rise in popularity of Apple’s products has resulted in people expecting a very visually appealing and easy to use software.  When they have to use a product with a clunky interface they get frustrated.

The complexity of these large tools often leads to complex processes being developed around these products rather than the organisation working out what processes they need and then configuring the product to support these processes. We recently worked on a consultancy assignment with a large retailer who were using one of these large PPM tools to perform cash-flow forecasting just because the tool could; they did not question whether the PMO should be running cash-flow forecasts.

The other factor driving people away from these leviathans is the realisation that these very expensive software packages were only being used for timesheets and financial projections. The tools were not being used to plan, control and govern projects.

Another theme from the PMO conference was the lack of support that incumbent tool vendors were offering their customers. Some large vendors are US based and have only sales offices in the UK. This naturally leads to varying levels of support especially in the morning when the US based support staff may not be awake. An investment in a PPM tool is a big one for any organisation and, when reviewing tool presentations, it is always good to understand the number of support personnel who are working in the time zones that you are working in.

Without being too cynical, it is always important to speak to other customers to understand  their view of how the vendor supports the PPM implementation and beyond, especially after the contract has been signed!

Moving away from an incumbent PPM tool is a non-trivial undertaking but it may be the right approach. Of course, the best approach is to pick the right PPM tool in the first place and BIGGEST is not ALWAYS BEST!

For more information on a tool designed by practitioners for practitioners, PM3 contact us at or call +44 (0)1753 885864

David Walton
About the author
David Walton

I am David Walton, Programme,Project and Portfolio Management specialist and director of Bestoutcome here in the UK. We make the PMO tools PM3, PM3time and PM3change, the only PMO tools designed by practitioners for practitioners.

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