Why Big PPM is Doomed to Fail.

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Choosing a PPM tool that does the job efficiently whilst meeting everyone’s requirements can be fraught with difficulty for those tasked with making it happen. With decades of experience in the PMO field, our in-house expert, David Walton, has seen many implementations fall over, and shares his experience here to help you make sure that the next failure isn’t yours.

Massive cogs grinding against eachother

Having worked with many clients either re-structuring their PMO or implementing a change function, I am struck by how many organisations have implemented, what I call, big PPM tools, or MASSIVE PPM.

I have yet to see a successful implementation. There seems to be a correlation between large scale and failure in the world of PPM. This blog explores why this is the case.

The problem often starts with the tendering process. At Bestoutcome, we provide a light-touch PPM tool, PM3, that can scale so we often receive invitation to tenders. I’m usually staggered by the breadth of functionality that is being asked, especially when the organization, which has issued the tender, has a very low maturity in project and programme management.

TIP 1: Select a tool that matches your current maturity and can grow as you grow.

Some of the questions that we have been asked about in tenders include:

“Does your tool receipt goods”
“How does it interface with a Customer Relationship Management system?”
“Can it produce our PID for me”

A PPM is not an accounting system so why should it receipt goods? The second question was asked by an NHS organisation whose project maturity was close to zero and did not have or need a CRM application.

The reason, that these tenders contain all these requirements, is because a group of project managers or stakeholders has produced their comprehensive wish lists.

This is fine but there needs to be a sanity check and just because someone has asked for a particular requirement does not mean it should be included in a tender.

Before putting together a tender, it is recommended that some thought is given to the type of tool that is needed. If, for example, the objective of the tool is to have greater visibility on the delivery of projects, then some of the more spurious requirements can be excluded when assessed against this objective.

Another cause of BIG PPM failure is that these large tools require a significant investment in change management in order for the implementation to be successful.

Any PPM tool requires a significant amount of work to overcome any barriers of change that may exist with any new tool. Project and Programme Managers tend to be very busy delivering their initiatives against tough deadlines.

If a new tool is large, complex and difficult to use, the chances of project and programme managers embracing the new tool and using it effectively are very low. If, however, the tool does the majority of what is needed, and is simple to use, the chances of adoption is very high.

We are all busy people and the longer it takes to learn a tool the greater the resistance to change and hence the greater the probability of failure.

Here, I think the Pareto principle is one that we should remind ourselves, namely:

The principle states that 20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.

Selecting a PPM tool that does the core of what you need is better than selecting one that meets 100% of your requirements.

Tip 2: If a PPM meets all your requirements; it’s probably the wrong tool for you!

Select a Tool that grows with you

I’m not advocating picking a very simple tool, just one that meets your core needs. You may also want to select a tool that can start small and then grow with you as your maturity grows.

For example, our PPM tool, PM3, allows you to turn off functionality for different users or the whole organisation.

You can then turn on more functionality as needed and as your maturity and needs grow. For example, the following three screens show different types of functionality available, starting small and then adding more functionality as and when you need it.


I’m sure that BIG PPM can work but I have seen very few examples of this being the case. Mostly these large PPM tools are used just for timesheet tracking as anything else is just too complicated and time consuming.

The other major benefit of picking the right-sized PPM tool is that it will be a lot cheaper than the large ‘mothership’ toolsets that I equate to large PPM. So save your self a lot of money and heartache and pick the ‘right-sized’ PPM tool.

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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