Having managed many large scale programmes and established Enterprise PMOs, I have recently been struck by some of the misconceptions about what a PMO tool can do. In this blog, I’ll cover what I think are the top 5 misconceptions.
Project management expertise is not a commodity despite what some people think. It needs experience and a set of skills to be able to deliver a project successfully. A PMO tool can help and guide the project manager but it cannot do the project manager’s job for him or her. If it could then a project manager is just a commodity. The tool should be able to help plan a project, capture risks, issues and key project documents like PIDs. Capturing risks, for example, is useful, but the easy part. The difficult part is mitigating risks and / or preventing them from occurring. The key word here is ‘help’. The PMO tool can help the project manager but cannot do his/her job for them.
It is a noble goal to integrate a PMO / PPM tool with a number of systems. However, one of the problems of some PMO tools is their complexity which leads to low adoption and poor take-up. You may want to integrate your PMO tool with a finance product so that financial actuals can be imported into the PMO tool. This can be a sensible approach. If you start trying to integrate the PMO tool in to every other system you are in danger of building a complex beast which puts off the project managers and the tool falls quickly into disuse.
One client, an NHS organisation, wanted a PMO tool that integrated with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Quite why this organisation needed to do this was beyond me and beyond the PMO manager when pressed for an answer to this question. Keep it simple is the best approach when implementing a PMO system.
Every client has their own PMO report that has been used since the beginning of time and the new PMO tool needs to produce this report exactly in the format that has been developed in Word or Excel. Many PMO vendors will tell you that the customer can build their own reports with the implication that it is relatively straightforward. This is often economic with the truth as it may be possible but rarely easy. It is unrealistic to expect a PMO tool to be able to reproduce exactly the highlight report that has been developed in Word or Excel unless it is very simple. Better to agree with the vendor to build this report for you. This will in turn help with user adoption.
Purchasing a tool and its associated consulting services is a non-trivial exercise but the investment should not end there. The danger of not continuing investment is that the tool usage becomes sporadic and eventually is not used by the project management community. New project managers, either contract or permanent, need training and change management support to ensure on-going usage and support of the tool. Without this continued investment, the tool is unlikely to be used effectively or for very long.
On the face of this, the requirement that a tool should meet all of a customer’s requirements seems reasonable as this is why most tenders are written. The aim of a tender is that the tool selected is the one that meets all their requirements. The problem here is that when the requirements list is produced, prospective users ask for everything they can think of and the kitchen sink. These requirements are often not prioritised. The danger is that a tool is chosen that meets every requirement and wish that has been documented. The result is typically a very expensive leviathan system that no one can understand and one which falls into disuse very quickly. The pareto 80:20 rule is one here that should be adopted. If a tool meets all your requirements it is probably the wrong tool.
The reason why so many PMO/PPM tool implementations fail is because of some or all of these misconceptions. A PPM/PMO tool can deliver significant benefit to an organisation but it is not a silver bullet or a panacea.
Understanding these misconceptions will help you select the right PMO/PPM tool and ensure that your organisation continues to invest and benefit from its use.