How ACCO Brands use PM3 as their Enterprise PPM Tool


Before PM3, what tools were being used to manage projects?

Before the creation of a Global Portfolio and Project Management function, ACCO Brands IT delivered projects on a regional level, using a mix of products to manage our projects. Different regions used a combination of Microsoft Project, Excel, Smartsheet and multiple instances of SharePoint. The demand for IT Projects across ACCO Brands has grown significantly over the last few years, and I was tasked to create a global PPM function to provide a global view of the IT project portfolio.

We looked at all the tools that were being used to run ACCO Brands’ projects across the globe, as we specifically needed something to cover all aspects of portfolio and project management, including, governance, standards, PMO functions and delivery. Many of the incumbent tools were primarily planning tools with limited portfolio management capabilities. I didn’t want a monster of a tool that needed hundreds of thousands of dollars to configure, only not to use most of the functionality.

By bringing all IT projects into a single tool, PM3, we now have visibility over the entire pipeline and a global view of the portfolio.

What projects and programmes are being manged in PM3?

The simple answer is: all IT projects globally. We have redefined the boundaries of a project, and the PPM team tracks every IT project in PM3. The starting point of the process is a project request entered in ServiceNow, which is then reviewed and, if approved, PM3 is automatically updated and the project is managed as part of the overall portfolio. Anything that meets ACCO Brands’ definition of an IT project in managed in PM3.

Have you expanded PM3 since you bought it?

We started using PM3 as a proof of concept with 40 licenses limited to the global PPM team, plus a few users from the wider IT organisation. We wanted to keep PM3 contained and learn about the tool before rolling it out to other parts of the organisation. We now have approximately 200 licenses and the use of PM3 has expanded across the ACCO Brands global IT organisation. Other functions, such as Corporate Finance, HR and Legal have seen the way we run projects with PM3 and are adopting the methodology and PM3 for their projects.

My long-term vision is that our approach to managing projects supported by PM3 becomes the way we run projects across the entire ACCO Brands organisation.

What benefits have you gained from using PM3?

As we are a U.S. company, we are governed by Sarbanes Oxley, so it is a requirement for us to have a true source of record for audit purposes. We need to go to one place to see the status of our projects.

Only today, we had a member of our internal compliance function ask for access to PM3 so they could review the European projects! Before PM3, this would have been a difficult and lengthy collation of project information from diverse sources.

PM3 also allows us to enforce our methodology. PM3 helps us to drive our stage gate process and delivery standardisation.

Our Chief Information Officer sees PM3 as a strategic platform in enabling and supporting globalisation of the IT organisation within ACCO Brands. We have two global IT platforms- ServiceNow and PM3. ServiceNow is managing the operational side of IT and PM3 is managing the delivery of all our IT change projects. Our global PPM function has been running for a year and without PM3, we would be in a more complex situation using a plethora of tools and I would be struggling to a have a single view of our global IT portfolio.

We have recently conducted an external PPM maturity assessment. The results were very positive. We are punching above our weight and the PM3 tool has helped us accelerate up the PPM maturity curve.

How did you engage the Project Manager community?

One of the ways I sold PM3 into the project manager community was by informing them that:

PM3 means they would never have to write another status report ever again!

Before PM3 was introduced, the PMO team would issue a PowerPoint template and the project managers would have to fill it in. We had no consistency. Some project managers would write a seven-page status report and others would write a single sentence. PM3 highlight reports are produced automatically. A centralised RAID log and a lessons-learnt repository also helped win the project managers over.

How did you embed PM3 into your organisation?

First, we made a lot of noise that PM3 was coming. We have an all-hands global IT meeting every quarter where I presented PM3 in order to set the expectation of what PM3 would deliver for us and how it would be used. Every month, I meet with the Board to discuss the IT portfolio and I started to use PM3 with its standard reports and dashboards to present to the Board. The senior executive level has become quite familiar with PM3 and its dashboards.

Standard PM3 reports are also used during a fortnightly PPM meeting reviewing the health of inflight projects. PM3’s one-page status report is a key input for this meeting.

The more consistent we are, the more familiar people are with our process, which generates greater trust in  our ability to deliver. Whoever we put a PM3 report in front of, whether our Chief Executive Officer or a team in Mexico, they are familiar with the PM3 reports and that in turn generates trust.

We ran a training exercise across the entire IT team so that anyone involved in projects attended a methodology workshop and, if they were going to use PM3, they attended a PM3 workshop. So, there is nobody on the IT team who does not know about PM3 or our methodology. Any new starters get the training they need on the methodology and PM3. We are continually enforcing and embedding. We also have a quarterly PPM newsletter that goes to the entire IT team and PM3 is heavily featured. This again helps to embed PM3 into our organisation. It never ends and we must keep banging the drum.

Ignorance is not an excuse!

What happens if a project manager does not use PM3?

If someone tries to present a governance report that is not from PM3, it stands out like a sore thumb. When going for financial approval, if an employee is not using PM3, they are not following our standard processes, so the project will not get financial approval. This is a big incentive for project managers to use PM3.

What is your relationship with Bestoutcome?

Our relationship with Bestoutcome is great. PM3 is a key strategic platform for us. We meet every six months as part of our strategic partnership with BestOutcome, where we discuss PM3, the development roadmap and what we would like to see in the future.

Bestoutcome has been very responsive to queries. We are a global organisation and when we have had a few niggles, Bestoutcome has reacted quickly to ensure that these issues are resolved.

Bestoutcome is also very accessible to us. We can channel queries from the project managers directly to Bestoutcome. We established a small working group with the Bestoutcome team to suggest future enhancements and tweaks to the tool. We are on a journey together improving the tool.

What are your future plans for PM3 at ACCO Brands?

We want to expand the use of PM3 outside of the Global IT function. We are a big organisation and a lot of functions deliver projects. We also want to use more functionality in PM3. The next stage is for us to further leverage resource management capabilities, benefits management, and reporting modules, so we can measure the benefits that are being delivered.


About BestOutcome and PM3

Established in 2000, BestOutcome are a leading PPM/Change practice providing, PM3, an award-winning Project, Portfolio Management (PPM) solution to the public, private and charitable sectors.

Information on PM3 and our services can be found at: https://bestoutcome.com/


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