Ever seen a headline like this? Me neither! This is because a new PPM tool purchase is unlikely to drive the earnings of any organization in a way that would prompt a headline like this. 

Yet many PMO Leaders would have you believe that if only they could get a new PPM tool for their team that headlines like this would suddenly appear in the Wall Street Journal after the newly acquired PPM tool is implemented. They argue that a project methodology will be strictly followed and enforced, task management will be streamlined and automated, and a treasure trove of insights will come to light. All of which will lead to spectacular sales and profitability. This argument is often made at the beginning of a PMO’s strategic planning cycle, and details on exactly how the PPM tool would be implemented are often surprisingly light.

I do not want to diminish the capabilities provided by a sound PPM tool. These software offerings include the capability to level resources, track time, track status of projects, and track the realization of benefits from completed projects. These benefits are critical to the success of the PMO. However, they are not a game changer for most companies as they are not likely to significantly change the profitability of the company nor are they likely to drive a significant increase in sales. PPM tools simply help amplify the effectiveness of the fundamental strategy of the PMO. This should not be confused with the amplification of the strategy of the overall organization.

It is fine, and even advisable, for a PMO leader to seek a PPM tool after the core of a PMO’s strategy has been defined and tested. The core of any successful PMO’s strategy is the definition of their Project Methodology. The Project Methodology or Project Delivery Lifecycle (PDLC) should first be designed, documented, and tested on a couple of projects. This process should also be generally accepted as a process that is beneficial to the organization and is perceived as an improvement over the previous way that projects were run. If there is not widespread acceptance and support of an established PDLC then it is not advisable to go out and seek a PPM tool. The core requirements of a PPM tool have simply not been defined or tested.

Once the PDLC is established, you should always look to see if there is a tool already in place that can be molded to the need. As has been mentioned in one of this site’s articles “How to Exploit ServiceNow for your PMO” (Link), 35% of the Global 2000 have some kind of service agreement with ServiceNow. ServiceNow has a PPM capability that can be configured for a variety of different PDLC methodologies. Even if ServiceNow is not available to you, your PMO may already operate with an established PPM tool that likely can be configured for your current methodology. If either of these things are true then resist the urge of contacting your friendly neighborhood PPM vendor to make an expensive PPM tool purchase until you have validated that the tools already existing in your toolbox can’t be molded according to the needs of your PDLC.

If your organization currently has no available PPM capability then know that with a vetted PDLC process you will be able to have a thorough conversation with PPM vendors as to what your specific PPM need is. You can identify ways to further automate and streamline your PDLC process utilizing the prospective PPM tool. This will help to strengthen your business case for the purchase and configuration of a PPM tool. Further, it puts you in position to get the most benefit out of a PPM tool when it is in place.

The next time you define your PMO strategy examine your Project Management methodology. Is it defined? Is it working based on the current business context within and surrounding the organization? If the answer is yes to both of these then look at your PPM offering and look for ways to bolster that capability in a cost-effective way. Often that involves adapting a tool you already have for the current need. At the end of the day, remember that the business case for a new PPM tool is hard to justify. This often will cause you to deplete your pool of political capital to make the large software purchase for your PPM tool. Is it really worth it?


Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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