Share this article

Many project delivery organisations sooner or later arrive at the decision that they need to implement software to help create and maintain a discipline around project management data. In some cases, the discipline may already be established, and the organisation is simply looking for a single repository from which to take and analyse data. Whatever the reason for adopting a PPM tool, to arrive at the point of purchase there is usually a clear problem that needs to be solved.

The aim of this short article is to break down the critical success factors for procuring and implementing a PPM tool, to help ensure that the organisation reaps the benefits of the investment to the full extent possible.

Critical Success Factor 1: Define Clear Objectives and Requirements

Being clear on the objectives and detailed requirements for the tool is one of the most important aspects of any system implementation. While this might sound obvious, the term ‘PPM tool’ is a broad one and could encompass tools that look at specific project disciplines like risk management or project scheduling or conversely could cover the whole project/program lifecycle. Many stakeholders will have their own clear (to them!) understanding of what a PPM tool should do. Those stakeholder discussions need to occur before the market is engaged and a PPM tool is selected. Making sure the right people are at the table to have those conversations is important. You may consider consulting with groups from across the business such as; Project Managers, PMO and Project Controls teams, relevant senior leaders and the Change & Transformation team.

While consulting broadly is critical, it is also vital to ensure that any requirements that fall outside of the core scope of a PPM tool are rejected. For example, if the operations team are looking for a works scheduling tool then a typical PPM won’t support this activity unless an additional module is procured (in some cases) or there is customisation to the base functionality. Consulting too widely can be as detrimental to the process as not consulting enough. Make it clear at the outset what business objectives the PPM tool is there to support.

Critical Success Factor 2: Comprehensive Evaluation and Selection Process

There are a number of ways to arrive at a vendor shortlist. Many people on the team will be familiar with the market leading tools and will have a view on whether they will meet the business need or not. In addition, some web-based research or an event like the Project Management Technology Showcase, will bring in new or lesser-known tools, some of whom may offer new and more innovative features that you might want to consider. There are hundreds if not thousands of PPM tools in the market so to narrow down the list a robust and objective criterion will be required. This will help bring reduce the list to a manageable number to go forward for a more detailed assessment.

The next step will typically be to ask the shortlisted vendors to come in and demonstrate the product using scenarios that might be similar to how the business plans to use it. This process allows the teams to assess the look and feel of the tool as well as to ask detailed questions of the vendor, particularly around functionality.

Questions to the vendor will typically include subjects like integration capability, whole of life ownership costs and the roadmap for future features. The same questions should be asked of each vendor so a like for like comparison can be done. This helps to keep any biases at bay and keep the exercise objective and fair.

In order to make the final decision, usability, functionality and cost are typically the predominant factors for comparison. Will the system do what the business needs it to do – and will it do so at a reasonable cost? There will of course be other factors to assess but functionality, usability and cost tend to be the primary decision-making drivers.

Critical Success Factor 3: Change Management and Communication

As with any IT project, a PPM tool implementation should be treated as a business change and managed as such. The organisation will need to be prepared for the change and stakeholders will need to understand what the change means to them. Having an effective change and communications plan is integral to project success. The implementation plan will often include a phased system roll out. This is often technically advantageous, but also a great way to focus on one or two stakeholder groups at a time from a change management perspective.

Critical Success Factor 4: Training and Support

Training is a key aspect to whether the business will adopt the tool quickly. If training is immediately available and is comprehensive and role-based, the chances of successful implementation are significantly higher than if those elements are missing or not complete. It can also be beneficial to have a number of training options, for example, in-person, e-learning, and community forms are all great ways of building capability. Ensuring that users have access to ongoing training and support can also be helpful – it not only helps with initial adoption but also fosters continuous improvement and confidence in using the PPM tool effectively.

Critical Success Factor 5: Continuous Improvement and Monitoring

Phased implementations provide a valuable opportunity to continuously learn and improve. Each product release should be more efficient than the last by learning from the feedback from the last drop. KPIs will also support formal measurement of the tool’s adoption and use and should be reviewed and refined regularly.

Regularly reviewing and refining KPIs will help track the tool’s effectiveness and ensure it meets the organisation’s needs. Additionally, systematically collecting and analysing user feedback will inform necessary adjustments and enhancements, ensuring the tool evolves to better support users over time.

Conclusion

Implementing a PPM tool involves more than just purchasing software; it requires careful planning, thorough evaluation, and continuous management. The establishment of clear objectives and detailed requirements is essential to ensure the tool aligns with the organisation’s strategic goals. A considered and phased implementation and training plan will help to support the users through the change resulting in the smooth and fast adoption of the new system and faster realisation of the resultant benefits

If you’re currently planning a PPM implementation, talk to us today to learn more about the steps that can be taken to ensure the organisational investment makes the required returns for your project team and the business overall.