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The PPM tool journey: from planning to adoption


Gero Renker, director of Program Framework, on the best tools for the trade

As the engine driving the delivery of the organisation’s strategy, the Project Management Office (PMO) has an important role in ensuring that projects are in tune with business objectives and are delivered efficiently and consistently. However, despite their important role in strategic change delivery, many PMOs are still operating without appropriate tools.   

Implementing the right Project Portfolio Management (PPM) tool can transform the PMO by turning it into an efficient data-driven operation. The implementation of such a tool should be treated as a project in itself and is outlined in the following guidance, from planning through to adoption. 

What is a PPM tool?  

A PPM tool is an enterprise database that houses all of the organisation’s PPM data, creating a ‘single source of truth’ that benefits all stakeholders. With the data entered by users or received through integration with other systems, the tool can generate reports and dashboards instantly without significant manual overheads. This supports decision-making for increased project success and more consistent delivery. 

Is your business ready for a PPM tool?  

There is a misconception that there is a minimum level of maturity that needs to be attained before a ‘real’ PPM tool can be implemented. However, employing a tool as the vehicle for the maturity journey from the start has many benefits:    

The PMO can start with a simple implementation and grow its maturity level by deploying additional features when the time is right. The tool provides a clear ‘art-of-the-possible’ vision for this journey. It provides efficiency benefits from the start and avoids the implementation of cumbersome spreadsheets as a stopgap.  

Instead of aiming to achieve a minimum maturity level, one should be more concerned about defining clear ownership of the process and tool before embarking on the implementation. 

Selecting your PPM tool 

When considering the requirements for the tool, one might be tempted to invite all stakeholders to compile a long wish list. This might include highly sophisticated features, such as high levels of automation, sophisticated resource management or complex integration scenarios. It is important to rationalise and prioritise these requirements and be realistic about what is actually achievable in the organisation from the current starting point. As part of this, organisations should brief potential tool vendors on the current ways of working, challenges and aspirations, and allow the vendor to explain how their tool would enable a journey over time to address these in an iterative manner. 

Whilst features and tool functionality are obviously very important, one shouldn’t forget other aspects of the solution that are more conceptual, platform level or hidden from view. For example, an organisation invested in the Microsoft cloud platform should consider placing the tool into the heart of this platform as this ‘single platform’ approach is likely to enhance collaboration, integration and automation. 

Scoping the implementation 

 Rather than going live with all of the features at once, businesses should consider a phased approach, such as:  

  • Running a pilot with a small subset of users – this will provide an opportunity to refine any issues with the tool before rolling it out to the wider organisation. 
  • Choosing ‘day one’ features that support current ways of working and making these more efficient, rather than using the tool implementation as the point to introduce a range of new processes. 
  • Rolling out more advanced features, such as automation or resource management, after the ‘day one’ features have been properly embedded.  

User adoption  

 A successful PPM journey relies on end users utilising the PPM tool consistently. Achieving this requires a significant time investment in user adoption to ensure employees are confident using the tool. To achieve this, businesses should consider:  

  • Surveying users to gauge how they feel before and after the tool’s implementation to obtain quantitative data on how the PPM tool has improved people’s productivity. This can then be fed back to the business and employees.  
  • Securing senior sponsorship will ensure that the benefits of the tool are communicated at the highest level of the organisation and that appropriate resources are given to ensure a successful implementation.  
  • Planning to own the training and change management – the aim from the beginning of the project should be to become self-sufficient and see change as an ongoing investment.  
  • Defining clear processes for how the tools should be used, and then applying consistent governance to make sure that these are followed. 


Gero Renker is a director of Program Framework, a consultancy that specialises in solutions for enterprise project, portfolio and risk management.