Buyer's Handbook: A buyer's guide to PPM tools, features, benefits and vendors Article 3 of 5

The key features of project and portfolio management software

Cloud or on premises? Does it have the proper collaboration features? How about mobile access? When buying PPM software, these are just some of the questions businesses should ask.

Organizations should consider numerous factors when evaluating project and portfolio management software, all within the context of gaining PPM benefits and more value from projects. Features should correlate with business requirements, business particulars and the stated business goals. While some decisions and feature considerations are obvious and based on the limits of IT architecture or compliance requirements, others require significant deliberation and a frank assessment of the company's expected growth. In short, decision-makers should look inward at the enterprise before looking outward at the products.

Cloud vs. on-premises PPM software

This is the question enterprises face with many major system purchases: cloud or on premises?

If cloud, is the PPM software available via a private cloud or hosted as part of a public cloud service?

Some companies are moving to all-cloud environments, so availability of project and portfolio management software in the cloud is a high priority. Others are keeping certain business applications on premises, often for security reasons, so a cloud-only delivery model is out of the question.

With cloud offerings, including SaaS, cost factors such as subscriptions, maintenance fees, expansion modules and training are important. It's also important to consider the vendor service and support levels, and the cybersecurity provisions of the hosting provider.

For on-premises offerings, cost factors include potential hardware requirements, licensing, maintenance, implementation, training, service and support. Companies also need to look at the PPM system and its release schedule for any potential upgrades that might require additional investments.

Collaboration features

Decision-makers should look inward at the enterprise before looking outward at the products.

Collaboration features represent a major buying consideration. Managing projects and portfolios is a team effort, so easily collaborating and sharing documents is vital. This includes features that allow users to ask questions and solve problems related to projects, tasks, resources, schedules and other issues.

Do the collaborative capabilities of the PPM software allow managers and team members to easily work together on prioritization, resource allocation and process flow? Can the team drill down into a specific project, resource or task when collaborating? Are enterprise social media capabilities, instant messaging and other easy-to-use collaborative tools available?

Global and mobile capabilities

Many enterprises run multiple projects around the world, so the ability of the project and portfolio management software to support international operations is important. This might include a currency conversion feature, as well as multiple language support.

Many organizations also have large mobile workforces, so the ability to support mobile access to PPM functions is key. Mobile access to project and portfolio management software enables users to take advantage of features, regardless of where they are working from, and can help foster better collaboration.

Data support and governance

PPM benefits are realized when the systems get data about all project aspects to executives and project managers, so they can make decisions about prioritization, resources, budgets and schedules. So, it makes sense that how well a platform supports the collection, analysis and sharing of data is important.

Data might need to come from human resources, financial and other systems, so project and portfolio management software needs automation and data flow. Does the platform support data export in the most common industry file formats, from both internal and external sources?

Data governance, including data quality and security, is another consideration. This includes the ability to eliminate redundant data entry as well as identify and correct data that violates preconfigured business rule criteria, which organizations can alter as needed.

Security capabilities include data access controls, such as the ability to set role-based permissions.

Expandability, scalability, flexibility

For growing businesses, the ability of a platform to expand and scale to meet growing user demand as well as support a growing number of projects is vital. Does the PPM platform include modules that provide flexibility and enable easy project-specific expansion? Does it enable users to turn features on and off according to their needs at a given time?

Integration with other systems

The software will need to work in conjunction with other systems in order for the organization to realize significant project and portfolio management software benefits. This enables users to perform a variety of tasks related to project analysis.

These might include financial systems, service management/timekeeping applications, project management systems, business intelligence platforms and ERP platforms.

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