The tools and software used by enterprises for project and portfolio management (PPM) are evolving in response to workplace trends, including the rise in working from home, enterprise adoption of new cloud architectures and growing economic uncertainty.
PPM tools are designed to help improve strategic planning across a portfolio of multiple projects. They sit atop project management (PM) tools, which help teams coordinate the people, materials and equipment involved in individual projects. PM tools, in turn, have evolved to support digital transformation initiatives: Modern workflow management tools help harness a collection of tasks for digital production workflows, using new planning techniques like Kanban boards.
PPM tools help ensure a business's entire portfolio of projects is strategically aligned with enterprise goals by prioritizing and sequencing tasks based on estimated costs, benefits, risks and constraints. In the past, PPM encompassed a broad class of planning tools used primarily by a small group of professional project planners. But recently, Gartner has broken the PPM market into two disciplines -- strategic portfolio management (SPM) for longer-term planning and adaptive project management and reporting (APMR) for more tactical and continuous decision-making -- marking a bifurcation in PPM tools. A few vendors are starting to bring these capabilities together into more comprehensive offerings, although it's still early days for this kind of integration.
This guide will help you understand the broader evolution of these PPM tools with an overview of their benefits and key capabilities. We also include a brief overview of some of the top PPM tools, according to industry experts.
What are PPM tools and software?
Every company has various projects vying for budget, staff and executive attention. Sometimes these projects complement each other. Other times they compete with each other, and in some cases, they do both.
For example, a business team might propose a project to roll out a new SaaS-based offering to customers. The initiative hinges on the completion of work by various groups: The IT department needs to set up a new billing system. The finance department needs to set up a new accounting process for the change in revenue streams. And the legal team needs to work with the finance and business teams to assess the financial impact of different terms and service agreements.
Each one of these projects takes time and money. The company can't sell the new SaaS service until the billing system is set up. But then setting up and integrating the billing system will require having a better understanding of how the new service will be delivered. The IT department must also work with the finance department to determine which tools or services might best align with their desired workflow.
In the old days, people just put all of these things into a spreadsheet to store and share numbers about different scenarios. But things can get complicated as the number of projects, dependencies and metrics grow. This is where PPM tools come in. They provide an integrated whiteboard for each team to share their understanding of their requirements, estimated costs, benefits, risks, timeline and dependencies with the broader organization.
If circumstances change, individuals can update a new assessment into the tool, which gets propagated to enterprise planners and other project managers. PPM can also identify opportunities to spend extra money to push critical projects through that are holding up others -- or to put other projects on hold until a new infrastructure project is complete.
Benefits of PPM tools and software
PPM tools and software can boost the value of projects by enabling enterprises to do the following:
- allocate assets more efficiently;
- coordinate competing goals from different departments and business teams;
- drive operational efficiency;
- improve productivity;
- minimize project dependency bottlenecks;
- prioritize the highest-value projects;
- reduce duplication across projects; and
- spread risks across multiple projects.
Key capabilities of PPM tools and software
The capabilities of PPM tools vary widely across vendors and use cases. Generally speaking, they all offer the following core capabilities to different degrees:
- improved planning and prioritization of projects using various scenario modeling, strategic roadmap and customer scoring techniques;
- strategic alignment across teams and departments by using agreed-upon objectives and key results;
- ability to reflect business goals in the context of specific projects and workflows;
- resource management tools to estimate the cost of new projects and track the actual time required to improve future estimates;
- task management capabilities for remote collaboration;
- financial analysis capabilities to help craft initial estimates and update these based on new circumstances;
- risk management capabilities for identifying dependencies and resolving issues more quickly; and
- reporting capabilities for assessing progress and identifying obstacles.
Best PPM tools and software
Various PPM tools support SPM, APMR and sometimes both capabilities.
SPM starts with a big-picture approach to help align enterprise-wide strategy and execution. It includes features to help define key business strategies and desired outcomes. It also provides tools for identifying the talent, technology and activities that can help achieve those outcomes. This can help PPM teams prioritize specific projects and products.
APMR takes a more bottom-up approach. It includes capabilities that help teams promote continuous collaboration, adapt to changing customer needs and improve execution, informed by various metrics. These tools help align communication and collaboration across many project teams, guiding ongoing project execution and enabling adaptations as required.
Some vendors are starting to combine both capabilities. Examples include Planisware, Planview, Sciforma and ServiceNow. It is worth noting that these vendors are still in the process of developing these integrations. In some cases, the tools arose from different acquisitions or development efforts, and some work and additional licensing fees may be required to get SPM and APMR capabilities to work together for a given organization.
Here is a selection of the best PPM tools and software, listed alphabetically.
Broadcom Clarity PPM and Rally Software for large-scale projects
Broadcom Clarity supports enterprise-wide PPM, while Rally adds the ability to connect projects with value stream management capabilities. This combination promises to redefine how an enterprise can plan, execute and track work. Clarity can help improve strategic planning and prioritize investments, and it supports project tracking. Rally helps align these with Agile development processes across Broadcom's extensive development and testing tools collection.
This is a good fit for larger organizations, particularly in manufacturing, finance and healthcare. Clarity also supports extensive roadmapping capabilities to help align long-term plans with tactical execution. It also can help organize a collection of projects into a hierarchy to improve management, reporting and governance.
EOS Software simplifies IT integration
The EOS Software ITPM platform was designed to coordinate the work of strategy realization officers, program managers and enterprise architects. It has several features for adaptive planning, application portfolio management, scenario planning and resource management. It is a solid option for improving the connectivity between strategic planning and new IT services.
EOS Software partnered with Planisware, another PPM vendor, to enhance IT integration across both tools. The tight integration with IT systems helps visualize connections between business strategies and applications, services or other IT resources.
KeyedIn Solutions helps transition from project delivery to portfolio value
KeyedIn has traditionally focused on improving project management through KeyedIn Projects. KeyedIn Enterprise extends these core capabilities to support enterprise PPM, SPM and adaptive project management. Its enterprise tools help model enterprise initiatives or improve digital transformation efforts. Essential capabilities support strategic alignment, portfolio selection and prioritization, and resource capacity planning. It integrates with various tools, including Jira, Microsoft Project, Microsoft Power BI, Salesforce and QuickBooks.
Monday.com streamlines work and project collaboration
Monday.com's APMR capability improves project and work management in hybrid office scenarios. It provides several templates to help organizations quickly get started. An extensive suite of collaboration tools can help organizations coordinate more efficiently across the office or the world. These tools promise to help boost a team's alignment, efficiency and productivity through customized workflows. Organizations can also create customizable dashboards to improve decision-making. It also supports project management, portfolio management, project planning and risk management capabilities.
ONEPOINT Projects supports waterfall and Agile projects
ONEPOINT Projects is focused on APMR capabilities. One vital feature is the tool's support for both traditional waterfall and Agile project methodologies. This enables enterprises to combine both approaches for different use cases. It supports various dashboards and charts to surface project and portfolio progress in real time and includes connectors for various popular tools, including Excel, Slack, Jira, Confluence, SAP and Microsoft Project.
Planisware transforms vision into reality
Planisware provides a single shared view across project and portfolio management functions. It combines strong dashboard capabilities with industry best practices. It has good support for both APMR and SPM. It also supports process automation to help prioritize initiatives, organize resources, and coordinate execution. It is widely used by larger companies in industries like financial services, life sciences, and manufacturing.
Planview connects architecture to business goals
Planview is one of the larger PPM vendors on this list. It supports a comprehensive set of APMR capabilities through Planview PPM Pro and Planview AdaptiveWork (formerly Clarizen). enables businesses to pivot quickly when needs change.
Planview also supports SPM capabilities. The company has grown through many acquisitions, including Troux, Projectplace, Innotas, LeanKit, Clarizen, Changepoint, Spigit, Tasktop and Enrich, and it has been integrating these new capabilities into its core platform. The combination of these tools can help connect strategic planning with enterprise architecture.
Proggio builds a project map
Proggio has powerful APMR capabilities that support project and work management. It supports a novel approach to data presentation that uses connected layers to create a digital map of project and portfolio progress. Users can zoom out to view the entire portfolio, zoom in to explore project workstreams and zoom in further to examine individual activities or specific bottlenecks. This simplifies navigation, and users can easily make changes when updates are identified.
Sciforma combines portfolio and work management
Sciforma has long supported various SPM and APMR capabilities that have evolved over the last 30 years. In December 2022, it announced Sciforma Vantage, which combines PPM with collaborative work management. This helps organizations formulate strategy, prioritize projects, track progress and manage projects within a single connected tool. The core Sciforma platform has been widely used across several industries, including biotech, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing and telecommunications.
ServiceNow aligns IT with business objectives
ServiceNow has a strong presence in cloud-based IT service management. It recently rebranded its IT business management offering as ServiceNow Strategic Portfolio Management. Its strength lies in connecting business planning with actual IT infrastructure. This takes advantage of ServiceNow's extensive monitoring and reporting capabilities. The offering supports performance analytics, demand management, resource management and innovation management. It can also help teams simulate and compare potential outcomes with scenario planning. It can align new plans with application performance management to monitor the effects of new programs on IT infrastructure. An additional advantage is the ability to automatically implement new ideas through ServiceNow's low-code tools and assess the results before scaling them up.
Shibumi for ease of deployment
Shibumi is provisioned as a cloud-based PPM service. The company highlights its ability to provide a single source of truth with real-time visibility. It includes tools that surface both financial and nonfinancial metrics and results. A template library helps executives make informed decisions through support for program status and KPIs.
One powerful feature is direct integration with various robotic process automation tools from Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism and UiPath. It also supports AI integrations with Dataiku, DataRobot and IBM Watson to help improve predictions and planning. These integrations help speed up the time to value to help teams quickly jumpstart deployment and adapt to new goals.
Smartsheet connects the dots between strategy and execution
Smartsheet started out as a better spreadsheet for collaboration. Over the years, it has expanded into various areas, including PPM. It provides a variety of customizable templates that help companies and departments get started with individual projects and then connect them into portfolios. It supports an extensive set of integrations into tools from ServiceNow, Google, Microsoft, Slack, Salesforce, Jira and dozens of other companies.
One of its core strengths is its simplicity. The familiar spreadsheet-like interface provides many ways for business users to extend it to different use cases. This helps teams bring in data from third-party apps, automate processes and customize workflows.
Software AG Alfabet provides comprehensive capabilities
Software AG has been building data and software development tools since 1969 and acquired Alfabet PPM solutions in 2013. It combined these tools with its other ARIS process modeling products and has continued enhancing its PPM capabilities' breadth and depth. The result is better linkage between the interdependent perspectives of IT, business, finance and risk, giving PPM teams the ability to better understand the impact of new ideas. It also supports built-in enterprise architecture capabilities.
Teams can describe IT systems in terms of application, information and technical layers. This knowledge can also guide the development of standards to harmonize projects and infrastructure and to reduce operational costs. At the same time, it helps less technical users create reports, explore the impact of new ideas and update plans. It comes with an extensive set of AI and machine learning capabilities for discovering portfolio shortcomings,
UMT360 drives business agility
UMT360 Strategic Portfolio Manager was specifically designed to help drive business transformation. It is a cloud-based platform with separate modules for analytics and enterprise integration. The company acquired FIOS Insight in 2021, which added enterprise architecture capabilities for analyzing existing IT systems and planned changes. It also supports a collection of industry reference models to guide new projects, with best practices for the appropriate architecture.
One essential aspect is support for packaged applications (called Accelerators) that help customers get started quickly with a base level of capability -- laying the groundwork for adding more modules later. These modules support what-if analysis, resource planning and benefits realization. The platform also supports an extensive array of integrations with other tools, including Jira, Oracle Fusion Cloud Financials, SAP and ServiceNow.
WorkOtter provides prescriptive guidance
WorkOtter is a cloud-based PPM tool with a powerful set of APMR capabilities. A core strength is that it provides templates and best practices that help teams follow project management industry best practices. It can deliver prescriptive guidance to help projects and portfolios meet goals and adapt when required. It also supports a variety of financial management capabilities to help evaluate tradeoffs across labor, capital expenses, operational expenses and quoted versus actual costs.
How to choose the best PPM tool or software for your business
Project and portfolio management is a vast field with considerable variation across its range of tools. Where to begin?
It is probably helpful to start by inventorying what business managers are already using to manage projects. If managers are happy using Excel, it may make sense to shortlist other relatively simple PPM tools. If you have an extensive SaaS portfolio, exploring some of the other SaaS-based PPM offerings may make sense.
Many of the most popular PPM tools make it easy to get started and kick the tires in a short period. Trialing the tools can give you an idea of how they work and how they might simplify project planning and management, as compared with your existing approach. Testing tools can also help define and refine the capabilities your business needs.
Once your team has identified what capabilities they are looking for, then you can start to explore some of the more sophisticated offerings. It may be that the essential tools are good enough for the long haul. Even relatively simple ones have reported very high ROIs, and the ease of use can boost adoption.
However, it is also worth investigating how some of the more sophisticated tools are pushing the cutting edge. It is also worth keeping an eye on upgrades to your favorite options. New AI capabilities are rapidly evolving. These can both simplify the project and portfolio management experience while simultaneously ingesting and contextualizing data from more sources.