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4 Common Mistakes When Using PPM Tools

Project portfolio management tools promise much but – say many – they rarely live up to the hype; often the fault lies with the user, not the tool

Businessman Ground Cut from Beneath Him Trap PitfallData from more than 1,600 IT project and program managers show that the use of project portfolio management (PPM) tools is more widespread than ever (CEB PMO members can see the data here on the dedicated website).

They use PPM tools to improve their understanding of what resources they have to hand, track how long things are taking to complete, or improve portfolio management decisions.

All this sounds promising but over half of CEB PMO members also say that their PPM tool causes them frequent headaches. They say that PPM tools are expensive, take a lot of time to use properly, and too often aren’t as helpful as they should be.

A Bad Workman Etc…

However, much like the old adage, a lot of these complaints are probably not the fault of the PPM tool but the people trying to use it. Many of those working in project management offices (PMOs) that are not happy with a PPM tool tend to make one of four common mistakes.

  • Mistake #1: Losing sight of the primary goal: When using a PPM tool, it’s important to clearly define what goals the tool will help with

    Once set, PMOs need to revisit these goals regularly to make sure they align with the firm’s strategic priorities. And they must make sure to not overcomplicate things by asking those that use the tool to understand and use too many features at once; that’s a certain way to ensure people give up and don’t use it. And any kind of project management tool such as this is only as good as the data that’s entered into it.

  • Mistake #2: Failing to focus on adoption: PMOs that get the most value from their PPM tools have a clear strategy in place to encourage people to use the tool.

    They develop a communication campaign to build support for the tool by clearly articulating how it will personally benefit sponsors and stakeholders. The PMO should use weekly emails, webinars, and a variety of other communication and training activities.

  • Mistake #3: Overburdening project managers with data duties: Project managers will be most effective when they can focus on activities like stakeholder and risk management rather than being burdened with admin. CEB data show that 46% of PM time is spent on low-value administrative tasks like PPM tool data entry.

    Avoid this sorry state of affairs either by streamlining how data are collected, or by creating a dedicated project coordinator role to handle project data entry, collection, and reporting.

  • Mistake #4: Mistaking data collection for decision support: If your data doesn’t help people make decisions, what’s the point of collecting it? The PMO should determine which decisions the PPM tool must support, and then periodically review its PPM dashboard to cull any metrics that are not used for making decisions.

    It’s also important to maintain high quality data by running ongoing data audits.


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