When your organization realizes it is time to find and apply a management software for ongoing projects, you might become quickly overwhelmed. Project Management (PM), Program Management (EPM) and Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solutions seem similar. I have listed below the three levels of project management and the notable differences that should be taken into account as you evaluate your needs.

Project Management (PM)

Definition:

What is Project Management? Project management is the process that ensures projects achieve the desired objectives set out in the project charter.

Process:

  1. Initiating the project
  2. Developing a plan
  3. Completing the project according to the approved plan
  4. Controlling the project activities throughout its lifetime
  5. Closing the project on time and within budget

Software:

Project Management software involves functionality tools in order to organize day-to-day project planning, tracking, and monitoring. This type of software has features such as milestones, Gantt charts, budgeting, calendars, and timesheets.  Project management software significantly helps to collaborate, increase clarity and stay on task.

Program Management (EPM)

Definition:

What is Program Management? A program is a group of similar projects managed in a coordinated way, in order to gain the benefits and control not available from managing them individually. A program manager is tasked with optimizing the utilization of resources across projects to increase the organization’s overall performance.  The most significant differences between project management and program management are that programs tend to last longer, require more effort and result in outcomes, not outputs. For example, the goal of a project might be to implement a new software program for the sales team to enter leads. A program’s outcome could be to shift how the marketing and sales organizations work together.

Process:

  1. Managing overlaps and dependencies between projects
  2. Track overall resource capacity and availability
  3. Ensuring program level goals are achieved on time and on budget

Software:

Some companies use Enterprise Project Management (EPM) software, designed to ease day-to-day project delivery and management on a larger scale.

An EPM solution helps to manage, monitor and assess activities, schedules, and work breakdown structures.

Project Portfolio Management (PPM)

Definition:

What is Project Portfolio Management? PPM is the centralized management of the processes, methods, and technologies used by project managers and project management offices (PMOs) to analyze and collectively manage current or proposed projects based on numerous key characteristics. With Project Portfolio Management the group of projects or programs do not have to be related. PPM has a bigger scope and objective than program management. In addition, PPM the portfolio manager identifies, prioritizes, and authorizes the projects or programs the organization tackles to achieve strategic business objectives. Although they set the priority of the projects or programs in a group, they typically do not oversee any individual project or program.

Process:

  1. Shift from program management to portfolio management
  2. Optimize resources to stay in budget
  3. Communicate effectively across all departments
  4. Enjoy economies of scale and lesser risks

Software:

Project Portfolio Management software manages activities to best achieve an organization’s operational and financial goals. It does this through choosing the optimal mix for delivery and to schedule activities. PPM software also manages constraints imposed by customers, strategic objectives, or external real-world factors.

Projectric is a PPM solution used to easily and effectively manage a portfolio of projects. PPM streamlines the project intake process with customizable scoring for project alignment and prioritization.  

Projectric features built-in reports to analyze, measure and manage projects and resources.  Reporting includes time tracking and overall project financial management.  Projectric provides analysis such as predictive portfolio analysis and hindsight analysis.

As you move from project management towards portfolio management, your scope and objectives become larger and more complex. However, your tools can remain simple and intuitive.

Projectric is PPM simplified. It organizes projects, programs & portfolios to empower you to make better business decisions.  

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The PPM process should provide an aggregate portfolio view of all project plans for big picture analysis. Project Portfolio Management software should also offer visibility into data at the project level.

Good project level management allows the editing of individual project plans and visualization of work breakdown structure for each initiative.

Project level management within the overall PPM process effectively handles problems and identifies patterns with issue tracking to ensure timeliness of portfolio goals.

A Project Management Portfolio Management process should provision for the following capabilities:

  • Project Lifecycle
  • Project Plans
  • Work Breakdown Structure
  • Issue Tracking
  • Timesheets

Project Workflow

A Project Portfolio Management process organizes initiatives offering an understanding of project status.

The project lifecycle process enables you to manage proposed initiatives, gather information, manage active projects and review your completed projects.

A project management process that uses a project lifecycle allows you to answer questions such as:

  • How many active projects do we have?
  • When was this project placed on hold?
  • Who proposed the most initiatives this year?
  • Is my project done yet?

Project Plans

Your PPM solution should aggregate and track project management plans across the portfolio and allow individual project plans to be displayed and updated.

Project planning as part of the project portfolio management process supports the ability to create mock-up plans for initiatives that are still in the planning/ non-active stage. This allows you to assign resources and timelines and perform “what-if” analysis against the entire portfolio.

Work Breakdown Structure

PPM solutions need to able to store data at a low level of granularity to ensure that the information presented is both accurate to the entire organization and relevant to Project Managers.

The Work Breakdown Structure further itemizes the project plan into tasks, milestones, timelines and resources necessary to complete the project.

This provides the information needed to answer questions such as:

  • Which tasks or milestones are due this week?
  • Who is responsible for Task A?
  • What is the on-time rate for milestones on projects with this PM?
  • Is my project done yet?

Issue Tracking

All projects have issues – some are more disruptive than others in terms of preventing projects from being completed on time, on budget, and delivering business value. The project issue tracking process:

  • Identifies issues
  • Quantifies the issue’s impact on the project
  • Assigns the issue to an owner
  • Provides updates on the issue
  • Assigns timelines for resolution
  • Notifies stakeholders

Project Portfolio Management software supports the tracking process and manages issues across the entire project portfolio. The project issue log enables you to identify trends, know the resources that can be assigned to resolve issue and understand the impact of an issue on the portfolio.

Timesheets

Tracking resource utilization at the project level and at the task level is managed via timesheets in a PPM solution.

Having timesheet data answers project level questions such as:

  • Who worked on Project A last week?
  • How many hours did we allocate for Task A vs. how many hours were actually spent?
  • Did we exceed our project budget?

Timesheet data answers questions across the entire portfolio as well:

  • What is the average amount of time we spend performing repetitive Task A?
  • How much money have we spent doing Task B?  Should we outsource this?
  • Who is our fastest coder?

Project management ensures that your initiatives deliver! To learn more about the additional benefits that PPM can deliver please read the “Definitive Guide to Project Portfolio Management”.

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Here is the Project Management Process, illustrated.  This simple graphic is a sketch showing the key phases in the Project Management Process and associated activities for each step.  

We have sourced our information from the Project Management Institute (PMI) – our visual presentation is fresh and accurate.  We have decided to include information for both Project Management 4 Phases and Project Management 5 Phases.  (The 4-step process combines Steps 4 and 5 (Monitoring and Closing) and the activities that support those steps, respectively.)

Project Portfolio Management (PPM) software such as Projectric will help to perform the supporting activities listed for every project phase.  Read our blog post about about how PPM supports robust Project Management Methodologies.

Hope this helps as you refine your Project Management techniques.  

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Microsoft estimates there are 750 million users of Excel worldwide. And it is no wonder – spreadsheets are a handy tool. In this blog post, find an identification of the benefits and drawbacks of spreadsheets for Project Portfolio Management (PPM).  

Benefits of Spreadsheets for Project Portfolio Management

Spreadsheets are the project tracking and project portfolio management tool of choice for many organizations because of:

  • Ease of Use – Most people already know how to create spreadsheets or could learn very quickly.
  • Availability – Spreadsheet applications are on almost every laptop and PC, just a click away. As a result, they have become a standard form of communication between computer users.
  • Flexibility – Spreadsheets allow non-technical people to do things they never thought possible without learning a programming language.
  • Cost – Because spreadsheets are typically already installed on most laptops and PCs, and creating a spreadsheet can be very fast and easy, they have very low start-up costs, if any.

Spreadsheets offer a very quick, adaptable and inexpensive way to create a project inventory list from scratch. Then it is easy to grow the use of spreadsheets for PPM from there. We create spreadsheets of our project backlog, spreadsheets of our active projects, and spreadsheets of our finished projects. It doesn’t stop there. We also create additional spreadsheets for our resource lists with availability projections and spreadsheets of our project plans. Some applications are on almost every laptop and PC, just a click away. Some employees even create project scope statements and other documents in spreadsheets.

How To Manage Project Portfolios With Spreadsheets

Implementing PPM on spreadsheets generally requires the creation of multiple spreadsheets. One reason for this is that the information needs for decision-making change as the project progresses through the lifecycle. For example while the project is still in the pipeline, it is important to understand project alignment characteristics, value, the requested due date and the estimated start date.

However, after the project is initiated, of greater concern are the project’s health, progress and the likely finish date. Another reason for multiple spreadsheets is that certain functions in the decision process do not lend themselves to a project list format. For example, if a scoring model is used for value assessment, this is typically done in a different spreadsheet from the project lists.

Another example is a resource availability table. This information typically needs to be viewed both by resource and by project.

True project portfolio management also requires a governance model and controls with an integrated workflow. Having a defined process with decision points and requirements for movement from one stage to the next allows an organization to remain in control, be consistent and make improvements. Spreadsheets were never designed to be able to implement a workflow, though there is no question that a PPM workflow could be designed and created by a spreadsheet guru.  However, this is rarely done for a PPM implementation with spreadsheets, and even if it could be, is this really worth the effort and time to maintain?

Hidden Costs To Project Portfolio Management By Spreadsheets

There are many costs associated with spreadsheets that are not initially apparent.  These costs are generated from the creation and use of multiple spreadsheets, the attempts to collaborate and share information from these spreadsheets and the fact that spreadsheets were not designed for certain PPM functions. The resulting hidden costs include:

1. Wasted Time

Spreadsheet users waste hours of time trying to consolidate information from multiple spreadsheets and transferring selected information from one spreadsheet to another. Individual users also waste time trying to perfect their own view by resizing columns and rows, justifying text and many other beautification activities that really don’t add value.

With multiple spreadsheets and duplications of data, much time is wasted in looking for and correcting inaccuracies in the data. Or worse, these inaccuracies never get corrected and create a risk to the organization.

With differing skill levels from the users of these spreadsheets, often there is time wasted for the builder of the spreadsheet to explain the intricacies of their work so others can use it. And, given the creators are constantly modifying their work, there is a constant need to explain the changes.

2. Inefficiencies

Inefficiencies from spreadsheets occur in multiple areas. The preferred method of communicating information from spreadsheets is to email them to others. In some cases, this is completed instantaneously; however, in other instances, there is elapsed time between when the spreadsheet was emailed and when it was opened. This leads to delays in work and decisions. Basically, the information needed might not be available to a person when they need it.

Emailing of spreadsheets also leads to the potential for multiple versions of the same spreadsheet being updated independently and even more inefficiencies due to duplications of effort. Special reporting causes another inefficiency when certain people only want to see a subset of the information in the main spreadsheets. This requires the generation of special views of the data that can be communicated to these people and even more versions of the spreadsheet.

On occasion, massive PPM spreadsheets are created over time with no thought to the value of the additional data or the compounding problems in using the new creation, causing data overload. More data does not always lead to better decisions. Often it leads to paralysis or “minertia” – the focus on minutia that leads to negative inertia. Along the same lines, spreadsheets have so many features, we often overanalyze the information, creating new filters and generating pivot tables of data to our hearts content, almost always an inefficient use of time.

3. Risks

There is no doubt that the use and communication of spreadsheets can lead to higher risks for data security. With the portability of spreadsheets it is very difficult to control who has access to them both internally and externally. It is very easy to send a spreadsheet to a destination outside of an organization’s control, whether intentionally or accidentally. Having copies of the spreadsheets and data in multiple hands only compounds the potential risk. To a minor extent, there is also a potential risk of making a bad decision as a result of the data inaccuracies that often occur.

Productivity Beyond Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are a valuable tool and a great place to start at the beginning of a PPM initiative. They are a great personal productivity tool because of their availability, ease-of-use and flexibility. And, they will always play a part in PPM for certain types of reporting and analysis. However, they are not “free” of cost and become a very expensive tool when trying to use them for a departmental PPM solution.

It does not take much of a productivity gain to justify the cost of some of the more affordable PPM solutions on the market. If your employees waste as little as one hour per day with PPM spreadsheets, the costs can be substantial. If you have 3 employees involved in PPM, they work an average of 200 days per year and your hourly rate is $50. This adds up to $30,000 per year of wasted expense. You could easily get a 10 times return on your investment in an affordable PPM solution for this amount of savings.

Spreadsheets are a valuable tool and a great place to start at the beginning of a PPM initiative. They are a great personal productivity tool because of their availability, ease-of-use and flexibility. And, they will always play a part in PPM for certain types of reporting and analysis. However, they are not “free” of cost and become a very expensive tool when trying to use them for a departmental PPM solution.

It does not take much of a productivity gain to justify the cost of some of the more affordable PPM solutions on the market. If your employees waste as little as one hour per day with PPM spreadsheets, the costs can be substantial. For example, let’s say you have 3 employees involved in PPM, they work an average of 200 days per year, and your hourly rate is $50. This adds up to $30,000 per year of wasted expense. You could easily get a 10 times return on your investment in an affordable PPM solution for this amount of savings.

Keep Project Portfolio Management Simple

The proliferation of spreadsheets for PPM is an indication that users have unfulfilled needs. With this, there may be resistance to a single PPM solution and the abandonment of the more familiar spreadsheet. Spreadsheets are quick and easy. Although it is difficult for any PPM solution to meet this standard, it is critical that the solution be non-complex and easy-to-learn. It is also helpful to provide familiar spreadsheet-like views and not try to over-automate the process. This will just add unneeded complexity.

Organizations have implemented a sophisticated PPM tool only to see their users fall back to the more familiar spreadsheets for these reasons. If you want your PPM solution to actually be used by your organization, keep it simple and used as an aid for the decision making that will increase the value delivered by your department to the organization.

Read about how Duro Bag Manufacturing streamlined their Project Portfolio Management using Projectric.

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Project Portfolio Management (PPM) tools help advance careers and minimize stress for Project Managers (PM).  This blog post provides insight into how a Project Manager can move from a “facilitation” role with limited organizational value to a “management” role with demonstrable impact towards achieving strategic goals.

Project Management Challenges

Project Managers need to deliver IT projects on-time while providing transparency and governance to the organization. PMs must be able to answer requests from diverse lines of business such as:

  • Which projects are approved and why?
  • How will this program be staffed?
  • Was this a successful project?

Today, Project Managers face these requirements with a set of tools ill-suited for the changing landscape. Manual processes are not scalable, Excel is not dynamic and individual solutions are not integrated. Project Managers have always been tasked to “do more with less,” and this is expected even more today.

IT budgets have only risen slightly but the composition of the IT portfolio has shifted from programs designed to maintain the infrastructure status quo to programs supporting initiatives such as digital transformation.

A Project Manager must ensure that the proper projects are being approved, how to improve project management and how to provide the reporting transparency and governance needed to advance the organization.

The Solution: Project Portfolio Management (PPM)

Project Managers need to leverage the benefits of an end-to-end Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solution even if their focus is only at the project level. By utilizing the capabilities of a solution to see all projects across a portfolio as well as emerging issues, the PM can take corrective action that benefits the overall portfolio and thus the organization.

Additionally, a top-down view of resource utilization across projects allows the PM to proactively make adjustments and even solve multiple resource issues at once. Finally, the need to provide transparency on the project performance can be automated and distributed to the line of business via self-service reporting tools, allowing the PM to focus on managing the projects vs. delivering status reports.

An intuitive PPM tool will provide a PM with the following important capabilities:

Project Approval

Project Managers need more powerful tools to ensure that the projects presented for funding are selected using methodologies that align with corporate strategies and portfolio goals

Timesheet Management

Maintain cost and expense data within a centralized solution and allows easy input via web-based templates.

Resource Allocation

Top-down project status views and milestone tracking allow PMs to manage initiatives with the portfolio view in mind.  Read more about Resource Allocation in this blog post.

Top-Down Reporting

Allow all data – from project selection criteria to actual vs budgeted results – to be accessible in a variety of charts and dashboards across the enterprise.  Read more about best practices for reporting within PPM here.  

Benefits To Project Managers

The benefits to improved PM performance range from quantitative (improved project success rate, financial return, and cost savings) to qualitative (less time spent doing manual tasks, improved organizational success, and support to formalize and develop a PMO).

All of these combined contribute to the PM role being viewed less as a “facilitation” role with limited organizational value to a “management” role with demonstrable impact towards achieving strategic goals.

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The infographic below shows a birds-eye view of striking facts and figures concerning the Project Management Office (PMO) inspired by research by the Project Management Institute (PMI).  

But, before you fly off into the graphic, what does a PMO do, anyway? A Project Management Office (PMO) is a group or department in an enterprise that establishes and implements best practices and maintains standards related to project management, planning and execution.  

As a Project Portfolio Management Software company,  we just may be the world’s biggest fan of the PMO! We think methodical project management, planning and execution is an absolute necessity.  The research presented below upholds this belief.

Read our Definitive Guide to Project Portfolio Management to chart the course to more successful projects.   

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