Which one is your Project Portfolio Management beast?

Which one is your Project Portfolio Management beast?

Is having a ‘zoo of tools’ a usual complaint your organization? It is in mine and in many others, experiencing consequences of organic growth. How do you approach the challenge of implementing a project portfolio management automation?

Having a ‘zoo’ is common

A small company starts from a short list of carefully chosen tools, which cover everyone’s needs. As the company develops, new opportunities drive growth and expansion to the new markets and geographical locations.

But with successful growth comes the complication of the organizational structure and an exponential increase in communications. A new product is quickly launched bypassing the official decision-making and administration bureaucracy. A new agile development team has started in US and refuses to use Microsoft Project as their tool. Marketing department with their own budget has decided to try out new online marketing automation software.

Multiple tools and online services start to be used, with overlapping functionalities. More and more requests for integration come to IT, and more and more IT complains about yet another tool to support.

As a project portfolio manager you ensure that collective execution of projects, programs and operational activities within your portfolio contributes to strategic organizational goals. And unless you work in an organization, where all the processes are managed in one huge monster of a software system (here’s a great article explaining why this is not a very future-proof strategy), you will need information from multiple sources to put together a complex picture of your project portfolio.

While having “one tool to rule them all” looks tempting, can you expect that everyone in the organization will suddenly switch to the new unified Project Portfolio Management software to make it easier for you?

Evolutionary strategy

It can take years and millions of dollars before everybody in your organization migrates to One Single Unified way of managing projects, programs, and portfolios based on a single Magical Unicorn software. Too bad that you need to solve your puzzle now and on budget.

Ten different timesheet automations are used in different business units, your agile development teams in local offices use Jira to manage their projects, and a program manager at the HQ insists on using Microsoft Project Server, Japanese office uses another financial and accountancy system than the office in Poland - and you just need to answer whether you have resources to execute that new project in Q2, or should you rather postpone it to Q3.

A better choice is to take the evolutionary approach and start with a lean software solution that operates at “just right” level of detail to get the job done. Instead of asking each and every team in the organization to switch to a single project management software solution, start with having the teams report on a few simple key indicators, such as project schedule and budget to get the data in.

At first you may even have to consolidate information manually, but what’s important is that you will get started and accelerate fast without having to wait for everybody to change. Ideally your lean project portfolio management software will have integration API’s so that you could organically evolve your automation platform by adding integrations where needed.


A simple and lean PPM software solution should:

  • Do one thing well, and at the right level of detail;
  • Allow you to get started quickly;
  • Work well together with the other software in your organization.

Title photo by Marek Szturc on Unsplash

Recent Articles

Alice's Journey from Inaction to Downfall (based on a true story)

Data-driven decision-making is good. But can over-reliance on data paralyze you?

Project Portfolio Poker and Effective Management of Project Portfolios with Incomplete Data

A challenge that might seem impossible - making important decisions with incomplete information.

Evidence-based team extension

There is frequently a contradiction between what we want to do and what we can practically achieve.