Project management tool selection – How do you select the right enterprise project management or earned value management tool if your knowledge of the market is limited and you have little prior experience to call on? Selecting the most appropriate tool is one of the most critical elements for improving your enterprise project management capabilities. Although mindful that it’s also a big capital investment, why do so many organizations undertake this process with so little understanding of the subject?
Let’s start with the requirements. The most common situations we see with tool requirements are that they range from vague, to continually evolving, to overly detailed. So let’s take a quick look at these three examples.
- Requirements are too vague – The problem with vague requirements is that most of the tool vendors are able to check all the feature boxes on your requirements and then write a narrative stating how they can satisfy them. If this is the case, how do you differentiate among the vendor responses? Price aside, often the vendor that delivers the best demonstration or best aligns personally, wins. And the winner’s tool features could end up being the most cumbersome to use.
- Evolving requirements – This often occurs when the buyers don’t have enough understanding of the subject matter at the outset, and their requirements evolve as they start talking with vendors. The buyers become a little better educated with each vendor interaction. The danger in this situation is that the vendors know this and promote features that are unique to them. Quite often these features become a distraction and may not be essential to a successful implementation. We have seen some companies rule out a better suited vendor because they don’t have these unique (but unnecessary) “sales features”.
- Overly detailed requirements – In many cases, overly detailed requirements have features that are not really necessary or required. These requirements can be accrued over time, after several interactions with vendors. Again, this gives the vendors a chance to promote features that demonstrate well and look cool, adding more features to the list. These additional features may not be used in a live implementation.
While it may seem obvious, you and your senior management must understand your real requirements well enough to make sure they are going to satisfy the organization’s needs. This may mean educating senior management and the tool selection team before you embark on the tool selection process.
The enterprise tool vendors have many modules that make up their tool suites and this only compounds the problem. Which modules do you need? Although you can phase features and modules in during a deployment, the vendors make it attractive to buy them all together. This can result in buying the wrong mix of modules or ending up with modules that may never be used.
Of course, involving an external, impartial partner in your project management tool selection initiative can speed the process up significantly. The external partner can help you to select the right tool and save money by recommending that you only buy the modules that are required. Ideally, you should select a partner that is intimate with the way the tool vendors work. Selecting an external partner who has worked for the tool vendor previously would be a good start.
Remember: Make sure you end up with what you need and not what you ask for.