Making the decision to buy an Enterprise Project Management (EPM) tool is one thing, but choosing the product you are then going to invest in can be a daunting prospect. There are plenty of options on the market and making a purchasing mistake can be costly. You should look at this as an investment that will last you multiple years so it’s really important to think through all the options and to make the right decision.
Do you want something lightweight, or a fully-featured EPM product suitable for the largest, most mature organizations? Something that users can pick up without any training or will the implementation also involve creating a pool of expert users and a Portfolio Management Office to support projects in this new environment. There are plenty of decisions to make.
Regardless of what kind of product you are looking at, there are some key things to consider when making your decision. Here’s our advice for choosing the right tool for you.
Establish Your Needs
It’s best to work out what your requirements are before you even start looking at what’s available. Then you can match what you want with what each product can do and start creating a shortlist like that. Otherwise you risk being blown away by a creative sales presentation without really knowing whether the product will meet your needs.
Think about what exactly you want this tool to do for you. If your current virtual teams aren’t working effectively together and sharing information then implementing a new bit of software probably won’t solve that problem. However, if you know that you’re looking for a system that will provide a suite of advanced reporting tools to give you better management information for enhanced decision making, then you can start reviewing the products on your shortlist with that in mind.
In other words, don’t expect software to solve cultural problems or to fix office politics. You’ll need a program of change management alongside your software deployment to help with that!
What other software products does this one need to ‘talk’ to? You might, for example, want to pull data from your financial systems or a timesheet application. Consider how easy it will be to do that. Involve your IT department in the discussions as they can advise you on what data exists in the company already and how it would be best to access it.
Along the same lines, think about how you are going to configure it for your environment. If all your project managers work on tablets and spend a lot of time away from the office, then something that’s got a mobile solution built-in will work far better for them. If, on the other hand, your team is mainly office-based and using the software on laptops or PCs, then the need to go mobile probably isn’t so important.
You’ll also want to find out how much the tool can be tailored to your environment by adding corporate logos, bespoke workflows and so on. You might think it fine to go for something that doesn’t allow for much personalization, but at least find out what’s on offer.
Involve The Users
You can’t ask every single user what features they want and take everything into account. But you could ask for a few volunteers from the user community to help you review the features of the products on your shortlist. Then they can provide a considered opinion. You could get them along to product demos as well.
The point of doing this is that you really want to end up with a tool that is something the users will adopt with open arms. To get there, you have to choose something that they will like using and that helps them do their job. You’ll find that something that seems overly bureaucratic or that doesn’t fit with existing work practices and processes will be a struggle to implement.
However, keep a bit of an open mind. It’s unlikely you’ll find something that will perfectly fit your existing work environment out of the box. Be prepared to review your current processes and tweak them to get the best out of the enterprise tool. After all, you’re implementing a new system to improve things, not keep them the way they are!
Think About The Future
Five years is a long time in business and you need to choose a tool that will grow with you and your changing needs. Will you need to start recording project budgets in multiple currencies? What about making it available to mobile users? What about users in a new office – can it be scaled up to allow for plenty more users, wherever they happen to be based? Can it manage large projects, or multiple portfolios?
Don’t close any doors to growth by choosing something that is the right size for you now with no capacity for enhancement, as you never know what you’ll be doing in a few years time. Hopefully your project management maturity levels will increase and you’ll want a professional tool that can keep up with your changing requirements.
The right EPM tool for you isn’t going to be the right EPM tool for another company – and even if you end up choosing the same product as the people in the building next door you’ll probably implement it differently and use different features. That’s why it’s so important to think about your requirements, your users and your environment and to make the right decision for you.