Due to the economy, many businesses are now looking at project portfolio management solutions to help them isolate and execute mission-critical projects more effectively.
These businesses have also found that Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions are both more affordable and easier to deploy than traditional ones. Choosing the right solution, however, can be challenging. Here are several ways to ensure that you choose the solution that is right for your business needs.
1. Consider Price
One of the first issues to consider with a PPM solution is the cost, especially during a recession when budgets are either tight or frozen. Larger PPM vendors have a cost of entry, and it may take a considerable amount of time to see a return on investment in such costly solutions.
What many organizations do not realize is that there are also strong vendors in the market with competitive pricing on project portfolio management solutions. Do your homework on all competitors in the marketplace before making a final decision.
2. Plan for Implementation
Did you know that it often takes as long as one to two years for a large PPM solution to be fully implemented? This means that the financial investment you are making right now will probably not bring in an ROI for a very long time.
Savvy buyers must press vendors for real answers on what the implementation time frame will be. It is also a good idea to ask to speak with other clients about their implementation experiences to ensure that the vendor delivers what is promised during the sales process.
3. Find Out Who Will Be Configuring Your Solution
Is your vendor claiming that its solution does it all? Common sense tells us that those who do it all don’t often do it well. Those who specialize in a few core competencies, however, are in a much better position to excel. When a vendor claims it can do it all, ask specific questions about the functionality you need most (e.g. tracking actuals against project plans, resource allocation, etc.).
You should also ask about the team that will be implementing your solution. Many vendors will send IT staff, but do you really feel that an IT person with no experience in project management can implement and configure the solution to meet your specific needs? Ask vendors about the staff who will be providing professional services, and select one that has experts in both technology and project management on the team.
4. Don’t Be Fooled by Functionality
Functionality is another area where asking for customer references is key. A PPM vendor can promise you all kinds of fancy functionality, but when it comes down to it, will you really have 100 percent of it rolled out and used throughout your company?
A conversation with a few of the vendor’s clients should be able to answer this question for you. You shouldn’t be paying 100 percent of the price for a solution unless you know you will be getting 100 percent of the functionality.
5. Gauge the Learning Curve
If your new solution will require a seemingly endless training process for you and your staff, what will that do to your strategic projects? You will need to weigh this against the benefit of the complex functionality you are receiving.
Again, it is best to focus on what you really need rather than trying to have it all. Ask about the training you can expect to receive, and how long it generally takes customers to become comfortable with the solution.
6. Choose a Hosted Solution
SaaS solutions save businesses both time and money. First, they have a lower cost of entry and lower risk than locally installed solutions. Not only that, but SaaS solutions put very little burden on your organization’s already overworked IT staff.
In addition, if you select the right vendor, you can rest assured that your data is more secure than it might be in your own hands. SaaS vendors must provide a secure data environment, or they’re out of a job. Customers can rest assured their data security is probably better with a hosted solution — not worse.
Mimimize Your Risk
Businesses need to ask the tough questions and carefully weigh their choices in order to ensure that they get the PPM solution that is right for their company. It is important that you not be taken in by flashy demos and lofty promises, especially when money is tight and you need tangible results in a reasonable time frame.
If you ask the right questions and stick to the issues listed above, you can minimize the risk of implementing what some unhappy PPM customers have referred to as “a million dollar timesheet.”
Curt Finch is CEO of Journyx, an Austin, Texas-based provider of Web-based time-tracking and project accounting software designed to guide customers to per-person, per-project profitability. An avid speaker and author, Finch recently published All Your Money Won’t Another Minute Buy: Valuing Time as a Business Resource. He authors a project management blog, and you can follow Curt Finch on Twitter.