Good Project Management software is not enough

An on-line April 2008 survey by ESI (reported PM Forum, see: looked at purchaser’s satisfaction with project management and business analysis software tools. Only 1.2% of the 270 respondents felt their software purchase had exceeded expectations and another 9.3% felt the software had met all of their requirements.

According to the respondents, the key ingredient missing from most sales was integrated training (71%) and software specific training (36.6%).  But on its own, training is not going to solve the problem. “The survey findings do not indicate project management and business analysis software is deficient, but rather that too often, the maturity of the organization and the skill level of its people are not effectively aligned for the tools to deliver their maximum ROI.”

Project management software only supports a project management methodology. But to paraphrase Bill Gates, ‘if you have and efficient system, automating the system will magnify the benefits, if the system is deficient, automation will magnify the problems’.  We would suggest integrated training to align people’s skills and knowledge with an effective methodology, supported by effective project management software, is only 10% of the battle. Doing your projects ‘right’ is important but choosing the ‘right projects to do’ is far more important and this links to the capability of the organisation to exploit the ‘output’ created by the project to achieve its desired ‘outcomes’ (the value chain).

The quest for an effective ROI, that delivers business benefits (ie, real value to the organisation), lies in other areas including:

  • Effective portfolio management to select the right projects to do.
  • Effective program and business change management to achieve the maximum value from the project deliverables. This is a business managment issue, not a project managment issue!
  • Effective organisation enablers that support the efficient execution of project work.

These objectives require two key elements:

  1. Effective Governance of the overall project delivery process. The ‘Governance of Project Management’ is an area of emerging importance in the overall governance of an organisation.  For a range of papers on this topic visit:
  2. A commitment to improving the overall maturity of an organisations Portfolio, Program and Project Management capabilities. To be effective, the commitment has to be lead by the CEO.

Some of the key tools to assist in the quest for enhanced maturity include:

  • PMI’s OPM3 Knowledge Framework and assessment/improvement planning system (for more on OPM3 see
  • PMI’s Portfolio and Program Management Standards
  • PMI’s PMBOK Guide®

All of these standards are being upgraded at the end of 2008 and show major improvements over earlier versions.  Watch this space for more information…


2 responses to “Good Project Management software is not enough

  1. You are correct. Choosing which projects to do plays a big role in how the project is executed. Besides, I feel that companies should adopt newer project management tools that adapt to their working style. One such tool that we have developed and is called DeskAway to facilitate more of the collaboration within teams rather than planning, gantt charts etc. Things are moving fast and people need to right tools to move with them.

  2. Having the right tools will certainly help Sal, but I would hate trying to run a relatively small project of $1 to $2 million without a good schedule. However, I think you have missed the key point of the ESI survey – having the ‘right tools’ are irrelevant if the people’s skills and the organisation’s maturity are not at the right level first. Sophisticated organisations with skilled PMO and project staff can make effective use of completely different tools compared to a relatively immature organisation (from the project management perspective). The tools need to fit the organisation, not the other way round.

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