Enterprises in every industry achieve their business objectives with consistently successful project delivery. But it’s not just the success of projects that matter: it’s also about selecting the right projects in the first place. Projects that appear appealing on paper may not deliver the return on investment that your enterprise expects, or they might close off other opportunities your organization wants to pursue.
That’s where project portfolio management (PPM) comes in. PPM involves evaluating potential projects by accounting for each project’s anticipated benefits and risks along with its alignment with organizational strategy — or lack thereof. It’s a complex discipline that helps make tough go/no-go decisions based on data from a wide variety of sources. That’s why integrated PPM solutions which offer a cohesive view into enterprise data serve as the key differentiator between organizations that get PPM right and those that do not.
If you’re in the market for a PPM tool that can help your organization craft a portfolio that meets its short- and long-term objectives, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s start with a look at the advantages and features offered by PPM platforms before covering 8 of the top PPM solutions on the market today.
What do PPM tools offer?
At the core of PPM is the belief that viewing projects in isolation is a recipe for failure. PPM enables organizations to see the big picture and create a synergistic portfolio, selecting projects that contribute to business objectives. All enterprises operate with limited resources and time, so dedicating them to the projects that will deliver the greatest return is critical. PPM helps enterprises boost resource efficiency, deliver more projects on time, realize additional cost savings, improve risk management and, ultimately, achieve a higher ROI.
It should come as no surprise that effective PPM relies on dedicated software to automate tasks and workflows, gather and display relevant data, develop accurate predictions and forecasts and standardize processes. From capital and strategic planning to portfolio analysis and reporting, a PPM tool can boost efficiency across your enterprise and serve as a single source of truth that builds cross-departmental and cross-team alignment.
How to select the best PPM tool for your company
The global PPM market size stands at an impressive 4+ billion USD and boasts a wide array of available options. An abundance of choice is a good thing, but can make finding the perfect tool for your organization a bit overwhelming. What factors should you consider when undertaking your search?
First, it’s important to recognize that a PPM software will be used by team members outside of the C-suite. Employees in legal, finance and HR will all need to interact with the platform, in addition to portfolio managers, PMOs, project managers and those who staff each project. Find a tool that empowers everyone at your organization to meet their goals by democratizing access to data and integrating functions across the company. This will also help ensure that everyone at your company understands and buys into every aspect of your approach to PPM.
Considering the different kinds of users who would be interacting with the tool, you also need to account for its ease of use. An intuitive user interface that presents only relevant information by role goes a long way, as does mobile-friendly design. With today’s workforce increasingly remote — and many industries requiring on-site data capture and access to PPM tools — a feature-rich mobile app is a must.
Your organization’s price point is another key factor. While it obviously serves as a practical constraint, don’t be afraid to pay for quality and consider the advantages — including cost savings — the best tools can provide. You should also consider the support offered for the tool by the software provider. The best solution in the world won’t do much good if your employees find onboarding and using it almost impossible. Ensure that your solution provider has a team of experts ready to help you navigate through the onboarding process and take advantage of everything your PPM platform offers.
10 features to look for in PPM software
Of course, one of the most important considerations when choosing a PPM platform is ensuring it offers the capabilities needed to fully realize the benefits of PPM. When carrying out your search, start by looking for solutions that offer these 10 key features.
1. Portfolio planning & control
Developing the ideal portfolio balance is a key part of PPM, and your solution should make it easy with robust portfolio planning and control features. Look for a tool that seamlessly connects organizational strategy with project planning and execution by providing visibility into project-level data, offering strong performance monitoring capabilities, and making it easy to rebalance and optimize your portfolio as needed.
2. Resource planning & management
Every project relies on effective resource management to get the job done on time and within budget. Select a platform that can manage any type of resource — whether its labor, funds, equipment or otherwise — and can develop plans that consider key variables like resource availability. It should also integrate with key systems, from scheduling to HR to finance and produce accurate resource forecasts that leverage data from across your company.
3. Fund management
Effectively managing fund utilization and allocation is a key part of PPM. Choose a platform that provides full visibility into funding from origination on by connecting funding rules at the portfolio level with project management and project control processes. This lets you assess whether funds are being used effectively, identify over or under allocations and adjust accordingly.
4. Capital budgeting & planning
Capital planning tools are often separate from PPM software. But without a solution that integrates capital budgeting and PPM, you won’t have easy access to a full picture of the revenue, expenses and risks that come with a specific project. With the right data to inform multi-year capital spending plans, a PPM platform can help your company make informed decisions that improve capital allocation over the long term. Ensure you can devise multiple scenarios and what-if versions of your plan to determine the best path forward.
5. Estimating & benchmarking
With standard templates and integrated workflows, your PPM solution should improve the accuracy of the estimation process by avoiding common errors like missed cost inclusions, calculation mistakes, and inadequate review and approval processes. You should also look for the capability to use past and current data as benchmarks for future estimate analyses.
6. Integration with core project management systems
PPM is all about tying the macro to the micro, so your organization can align its overall business strategy with individual project selection, planning and execution. PPM software must be able to collate data and gather insights from disparate project management systems related to resource planning, change management, and more to provide a cohesive, detailed view.
7. Budgeting & forecasting
Accurate budgeting is the foundation of success at both the project and portfolio levels. So your PPM solution should centralize all parts of the budgeting process in a single place. Choose a solution with features for tracking and managing budget changes against the baseline, managing approval workflows and allocating funds. Ensure it can also generate automated budget forecasts based on data drawn from important external systems, such as your organization’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) finance platform.
8. Cost control
Effective cost management is critical for keeping expenses under control and ensuring you don’t need to take funds from one project to support another. Your PPM platform should provide a real-time look into project cost performance with dashboards and visual tools. This kind of transparent access to data helps to reduce budget overages and deliver cost estimates you can rely on.
9. Progress & performance management
Ultimately, portfolio performance flows from project performance, so you need to accurately measure the latter to know where your company stands as a whole. The best PPM solutions allow you to track performance and progress digitally by drawing in data from key systems across your company. They then provide you with updates through detailed, easy-to-understand automated reports that feature percent complete calculations. This consolidated view of accurate progress and performance estimates provides decision-makers with a quick understanding of where things stand, with the ability to dive in deeper to gather further insights whenever necessary.
10. Risk, issue & change management
Change happens — the only question is whether your company will anticipate and handle changes effectively across its project portfolio. Analyzing and preparing for risks, establishing effective processes for change management processes and ensuring any other issues are assigned and addressed quickly are core parts of building a healthy project portfolio. Look for a PPM solution that sets your organization up to anticipate and mitigate stumbling blocks that would otherwise compromise project stability.
8 PPM tools worth a look
Now that you know the features to look for in a PPM solution, you’re ready to look at specific platforms. The PPM software market has a dizzying array of options available. Some solutions also come in different tiers and editions, making the decision process even more complex. Simplify your search with this guide to eight popular PPM tools on the market today.
EcoSys is a cloud-based enterprise project performance (EPP) and PPM solution that integrates features for portfolio management, project management and project controls in a single platform. This integrated outlook eliminates data silos, providing senior executives and key project stakeholders with a convenient way to view the entire project landscape at a glance while diving in more deeply when and as needed. Connecting the big-picture view with important details enables everyone from team members on the ground to key decision-makers to glean insights and identify patterns that would otherwise go unnoticed. As a full project lifecycle solution, EcoSys is optimized for handling the complexity of large engineering and construction projects.
EcoSys is a feature-rich platform that provides a comprehensive solution to even the largest enterprise’s PPM needs. Here are just some of its capabilities:
- Manage project portfolios through the complete project lifecycle, from ideation to close out.
- Acts as a single version of truth for all stakeholders.
- Provides visibility into resource capacity and demand for better allocation, prioritization and rebalancing.
- Create visual workflows to improve standardization and make more informed decisions.
- Choose from a range of qualitative and quantitative techniques for forecasting, project selection and measuring project performance.
- Employ predictive analytics to produce more timely and accurate project forecasts.
- Seamlessly integrates with other key platforms including ERP, ledger, scheduling and document management systems. These include Oracle Primavera P6 and E-Business Suite, SAP, MS Project, and many other solutions.
- High configurability that lets your organization align EcoSys with its business needs and objectives.
- Mobile app support with a high degree of configurability.
- Tailored for organizations in asset-intensive industries including the oil and gas, engineering and construction, power, chemical and transportation sectors.
Modern enterprise project performance software like EcoSys can help your company realize project cost savings of 5% to 10%, reduce cost overruns by 20%, and more quickly and efficiently pivot capital spending to more profitable or strategic projects. Pricing information is available upon request.
Smartsheet is a PPM platform that features a variety of templates and frameworks, focusing on a user experience with reporting and visualization tools that track project metrics and correlate them to the portfolio. Smartsheet takes a project-centric approach geared towards project planning and delivery together with resource, schedule and budget management. It features less of a focus on financial administration, cost control and capital management. However, some of its templates and blueprints, like portfolio prioritization matrices, can help make project intake decisions.
Smartsheet’s features include:
- The ability to set up hierarchical relationships between projects and programs.
- Optimized resource planning and schedule management.
- Budget management capabilities, such as comparing actuals versus allocations.
- On-demand data analysis to identify trade-offs and make better decisions.
- Visualization tools for real-time visibility, data triage and accurate reporting.
- Integration with other platforms like Slack, Jira, ServiceNow and Microsoft 365.
- Limited mobile support for certain features.
Smartsheet has a variety pricing plans available, starting at $7 per user per month for Pro plan (which allows up to 10 users) and $25 per user per month for the Business plan. Pricing is available upon request for the Enterprise plan, aimed for organizations with more complex requirements.
3. Microsoft Project
Microsoft Project, part of Microsoft 365, includes both project and portfolio management functions. It integrates with other Microsoft products like Teams, Excel and SharePoint. It also offers a relatively simple onboarding experience, as many users are already familiar with Microsoft’s product layout and design. The tool focuses more on portfolio creation and planning than on continuous, live management and control of portfolios using real-time data throughout the project lifecycle.
Microsoft Project features
Microsoft Project includes the following capabilities:
- Model various portfolio scenarios to make better-informed decisions.
- Evaluate project proposals against business goals and constraints.
- Aggregate data across projects, programs and portfolios.
- Present data using built-in reporting features and dashboards.
- Standardize demand management processes by capturing and evaluating project ideas.
- Strong project management focus with resource optimization and timesheet integration.
- Familiar grid-based and board layouts for users.
- Mobile support for limited features.
Both on-premises and cloud-based solutions are available. Cloud solutions are available in three tiers at $10, $30 and $55 per user per month. Features such as portfolio selection, optimization and demand management are only offered in the highest pricing tier. Project Standard and Project Professional, both on-premises solutions, are available at $679.99 and $1129.99 for each license, respectively.
Wrike is primarily used as a work and project management solution, but it includes some PPM-adjacent capabilities. These include hierarchical organization of projects into programs and portfolios, as well as detailed data gathering templates.
Here are some of the features Wrike provides:
- Monitoring and control of the project lifecycle from kickoff to rollout.
- Detailed reporting and time tracking.
- Automated risk reports based on artificial intelligence.
- Collection of performance data in real time.
- Integration with popular platforms like Salesforce, QuickBooks and Tableau.
- Mobile app support on Android and iOS.
Wrike has multiple pricing plans, starting with a free version for simple task management. The Professional plan at $9.80/user/month and the Business plan at $24.80/user/month cater to a user range of 5 to 200, while the Enterprise plan can accommodate an unlimited number of users.
Planview is a PPM platform that includes a wide range of functionality, from project planning and execution to workflow management, portfolio analysis and roadmap visualization. Planview offers two PPM products. Planview PPM ProTM is intended for organizations getting started with portfolio management. Planview Enterprise One suits the needs of more mature organizations and includes financial planning and analytics.
Planview’s features include:
- Portfolio planning with trade-offs and what-if scenario analysis, along with the ability to visualize dependencies.
- Performance analysis for portfolio and projects.
- Financial planning and management of operational and capital expenditure.
- Schedule management and resource planning.
- Variance reporting against baselines.
- Access to collaborative digital workspaces using multiple project delivery models, including agile, waterfall and hybrid approaches.
- Mobile support for limited features.
Pricing information for Planview’s products is available upon request.
6. Clarity PPM
Broadcom’s Clarity is a cloud-based SaaS solution that wears many hats. It’s positioned as a solution for investment planning, digital product management and project and portfolio management. Clarity PPM comes in both on-premises and cloud-based versions. It also offers marketing-related features that enable businesses to more easily tweak strategies based on customer demands.
Clarity PPM features
Here are some of Clarity’s key PPM-related features:
- Strategic roadmap creation with drag-and-drop tools and mapping of risks and dependencies.
- Financial planning along with investment analysis for value-based decisions.
- Integration with business intelligence (BI) tools such as Power BI and Tableau.
- Staffing management and resource planning.
- Portfolio analysis with connected data between project tasks and strategic plans.
- Mobile app support for Android and iOS.
Pricing information for both the on-premises and cloud-based platforms is available upon request.
Planisware Enterprise provides a variety of PPM and project management capabilities on a common cloud platform. In addition to Planisware Enterprise, the company offers the less advanced Planisware Orchestra.
Planisware’s features include:
- Strategic planning and result assessment using roadmaps, budgets and investment buckets.
- Portfolio planning and management with simulations and scenario analysis.
- Transparent project management through capacity planning, resource scheduling and time tracking.
- Project controls regarding parameters like costs, resources and deliverables.
- Knowledge management in a single hub.
- Dynamic dashboards and visual reports.
- Data-driven planning, chatbots and predictive estimates using artificial intelligence and machine learning models.
- Mobile app support for Android and iOS.
Pricing information for both Planisware Enterprise PPM and Planisware Orchestra is available upon request.
8. Oracle Primavera
Oracle Primavera is an umbrella brand with several solutions related to portfolio management. Primavera Portfolio Management and Primavera P6 Enterprise Project Portfolio Management (EPPM) are positioned primarily as PPM solutions and other products such as Primavera Unifier and Primavera Analytics also contain some limited PPM features. All products have mobile app support. Let’s take a look at each in turn:
- Primavera Portfolio Management supports portfolio proposals, planning and control. It also helps to review portfolio performance and identify investment gaps in real-time.
- Primavera P6 EPPM is more implementation-focused: along with prioritization and planning, it helps to execute projects, programs and portfolios successfully by reducing schedule overruns and utilizing resources efficiently.
- Primavera Unifier is tailored towards enterprise asset and capital budget management.
- Primavera Analytics is all about generating insights through trend and root cause analysis.
- Oracle Primavera Cloud creates a shared workspace for team members by hosting PPM features such as capital planning, scheduling and resource and risk management.
While Primavera does contain a wide range of functionalities, it can be difficult to zero in on the specific PPM product most suitable for your organization.
EcoSys: an integrated PPM solution
Portfolio management involves departments and teams across your company, from senior executives, to project managers, to on-site staff. That means your PPM solution should follow a multi-disciplinary approach, one that encompasses portfolio performance and analysis, day-to-day project management and more. This is best achieved through a platform like EcoSys.
EcoSys supports the entire PPM lifecycle and helps you maximize the value of your project portfolio by basing decisions on data rather than speculation. It’s the only product that integrates portfolio management, project controls and project management in a single, centralized platform. And EcoSys automates effort-intensive tasks like data collection to save your team members valuable time while empowering them to make decisions that add the most value to each project and your company.
Contact us today to see how you can leverage EcoSys to elevate PPM at your organization.