Being part of a portfolio management department is a very challenging and responsible role. To make sure the projects in your portfolio are delivered on time, you need to find the most suitable approach, skillful resources and to know how to organize your time and time of other people in the team. As there are tools for every single business operation you can imagine, there are also tools for portfolio management.
In order to choose the right tool for your needs, you have to know your business well and have a clear picture of your technical and functional needs. Simply choosing a tool based on its features as listed and described by the company that produces it would not do you good. So, what questions should you have in mind when considering a portfolio management tool?
1. What is the quality/cost ratio of the tool?
Of course, no matter how big your budget is, you will always have in mind the price of the product you are buying. Cheaper tools usually aren’t of high quality, but don’t rush to buy the most expensive one as the price doesn’t guarantee the highest quality. What you need is to calculate the quality/cost ratio and compare it with your needs. Don’t forget to include software implementation and training costs in your total software cost.
2. What is the average size of your projects?
This is also a very important question because the scope of the portfolio and the number of people involved in it can define the type of portfolio management tool you need. If your team is numerous, then you need to find a portfolio management tool designed for larger groups and projects. On the other hand, if you deal with smaller projects, you don’t need to spend so much money on more complex tools.
3. How much time do you need to learn to use the tool?
Being aware of productivity risks that come with using a certain tool saves you from inconvenient situations. If you and your team need an extensive training in order to get comfortable with the tool, you can assume that you may be late with your projects. Before buying a portfolio management tool, make sure you know what technical skills are required to use it.
4. Is this portfolio management tool accurate?
Some tools are designed in a way that makes them incapable of handling uncertainty in data. They are developed with the principle of most-likely scenarios. If full accuracy is very important to you, check out if there are any ranking system parameters that can help you test the tool’s sensitivity and give you a better picture of how the portfolio changes under different scenarios. Being aware of risk sensitivity within each project of a portfolio will help you determine confidence levels across that portfolio.
5. How adjustable is the tool?
Accessing tool adoption is important as your portfolio’s needs and plans may grow or change. You cannot know if every other project in your portfolio will be the same and if it will imply the same needs. That’s why you must check the flexibility of the tool you are considering, especially flexibility with the types of data you are using. That way you will be able to adjust your utility curves according to your preferences.
6. What percent of the tool’s features will you actually use?
Every portfolio management tool has some common features, but as software producers want to attract customers, they all try to come up with a lot of different tool properties. The more features a tool has, the higher its price. So, be honest with yourself and think about what features you’ll actually use.
7. Is performance tracking helpful enough?
As a portfolio manager, you probably want to track the performance of your project managers and other team members in order to deliver projects on time and stay on track with every aspect of each project. That’s why performance monitoring is so important and not all portfolio management tools have the same types of performance data collected.
8. Do you need mobile access and is it available?
Over the past few years the use of mobile devices has radically increased, and if you or someone in your team feels it is necessary to have the tool accessible on a mobile device, don’t forget to check with the vendor if they have a mobile-ready version available.
9. Does the vendor offer lifetime tech support?
No matter how well the tool is developed, technical problems may occur now or then. If you don’t want to have unpredicted costs, make sure the vendor whose software you are interested in offers lifetime tech support. At least you won’t need to worry about technical side of things.
10. How will it help you make better portfolio decisions?
Finally, think about how a particular tool will help you manage your portfolio in a more efficient and better way. You need software that can help you optimize your project portfolio, maximize the risk-adjusted value of the portfolio and help you create risk response plans. Investigate whether the tool can get you an objective view of the projects’ uncertainties and give you an insight into how much value will be created by your project portfolio and if the chosen projects can maximize that value.
To sum it up, in order to evaluate a tool’s decision model, you need to measure how effective, accurate and practical the tool is. You also need to estimate if it will be well accepted by your team and if it will help you in the decision-making process.
Although it may seem as if it will take you ages to consider all these questions, don’t lose hope that there’s software that is tailor-made for your needs. By finding answers to all these questions, you will find that perfect portfolio management tool.