6 Things to Look for in a Project Portfolio Management (PPM) Tool

Project portfolio management (PPM) software is a specialized tool teams use to plan, manage, and execute all their projects efficiently. It’s like a digital dashboard; you use it to keep track of all your projects’ moving parts, from task assignment and deadline tracking to resource allocation and performance reporting.

Depending on the complexity of your operations, project management software can be as simple as a shared to-do list or as complex as a multi-team platform with advanced features like Gantt charts, time tracking, and real-time collaboration tools.

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All successful teams use project management software, but they each have different needs and priorities when choosing a vendor. In today’s article, we’ll walk you through the five most important things to look for when evaluating project management tools for your business.

1. Business use case

Before you start evaluating different PPM tools, it’s important to understand your business use case.

What are the current challenges you face in managing projects?
What are the key features and functionalities you need in a project management tool? 
How will the tool fit into your existing processes and workflows?

For example, a PMO software like PMO that’s built for the Microsoft Power platform would be best suited for in-house data teams using Power BI, Power Apps, and Office 365 on a daily basis. Since it works in the same interface and integrates natively, it will create a seamless experience. For a freelancer managing multiple client projects and personal tasks, a tool like Trello or Notion would simplify the process.

2. System integrations

One of the most overlooked aspects when choosing project management software also the most important. If your PM tool isn’t compatible with the rest of your company’s tech stack, it will do the opposite of what it’s supposed to do; rather than streamlining operations and project delivery, it will completely disorganize them. Essential integrations include:

Communication tools (such as Slack)
Company-specific project delivery tools (such as Canva and Office 365)
Time tracking platforms
Billing software

You’ll also want to look into API connectivity for advanced automations, customizations, and seamless data transfers. Some platforms charge more than others for these integrations, and some require custom coding for certain apps in your tech stack. Again, you’re looking for the one that requires the least amount of setup and maintenance.

3. Ease of use for your workflows

The best tool for project portfolio management isn’t necessarily the one with the most features or most extensive integration suite. It’s the one that helps your team get their work done as easily as possible. When evaluating PPM software, you need to consider how easily your team can pick up and use it for their everyday tasks. Here are a few factors to consider:

Interface: A user-friendly and intuitive interface can enhance productivity, as your team members will not have to spend countless hours learning to use the software. Look for a tool with a clean design and logical layout.
Learning curve: While some degree of training is expected with a new tool, the software should not be overly complex to learn. Tools that offer interactive tutorials, onboarding sessions, and robust customer support can help ease this transition.
Customizability: Every team has unique workflows. The software you choose should be able to adapt to these and allow for customization in terms of project stages, task categories, and reports.
Mobile accessibility: In today’s world, work doesn’t stop when you leave the office. A PPM tool with a mobile app or responsive design allows team members to keep track of projects and tasks, even when they’re on the go.

4. Scalability and flexibility

As your business grows, so will your project portfolio. Some project management office platforms are more readily scalable than others. You’ll have to ask yourself a few questions before finalizing a deal with a vendor.

How big is my current team? Large teams generally need enterprise features, while small teams can get by with basic functionalities.
How big will my team be in a year or two? 57% of teams expect their PMOs to get bigger over time. If you’re planning to keep your team around the same size, you can go ahead and prioritize tools that help you right now. If you’ve just secured funding for rapid growth, you’ll need to look long and hard at the platform’s ability to handle an uptick in usage on your server.
How complicated are the tasks I need to manage? Marketing agencies and professional services don’t need particularly complex tools, but a data analytics or software development team probably will.

Switching vendors once you grow your team will be a long, labor-intensive process. By evaluating these criteria ahead of time, you’re saving yourself from potentially tens of thousands in implementation and training costs.

5. Security and data privacy

With sensitive project information being shared and accessed by multiple team members, data security is a major concern for any business. When evaluating project management software, make sure to research the vendor’s security protocols and what measures they have in place to protect your data.

Security certifications: Look for vendors who are certified by reputable organizations like ISO or SOC (most are). This shows that the software has been thoroughly tested for security vulnerabilities.
Encryption and access control: Check if the software offers encryption for data in transit and at rest, as well as access controls to limit who can view and edit sensitive information.
Data ownership: Make sure that the vendor’s terms of service state that you own your data and have full control over it. This is important in case you decide to switch vendors in the future.

6. Visibility

Is it easy to track work progress on all your different tasks across your org? When you have team members and contractors completing different tasks within separate projects across several time zones and locations, you need a way to keep a bird’s-eye view of everything that’s going on.

Your project calendar should have a timeline of tasks by week/month to give you a broad overview of upcoming deadlines.
A dashboard should visualize work management data for you to track project progress in real-time.
Reporting capabilities should be robust enough to give you insights into project expenses and ROI, resource allocation, and work productivity.
Your timeline helps you monitor project pipelines by providing a clear view of tasks that are in progress, upcoming deadlines, and how close they are to completion.
A visual workspace lets you and your team see tasks in a more organized and collaborative way. Kanban boards, Gantt charts, and other visual tools can help you track progress and communicate with one another in-app.


Evaluating project management software can be stressful for you and your team. The sheer number of options is overwhelming. Focusing on key aspects (integration capabilities, ease of use, scalability, security, and visibility) will help you narrow down your choices and find the perfect tool for your team’s needs. Take some time to research and try out different options before making a decision.

The post 6 Things to Look for in a Project Portfolio Management (PPM) Tool appeared first on Top Entrepreneurs Podcast | Enterprise Podcast Network.

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