Is a doorway a frame around empty space? Or is it the space that is surrounded by a frame? When selecting a PMIS platform, the same question should be asked. Is a PMIS a series of solutions within an empty white space? Or is the PMIS the empty white space populated throughout with a series of solutions?
For those of you not familiar with the PMIS term, it’s a standard industry name for a Project Management Information System – or any system within your organization that is used to track project data. The PMIS could be a filing cabinet. It could be a series of notebooks kept by engineers. It could be an incredibly complex series of IT tools integrated through a data warehouse and a service bus.
Regardless of the technology underpinning it, the PMIS needs to serve specific functions, whether that is project tracking, portfolio analysis, resource management, risk management, or any one of the other key knowledge areas or processes defined in the PMI literature.
The particular form of a PMIS that’s supported by IT tools is part of our stock and trade. As we see it, this PMIS evolves in different forms.
In some companies, there is no formalized PMIS. In these organizations, there’s typically not a lot of formal project management processes, and most things are tracked in Excel – perhaps with some financial management in a specific tool such as Oracle or PeopleSoft.
In other organizations, there are a wide range of point solutions. This is often associated with (but not exclusively with) large organizations where the project management function has been broken out in to a wide variety of distinct offices. In these organization, there may be an enterprise architecture office, a risk management office, an office that deals with projects just being developed, an office that deals with projects that are more advanced, a reporting office…you get the picture.
The Microsoft platform has a different value proposition in each of those scenarios. Note here that when I talk about the “Microsoft Platform.” I’m not simply talking about Microsoft Project Server – but rather the full panoply of Microsoft solutions: SharePoint, Project Server, Yammer, Power BI, SQL, etc.
For the first kind of organization, the one where there’re not a lot of formal tools in place, the Microsoft platform provides an excellent foundation to build upon. Build your collaboration and document management workflows in SharePoint. Build project scheduling practices and resource management in Project Server. Enhance knowledge capture through Yammer. Report on all of this in the Microsoft BI suite.
The challenge here is that Microsoft in presenting itself as a platform becomes a victim of trying to be all things to all people. Microsoft is great for basic scheduling – but if you are attempting to model critical chain scheduling, you’ll need an add in. If you’re attempting to do Earned Schedule analysis, you’ll need an add-in. If you’re looking to manage large industry-specific design documents, you could do it in SharePoint, but you’ll likely be looking at another solution that’s more tailored to the specific needs of the industry.
For the second type of organization, the kind that already has a lot of solutions already in place, we find value in evaluating them and bringing them into the SharePoint fold. Retire the ones that are superfluous. Integrate the ones that aren’t. At the end of the day, the Microsoft platform provides a single integrated user interface from which to navigate to those tools – and a data structure to enable integrated reporting.
At the end of the day, selecting a PMIS platform is less about point solutions and more about filling the white space within the organization’s project delivery organization.