Does Project Tooling really Pay off…?

(by Gerard van Lier, PMP)

Proper project controls are essential for successful execution of a project or work. Today’s Project Manager spends a large part of the available time on administration and control. For that reason, various project tools have flooded the market to inform Project Managers better and to let project members know what is expected of them.

These tools increase transparency and take work out of the hands of the Project Manager. But implementing project tooling is an expensive solution and it takes a relatively long time to get them working effectively. Especially the start of a project requires maximized support, enabled by these tools, which will often be too late and too less. Let alone that the project manager is too busy to set-up and populate the project tool when working on the scope and assignments for a (new) project!
Good tools alone are therefore not the solution. There is a need for integrated project support that starts at the beginning of the project….

By breaking down a project into work packages it is assumed that we have a greater chance of achieving the desired results. That is true when there is good control on preparation and execution. Defining a project entails defining the boundary of budget, resources and time as well. To assure sound control and responsibility, a Project Manager is assigned who ensures that each project member knows what to do and within which boundaries.

The trick in managing work is not in the definition of boundaries alone. It closely relates to the way in which the work manager or Project Manager operates and is supported. Like in the past, when the non-regular work was just done ‘on top of’, the project members today must know what is expected of them. A successful execution starts with the skills of the Project Manager and the available tools for good planning and execution control.

Many organizations invest in knowledge of techniques and methodology for Project- and Portfolio Management, and lay the foundation for good project execution. But next to this a Project Manager must also possess leadership competencies and resilience. Ultimately, the execution of a project asks for verification and corrective actions every now and again. And that requires a way of working and solutions that help Project Managers to be well-informed so they can take timely corrective actions. One of these solutions is the utilization of tooling that make projects transparent and that can quickly be deployed.

An innovative solution is the ‘Managed PMO’ approach of The PMO Company. By ‘bringing in’ tooling and combining that with specific Project Management techniques, projects are supported effectively from the start. Hence, the Project Manager can focus on the real task: steering! In some smaller project a Project Manager is not even required anymore since the project office (the Project Management Office) will ensure that the sponsor is always informed by clear dashboards and other information to take sound decisions. At the same time, key-project members will assess risks and monitor the execution of actions. Changes and issues are registered and followed up. All project members have access to information that is applicable to them, either online or off-line. When due dates expire they will be automatically notified. And there is no selection, procurement and time for tooling implementation needed anymore.

The PMO Company applies two approaches of tooling and processes.

For large projects, a tooling selection is made to fit the purpose of the project. If the selected system is provided by one of our partners it will be deployed as dedicated project tool for the client by as part of the ‘Managed Project’ support. In that case this system will be ‘brought in’ by an experienced PMO manager who will also manage configuration and implementation. If required, the PMO team can be easily extended with internal employees or external contractors.

For the smaller projects, we will run our own cloud-based project collaboration tool in a separated and secured project access area, with all essential functions. The client does not have to worry about implementation and the related cost. There is only payment required for the PMO execution during the project, not for the tooling and implementation. Even the project process is ‘brought in’ and consists of an effective ‘back-to-basics’ project management approach with templates for project control documents according to PRINCE2 and PMI’s best practices.

By applying cloud-based tooling there is no longer a dependency to firewalls and internal systems. All stakeholders can get authorized access to the information that is important for them. Risk-, action-, change- and issue registers are maintained in a controlled way and followed up in a balanced review process. In most cases this is a weekly recurrent meeting, together with the sponsor and the responsible Project Manager. In this meeting, the reasons for delays and cost overruns are discussed and followed up. Project members have already received warnings that their work has not progressed as planned. The ‘back-to-basics’ approach is also available in a two-days training to allow an organization to implement and maintain the approach themselves.

Hence, it does pay off to deploy project tooling. Condition is that no time is lost with selection and implementation of the tooling. There must also be experienced staff to help project members to work the tool effectively. And there need to be a process in place to ensure that it is clear what is expected from each of the project members. Work environment and governance are essential elements of this. See below an example for a successful project support implementation.

Work Environment

  • Online registers for deliverables/products, actions, issues, risks and changes.
  • Online document repository in the cloud and/or link to internal systems.
  • Online dashboards with progress and detailed reporting.
  • Online scope descriptions of deliverables/products, changes and milestones.
  • Automatic notification system for project information and communications.


  • Project planning, deliverables/products and work packages (start project by Project Manager, key-project members and project office liaison).
  • Detail planning, work assignment, effort, intervals and cost per work package (start project by key-project members and project office liaison).
  • Risk- and issue analysis, follow up with action assignment (1x per week by Project Manager, key project members and project office liaison).
  • Change decisions, follow up with action assignment (1x per week by Project Manager, key-project members, sponsor, and project office liaison).
  • Action progress, assignment and follow up of the actions (1x per week by Project Manager and project office liaison).
  • Resource management, insight in the need for skills and assignment of staff (1x per month by door Project Manager, key-project members and project office liaison).
  • Project review, insight in execution progress, work assignments and escalation decisions (1x per month by Project Manager, steering committee, sponsor and project office liaison).

Gerard van Lier, PMP is managing partner with The PMO Company since 2009. He started his career in product development of glass-fiber technology in an international telecommunications company after which he is active in project management for telecommunications and information technology after 1994. He is a specialist in corporate program and portfolio management and obtained broad and international experience while working in corporate organizations in Europe, the USA and the Middle East. He has extensive knowledge of project management techniques, supports successful implementation and consults in improvement of project and program management methodology and techniques.

Showing 3 comments
  • bomb it 7

    I blog quite often and I truly thank you for your content.

    This great article has really peaked my interest. I’m going to bookmark your site and keep checking
    for new details about once per week. I subscribed to your Feed as well.

  • Hebergeur

    Understanding that there are many great solutions and they either fall down because they lack something, are not-cost effective or simply horrible to use, we had to find a criteria for selecting the right project management tool.

    • hjmolenkamp

      You make me curious… what criteria did you find for you situation?
      Obviously it starts with a certain desire to improve or ‘pain’ of something that is not working well..
      Great to hear yours!

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