Portfolio management software users tout a la carte functionality

Customers are pleased with maturity and upgrade paths

Customers of enterprise portfolio management systems are benefiting from an a la carte approach offered by vendors that allows clients to add more sophisticated functions as they become more proficient in portfolio management techniques, according to IT executives.

When IT departments first begin applying IT portfolio management techniques, they typically start with basic processes such as developing an inventory of projects and prioritizing which ones to tackle first, said David Hurwitz, vice president of marketing at Computer Associates International Inc.'s Clarity division in Redwood City, Calif.

But as IT professionals mature in their portfolio management capabilities, they're able to apply more sophisticated techniques, like tracking how much money is being spent on various projects and creating chargeback calculations for business units on different initiatives. As they do so, some software packages allow them to turn on new functions as needed.

"That's the key reason we selected portfolio management software from Pacific Edge," said Ernie Nielsen, managing director of enterprise project management at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. BYU, which has been using Pacific Edge software for the past three years, has a broad set of software applications to monitor between the university's administration, students and faculty. As a result, BYU is tracking 17 sets of application portfolios, "and those areas are almost never at the same level of maturity," said Nielsen.

The Pacific Edge software gives BYU the flexibility to adjust its use of the software on two levels, said Nielsen. For instance, more advanced portfolio management practitioners in the school's IT department can turn on more sophisticated software modules to publish their IT project plans for business users or create dashboards that reflect progress on various projects. In addition, software customers can adjust their use of a single module, said Nielsen.

"We can have all or nothing or something in between all or nothing in each of the modules," he said.

Next month, Pacific Edge is planning to introduce portfolio management/IT governance software that includes easy-to-adopt software modules.

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) has similar start/stop functionality with enterprise portfolio management software from Artemis International Solutions Corp., based in Newport Beach, Calif. It has been using the software since mid-2002. "The basic portfolio management module in Artemis comes fairly complete with all the functionality, so you can turn on and turn off functionality right out of the box," said Mark Bennett, associate director of project and financial controls at CME.

When CME first purchased the Artemis system, it used only the software to track payments to IT contractors, said Carl Stumpf, a director in CME's technology division in charge of financial planning. But now that its IT portfolio management capabilities have matured, the group tracks information such as project progress against milestones and cost estimates.

"The software allows you to pick and choose the functionality when you want to use it," said Bennett. CME plans to upgrade to Artemis Version 7 by year's end to take advantage of more detailed project scheduling and planning capabilities, said Bennett.

For its part, ProSight Inc. offers portfolio management software that enables customers to configure the tool as simple or as complex as they desire, said Curt Edgar, a senior manager in the advanced technology portfolio management group at DaimlerChrysler AG in Auburn Hills, Mich. "Our own experience is that it works very well to make the initial investment and adopt a continuous improvement strategy to tap into the tool's full potential over time," said Edgar. "I view this as necessary, because when deploying any kind of tool like this in a collaborative environment, it takes time for the user community to come up to speed and realize what they have."

For instance, ProSight offers add-on modules that extend the tool's capabilities, said Edgar. This includes a module called Optimize, which enables customers to model future investment scenarios based on variables they enter to determine which investment strategy will deliver the highest return on investment, said Edgar. "After over two years of deployment, I'm only just now getting to the point where 'Optimize' is becoming useful to us."

More simplified functions are also popping up in project management software. Ed Cullari, director of the project management office at Amerisure Mutual Insurance Co., has 15 years of experience in project management. But when he was hired by Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Amerisure a few years ago, there was no project management office -- and the organization's project management capabilities were immature, he said. That's one reason he selected Web-based project management software from eProject Inc. in Seattle.

The software, which Amerisure began using 15 months ago, "is like Microsoft Project on steroids," said Cullari. Amerisure's 160 users rely on the software to track project management issues that arise, expenses and change management issues using a single repository, said Cullari. Most importantly, "it's very easy to use, so you don't have to change your processes to suit the tool."

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