Configurability · Implementation

Caught in the Configurability Conundrum

Configurability Conundrum
Configurability Conundrum

Twenty-First Century project portfolio management (PPM) software is highly configurable. It’s what we expect, particularly from commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions. It’s a selling point.

It’s also a great example of “careful what you ask for”, because you just might get it.

When selecting a software solution you need to be able to tailor that solution to your business context, to adjust it too align with your organisation’s processes, to mould it to fit your specific needs. And these are admirable abilities in your new tool. I’m not suggesting that any of these things is a problem.

But I am pointing out that configurability comes at a cost. Presumably you’ve sourced a new PPM application because:

  • you want to standardise on an agreed set of processes that
  • support an enterprise wide methodology that’s
  • designed to improve project outcomes across your organisation

When you throw in a tool that allows you to configure screens and modify processes you immediately increase the risk of reducing your return on investment. Why? Because you increase the cost of your implementation; usually a significant cost increase.

Don’t get me wrong, I think configurable tools are a wonderful thing. And I love doing configuration when I get the opportunity; it’s one of the purest, most enjoyable tasks in an implementation for me. But if the configuration is:

  • the result of an evolving requirement
  • that attempts to accommodate a diversity of needs, processes or ideas about how something should be done,
  • then it’s a risky activity to engage in.

My recommendation, as much as practical and possible, is to start simple, to start ‘out of the box’ and deploy a standard set of functions to a preferably small group of stakeholders and build from there.

Configuration ability is an important feature in any software tool and not less so for being a project portfolio management application. But save the significant configuration until you have the basics in place, until you have embarked, well and truly, on the maturity journey that is part of any software implementation and deployment.

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