How to Choose the Right PMIS?

Jackson Row
Jackson Row
May 15, 2024

No matter if you are a project owner, project manager, or an owner's representative, you have likely been provided login details to a project management information system (PMIS).  

Investing in one of these PMIS can be a big decision, and we're not spoilt for choice. Selection of the most appropriate means of managing the flow, storage, and presentation of critical capital project information (also known as your PMIS) needs consideration and hopefully ensures the successful completion of many capital projects now and well into the future.  

In a market containing PMIS solutions that have been around for many years and some new products that are fresh on the block, selecting which PMIS is right for you as an organization can be a daunting task.  

Each PMIS has various functions and complexities. We're talking about very deep systems, and seeing and testing all their features is impossible. All things considered, there are a few essential understandings and questions that, once answered, will greatly assist you in selecting which PMIS is suitable for you!

How to Choose the Right PMIS?: A photo of a capital project management meeting with many project files laid out on the table.

PMIS Meaning

In capital projects, a Project Management Information System, or PMIS, is a software-based system that helps project owners and project managers collect, organize, and analyze all the information needed to successfully run a portfolio of projects. It provides a central location for:

  • All Projects
  • Plans and schedules
  • Budgets and costs
  • Resources (people, equipment, etc.)
  • Communication and documents
  • Progress tracking and reporting
Read more: What is PMIS? A Guide to Project Management Information Systems

Types of Project Management Information Systems (PMISs)

Project Management Information Systems help you organize, track, and execute projects effectively. Let's explore the main types:

Desktop-Based Systems

An old deployment type, these older PMISs offer robust features installed directly on your computer or local servers. They are ideal when robust offline functionality is critical. Examples include Oracle Unifier and Primavera P6, some older systems you can still buy and store on your desktop computer! How old school!

Web-Based Systems

Hosted online and in the cloud, these tools prioritize agility, accessibility, and collaboration. Teams can access and update project data from anywhere with an internet connection and receive updates to their software remotely from the provider. Popular examples include InEight and E-builder.

Integrated Systems

For complex project portfolios within large organizations, these systems are embedded in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software with deep integrations. This approach streamlines data between project management, finance, HR, and other departments but requires much effort and control. Examples include SAP capital project suites and Kahua.

Hybrid PMIS

These hybrid-style PMISs seem to straddle multiple industries and use cases. They are not capital project PMIS or typical project management. They are a strange hybrid but can be used for both, but not very well. The fit of these products for capital projects is up for debate. Atlassian's Jira is a good example, and also Monday.com, where we have seen Asset Owners and Project Managers attempt to use these as PMIS (but not to a good result)

Sector-Specific PMIS

Some PMIS solutions have features uniquely tailored to specific industries and users' key jobs in those sectors. For instance, Mastt is famous for construction and capital projects where project owners' and project managers' needs are met. At the same time, ProjectManager.com is another sector-specific PMIS geared towards general business project management.

Having broken PMIS into different types, let's focus on choosing the perfect industry-specific PMIS.

Mastt is one of the best examples of a PMIS for construction and capital projects.
Mastt is one of the best examples of a PMIS for construction and capital projects.

PMIS Key Features & Functions

Before choosing a PMIS, it's important to understand your specific application and the core features that any good system should offer to solve those challenges. This will help match the right PMIS to your organization and project needs. Here are some of the key features to look for: What is my situation? Consider your project portfolio and identify the challenges you have.

  • Are your projects large and complex, and do they have many documents flying around?  
  • Or is your organization heavily task-based, with many small projects needing tracking?
  • Perhaps your organization prepares many reports?
  • Do you need accounting practices in order first?

Considering these challenges first will help identify the features you need to solve your challenges.

Document Storage

One of the major pain points for project owners and project managers is the pile of documents on their desks for one project alone. Imagine if you're dealing with more than one! A great PMIS for your capital projects should handle and store all necessary documents for each project electronically and centralize them in one secure location, facilitating easy access and distribution among team members and stakeholders. Wouldn't it be nice to have a PMIS that keeps all the critical documents in one easily accessible place?

Planning & Scheduling

A PMIS streamlines project planning and scheduling by leveraging its built-in scheduling tools or integrating with external applications like Microsoft Project. It facilitates the creation or importation of project schedules and manages projects through a timeline or lifecycle so everyone knows where each project is up to and what's coming up.  

Budget

A PMIS accurately associates project budgets with commitments or items to easily track project expenditures, manage payments, and forecast financial outcomes, ensuring financial discipline and efficiency. This provides detailed project progress reporting and performance evaluation. Centralizing this data within one system enables comprehensive management of project finances throughout planning, estimation, and budget control processes.

Resource & Procurement Management

Depending on the organization, this functionality within a PMIS can be pretty critical. Considering how resources and procured items make up your project could be a significant driver of meeting timelines and budget, so the logistical operations behind this must be considered.

Project Performance

A PMIS facilitates the constant tracking of actuals against planned data, offering what-if scenarios and pathway analysis. Key indicators such as planned value, earned value, and actual costs aid in calculating additional project values, providing insights into the project's current status and performance from both budgetary and scheduling perspectives. Additionally, metrics like Estimate to Complete (ETC), Estimate at Completion (EAC), and Variance at Completion (VAC) will enable project managers to assess the project's progress toward completion.

Progress Reporting

In-built project progress reporting functionality is indispensable for saving project managers time while equipping them with the tools necessary to generate and distribute reports tailored to diverse audiences, including team members and stakeholders. A PMIS should offer capabilities to consolidate data from many sources in one spot to create and share reports based on collected and analyzed data.

Data & System Integration

Effective PMIS integrates all project data to eliminate data silos. PMIS can seamlessly integrate with other applications or software systems such as payroll, inventory, ERP, and scheduling. This integration facilitates access to data from various projects for multi-project analysis and bridges gaps between systems and applications, consolidating all project information in a single repository.

Choosing the right PMIS can make or break your overall management of capital portfolio and projects.

How to Choose the Right PMIS: Selection & Implementation

By now, you've defined your organization's challenges, solutions you need, and goals for a PMIS. It's time to understand which system is right for you. To assist with the facilitation of your PMIS selection, start by asking and answering the following questions:

Will the PMIS integrate with your existing systems?

Every organization has software inherently ingrained through the various departments and processes. When a new PMIS is implemented, you must consider the possibility of integration with existing systems to minimize disruption with standard operations.  

Due to the increased productivity benefits of using a PMIS tool, significant consideration must be given to data management and how the PMIS will manage importing and migrating data with various enterprise software solutions.

Does the PMIS offer customizations and feature enhancements regularly?

Let's face it: each project owner has unique operations and processes, and not every PMIS solution will be immediately suitable and successful from inception. In this case, customization will ensure alignment of the solution with the project owner's specific needs.  

If the technology vendor doesn't offer sufficient customization support or charges extra for personalization, you may be better placed to start looking elsewhere.

What is involved with the PMIS implementation and onboarding?

Older PMIS can be a heavy lift to get in place, so you may want to consider how long this could take and whether you need everything in there. If you do, break up the onboarding into stages, maybe module by module or team by team.  

The PMIS must also be user-friendly and accessible to ensure people use it. Often, there is a struggle with users interfacing with new software, which proves to be a significant blocker to adoption despite the integration works being completed.  

Ensure the vendor can outline a comprehensive implementation and onboarding process and delve into any robust training program that will promote user adoption and utilization of the PMIS tool within the organization.

What is my budget for a PMIS?

At the end of the day, it will all come down to the price involved. It is always best to have a budget with some flexibility but also have an understanding that there can be various additional costs involved, so be sure to have a firm limit to avoid significant cost escalation.  

Further, when reviewing the associated financials, you must understand that you are not only paying for the PMIS itself, but a time investment is associated with implementation, training, and continual management of the system.

Do you need a PMIS?

While often purchased by project owners, it's ultimately up to all of the organization's users to decide if a PMIS is the right fit. Here's what to consider:

  • Users: Who needs access, and from where? Will they need it on the go?
  • Project Scope: Are you managing one project or an extensive program? Will it be short-term or long-term?
  • Features: Do you need the full range of lifecycle tools or just something simpler like cloud-based storage?
  • Data: Does the PMIS need to connect with other software you use? Are your security standards compatible?
  • Budget: PMIS solutions offer great value, but they do have a cost. Make sure the benefits outweigh the investment for your situation.

Remember: sometimes a simpler solution is perfectly suitable. Don't feel pressured to get a full-scale PMIS if you don't need all the bells and whistles.

Conclusion

Choosing the right PMIS is a strategic investment. Take the time to understand your specific needs, research the market thoroughly, and consider upfront and ongoing costs. The right PMIS won't just manage your projects; it will streamline processes, empower your team, and give you the data-driven insights to achieve consistent success. With careful selection and implementation, you'll gain the control and visibility to deliver projects on time and within budget.

Take control of every step in your Capital Project lifecycle