Inefficiency and overwhelm are among some of the complaints that project managers and PMOs often hear from users after launching a new project portfolio management tool. And while it’s true that any new tool takes time to learn, these concerns can’t be brushed off. After all, the purchase and installation alone aren’t enough to ensure successful project portfolio management; they’re only the beginning of the project portfolio management (PPM) implementation plan and journey. That’s why we took advantage of the Pharma & Medtech PPM conference in Basel, Switzerland, which brought together a panel of experts to share their experiences of successful customer initiatives. At the heart of their discussions? Best practices for implementing a new enterprise PPM tool. 

Here’s our top takeaways.

The Importance of Change Management in Your Project Portfolio Management Implementation Plan

As Consulting Manager for PPM service provider Accelond, Dieter Riegelhof is responsible for the success of software implementations. In his experience, about 70% of software implementation projects fail to deliver real value to customers or end users. 

Why? Failure to sufficiently consider change management.   

“Any new PPM tool brings a change for the organization, and everyone has to adapt to this change,” Riegelhof told Sciforma Presales Consultant Andreas Ronczka. “As a rule, many are afraid of change and prefer to stay in their comfort zone. This will influence the pace of your project’s implementation, and ultimately its success.” 

Regardless of company size or the Project Portfolio Management tool undergoing a implementation, Riegelhof says change management is key to a successful plan and deployment. “If you find the right incentives, you will be followed, and your teams…and organization as a whole will become stronger, because ultimately all your people will work together to manage the change.” 

So now the important question: how do you establish good change management? 

Communication: the heart of the issue with PPM tool implementation 

In the search for Riegelhof’s “right incentives,” keep in mind that change management is ultimately a matter of persuasion, meaning perception is key.  

“If people know why they have to go through this change, they’ll follow you more easily,” Riegelhof shared, “and their confidence will grow over time.”  

Your plan and your communication, therefore, must be adapted to the specificities of your organization. Experts recommend playing out worst, best, and likely scenarios from the start, in close collaboration with your team. This way, you make sure you address both their needs and their fears, while also helping them understand why the change needs to happen.  

Nothing should be left to chance; every scenario or question must be considered and dealt with upstream in your PPM implementation plan.

Everyone loves challenges and rewards 

Besides, to successfully deploy change management within your organization, Riegelhof advocates a mix of challenging and pampering. 

“The challenges engage people, so their experience isn’t limited to a few training sessions and handing out fancy new user documentation. In fact, participating in the challenges helps them to be part of the journey, to discover the new PPM tool. The second element: pamper them! We must do everything possible to offer a very powerful tool, completely free of bugs and very reliable. If you pay attention to all these ingredients and place them within the framework of change management, you will have a successful project.” 

Smart Training for Smart Learning

Well-planned communication initiatives are a prerequisite for user engagement. But they must also be given the means to act so that the implementation is successful. This involves setting up training programs. 

That’s where Anna Pannenberg, Accelond’s expert in learning and software training, comes in. 

“Some people say today’s software should be easy enough to use that it doesn’t require training,” Pannenberg told us. “But in fact, the training is not only about the software and its functionalities. It gives learners time to play with the new PPM tool, which helps them build confidence and good habits.” 

In Pannenberg’s experience, good training is just as important and unique as a communication plan. In order to optimize the acquisition of knowledge and the mastery of good practices, a good training plan must not only account for learners’ individual training needs, but actively engage with them. 

“There is no effective learning without motivated learners. The greatest danger in this context is frustration, which can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:  

  • problems accessing training, or an unattractive training title, 
  • the inability to follow the session, or too complex of content,  
  • and many others. 

The concept must therefore present the content in an attractive and didactic way.”  

And the way to achieve it? Make the training clear, simple, and enjoyable to follow. This last point is important and can be achieved through interactive elements and games (videos, music, images with pop-ups, etc.).  

“Fun is a strong motivator for learners, and long-term success is only possible with long-term motivated users.” 

Pannenberg also recommends concluding training programs with short quizzes, to produce what’s called the “backwash effect.” The quizzes will allow trainees to test their learning, while also providing feedback to the trainer on the effectiveness of the training. 

Finally: Keep Your PPM Implementation Simple! 

Both Riegelhof and Pannenberg agree on the importance of taking a phased approach to large implementation projects. They recommend breaking down complexities into smaller pieces. For example: you can divide the overall objectives, work packages, and expected results into multiple measurable phases, in order to facilitate the integration of your people into the new system. 

Questions or comments? Do not hesitate to contact our PPM software experts!  

Andreas Ronczka ( –

Dieter Riegelhof ( – 

Anna Pannenberg ( – 

Share the article