Looking for a Project Management Information System (PMIS) can be overwhelming. This guide will help you navigate the process of what to look for in a quality, robust PMIS. Note that sometimes PIMS, project information management system, is used interchangeably with PMIS.
First, it is critical to conduct an internal audit of what systems and processes are in place already within the organization or project team to determine where there may be gaps. It helps to understand the current state to fill in the process and solution requirements still needed. Afterwards, it will be easy to determine which functionalities aren’t currently being met in order to better deliver projects on-time and on budget, and the search for a PMIS solution that will help fill those needs can begin.
What is a PMIS?
The Project Management Book of Knowledge PMBoK® Guide describes a PMIS as “An information system consisting of the tools and techniques used to gather, integrate, and disseminate the outputs of project management processes. It is used to support all aspects of the project from initiating through closing, and can include both manual and automated systems.”
No matter the scale of a project, it has information and data that needs to be managed and organized. As a project progresses, so does the amount of information surrounding it. A system that helps project managers control and deliver project information becomes essential. A project management information system (PMIS) enables project professionals to easily plan and track project progress in all stages of its lifecycle.
A good PMIS will collect all project data and information from various sources, spreadsheets, and systems to be the one source for all project data for the project management team. Sometimes individuals will incorrectly picture a document center as a project management information system, however it should be much more than a collection of project files and documents.
The 6 Key PMIS Features & Functions
Requirements for selecting a PMIS will vary depending upon an organization’s operational requirements. Likewise, most project management information systems differ in scope, design, and offered features, but it is important when choosing a PMIS system that it at least has the following six features and capabilities:
- Planning & Scheduling
- Budget & Estimating
- Resource & Procurement Management
- Cost Management & Project Performance
- Progress Reporting
- Data & System Integration
1.) Planning & Scheduling
A PMIS will be able to plan and compute the project’s schedule and its critical path whether by built-in scheduling functionality or through built-in integration to a scheduling application like Microsoft Project or Oracle Primavera P6. A PMIS will be able to create or import a project’s specific schedule, as well as define the scope baseline.
2.) Budget & Estimating
A quality project management information system is capable of associating project cost with individual tasks or items to generate more accurate budget estimates. A PMIS needs to combine project cost estimating, forecasting, cost data and schedule information in order to determine accurate project progress and performance. Having this data together in one system allows for managing project costs through the process of planning, estimating, and controlling a project’s budget; it ties in very closely with Cost Management & Project Performance below.
3.) Resource & Procurement Management
It is important for a PMIS to have functionality to manage the complete procurement process since resources and procured items are a large portion of a project’s cost and preliminary budget.
4.) Cost Management & Project Performance
A solid PMIS enables project managers to control project cost and performance. It will allow for updating existing plans as actuals against planned data changes, and provide what-if scenarios to them while tracking and managing all project changes.
Planned value, earned value, and actual costs, allow for calculating additional project values that indicate the project’s current status and performance from either a budget perspective or from a schedule perspective.
Using the above values, project managers can also determine the project’s current status through to the end of the project using the following Estimate to Complete (ETC), Estimate at Completion (EAC), Variance at Completion (VAC), and To-Complete Performance Index (TCPI).
5.) Progress Reporting
Built-in project progress reporting is crucial for saving project managers time, while giving them the necessary tools to create and send reports tailored to the various audiences (whether team members or stakeholders). A PMIS will have the capability to create and share reports of collected and analyzed data.
6.) Data & System Integration
It is important for project management information systems to bring all project data together to eliminate data silos. A PMIS needs to be able to integrate with other applications or software systems (i.e. payroll, inventory, ERP, scheduling systems like Primavera P6, etc.). This system integration allows for accessing data from different projects for multi-project analysis and bridging gaps between systems and applications needed to have all project information in one place.
A More Robust & Scalable PMIS
Each of the six key core functionalities above are minimum baseline components of a true project management information system and should be considered when seeking out a PMIS. There are many solutions (ARES PRISM being one of them) that offer this functionality plus more for well-rounded project management.
ARES PRISM is a PMIS with additional key functionality that enables project organizations to be more scalable as their company grows. With critical capabilities such as contract management, field management, engineering management, portfolio management, and project carbon estimating, there is a ready-made solution for you when you need it.
With a recognized global presence, ARES PRISM is a multi-currency and multi-language project controls and management solution. It is also flexible in licensing; organizations are able to purchase the amount of licenses needed rather than requiring a license minimum.
Each ARES PRISM project management module can perform change management, so that no matter which module(s) are implemented, all project changes are tracked and can be traced back to a single source of truth. This powerful change management solution provides organizations with a complete and auditable system for tracking cost and schedule changes to the project’s baseline and forecast.
Time-Phased Budget & EVM
It is important that a PMIS has schedule data alongside the project’s cost data so that it can be time-phased and used to measure progress. Likewise, these data sets are critical for earned value management, though not all PMIS can do Earned Value Management (EVM). Our cost management module, PRISM Cost, supports all required project cost processes from budgeting, time-phasing, EVM, change management, risk tracking, funds allocation, and forecasting.
Within PRISM Cost, project and cost managers can create unlimited control accounts to manage project data at the level of detail they desire. It allows for establishing time-phased budgets to represent cash flow plans for projects while creating and managing workflows. Users can plan and forecast resources by reporting period, and enterprise reporting periods can be used for enterprise cash flow analysis and implementation of change management processes to maintain control of scope and cost. It also acts as a risk warning system; project managers can intervene and make corrections early as the cumulative Cost Performance Index (CPI) and the Schedule Performance Index (SPI) act as early warning signals for project risks.
Executive Reports & Dashboards
Running reports to assess whether projects are hitting specified criteria, targets, and benchmarks lets project managers know immediately if a project is over or under-performing. Progress reporting is how project teams know how the project is progressing and how stakeholders are informed of progress and performance. As such, ARES PRISM offers more than 200 built-in standard project management reports. Also, PRISM Dashboard is available for executive level reporting via a series of pre-designed dashboard views based on industry best practices. This module allows for access to an overall enterprise view and project-specific views.
Easily accessible project data saves time and money, significantly speeding up month-end reporting while reducing errors and manual data validation and greatly improving report accuracy, consistency, and standardization. All of this leaves more time to analyze project data and critical decision-making.
In addition to the minimum Resource and Procurement Management capabilities described above, project managers can do even more with ARES PRISM. PRISM Procurement enables project organization to manage resource planning, staff planning, requisitions and purchase orders, handle the scheduling of procurement, expediting shipments, and supplier evaluations.
ARES PRISM has built-in integration to Oracle Primavera P6, MS Project, and MS Excel out-of-the-box. In addition, the PRISM Integrator module provides bi-directional integration to nearly any existing legacy system or financial system that an organization has. This enables an organization to pull all its project data together and automate data flow within its software tools.
PMIS Closing Takeaways
It is essential for project organizations to choose a PMIS (like ARES PRISM) to help manage their data and project information to save time, money, and avoid risks in manual data duplication efforts. We know that collecting, organizing, and analyzing project information is critical to delivering projects on schedule and on budget. When looking for a project management information system, be sure to consider a solution that is quick to implement in order to swiftly see return on investment, as well as a tool that is scalable that can grow with your organization.