A Framework for Evaluating PMIS Software (Part 1)
Updated: Oct 30
This is the first in a series of posts about this subject. The objective of this post is to provide some information to help owners, developers and contractors evaluate and select the appropriate Project Management Information System or PMIS, also called Project Management/Construction Management (PM/CM) or Construction Project Management (CPM) software.
Before jumping into it, I want to point out that this content was created by the humans at THAMPICO, and not by ChatGPT or any AI tool—for better or worse. We acknowledge that a lot of what you are going to hear is based on our subjective experience as former and current users of PMIS software.
The annual license fee for a PMIS can approach several hundred thousand dollars. And that’s just the hard cost (i.e., money that is spent directly by the purchasing organization). If you include the time it takes for staff to learn and use the system, the soft costs can extend into the millions of dollars.
That is why it is critical for organizations to select the right PMIS. The right PMIS can mitigate risk, reduce costs associated with errors, save money that would otherwise be spent on contingencies, and potentially avoid or minimize the likelihood and costs of lawsuits. Furthermore, the sooner a project is completed, the faster the owner can begin generating revenues which could go towards paying back debt, thereby satisfying investors and providing the means to develop even more projects.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of information and resources to help organizations make the right decision about what PMIS system they should select. Most of the public information comes directly from the developers of the software. They’re not always the most partial providers of information.
There are several third-party websites that compare different systems, but these websites rely on information from the software developers or anecdotal information that is difficult to validate. These websites may also be receiving fees for recommending certain systems.
Any evaluation of PMIS software requires knowledge of construction project management and software systems. While most construction project managers have extensively used software over the course of their careers, they’re usually not experts when it comes to choosing which software. Conversely, it’s rare to find a software expert with experience or expertise in construction project management. The career paths for these two fields generally do not intersect.
One way for organizations to address this gap is to form a PMO, or Project Management Office, with staff that bring a combination of software and construction management experience. The PMO can then be tasked with driving the evaluation and recommendation of the PMIS software for the organization. We work with PMOs to help them make the optimal choice of a PMIS system.
Now, the question may come up: what if we’ve already selected a PMIS system, but it isn’t the right fit for our organization?
Something that stuck with me from my MBA program is:
“You make the best decision you can with the information you have; once the decision is made, you must work to make it the right decision.”
(Credit: Professor Carl Voigt at USC’s Marshall School of Business).
That being said, you are also aware of the concept of sunk costs. If your organization ultimately determines that a incorrect decision has been made, it’s appropriate to cut your losses and move on to a better solution.
The good news is that most PMIS software is sold on an annual license basis, since software providers today prefer to be in the SAAS (Software-as-a-Service) business. But there can be high costs of switching to a different PMIS.
As such, before deciding to explore or acquire a new PMIS, it may be better to see whether changes in the areas of people and process could help your organization make better use of the technology, rather than changing the technology to try and fit your people and process. The PMO, working with dedicated and knowledgeable consultants, can help you make the determination of the best path forward.
That concludes the first post in the series. I hope it piqued your interest enough to read the next one, which is titled “The PPB Framework: Project-Level Systems”: [Read Part 2 of this series here.]
This post was written by Sirous Thampi, the founder of THAMPICO LLC, a consulting firm that provides program and project management support for utilities and cooperatives. We help our clients align people, process, and technology to produce optimal outcomes for energy project development. Our goal is to help our clients deliver more reliable, affordable, and clean energy, which is what the world wants and needs.