The PPM Market – in the key of Z

What does one learn after 15 Years in the PPM Business? –                                  by Michael Zuber

I have to admit that most days it does not feel like it’s been 15 years.  But, as I look at the calendar and remember the roller coaster ride of the market I can’t deny that the time has truly flown by.  When I first started working in the PPM Market at Chainlink (aka Kintana) in 1997, the world was a different place.  (Remember Windows 98 and Office 97.  When 3Com’s purchase of U.S. Robotics for $6.6 billion was largest consolidation of computer companies in history).   A lot has changed since 1997.  I feel compelled to take a few minutes and share a few insights about the PPM market.  I’m only writing about the  top 3 as I didn’t want to create a book (and I’m sure you don’t want to read one either).

The first thing that strikes me about the PPM market is that many of today’s client’s “needs” are still effectively the same as the first day I started.  Key needs still include the requirement to better understand People (Hours/Skills/Bandwidth/etc) and Dollars.  15 years ago, some vendors entered this market with little more than timesheets while other took the slant of process and planning.  These threads ultimately merged as the market consolidated and unique strategies melted together to form a more cohesive market for PPM.

I believe that the vendors that keep a laser beam focus on the client’s needs (managing People and Dollars) will ultimately win more deals.  Others, who lack focus, will eventually be replaced because they have lost touch with the core challenges in the market.  In the end every client has resources (People) and cares about how and where the money is spent. 

The second thing that I’ve discovered, is that in every client meeting; it is either about looking into the future or looking into the past.  What do I mean?

Some clients want to collect and consume all the data about this week’s or last week’s work, demand, tasks, etc.  They are consumed with sifting through the data to tie out the work with accomplishments and cost.  As an accountant myself I always assumed this was because management wanted to be able to tie out the hours, to work to the general ledger. 

In the beginning I thought this was like driving by looking in the rear view mirror.  However,  after years of experience I realized that what they were actually doing was using actual and past performance to learn and make better decisions in the future.

Alternatively other clients treated the past as history and they were only looking into the future.  These clients said things like “I need the data about the future plan, work, spend and commitments so I can make better decisions.”  If you listen carefully, they are actually saying; “My hair is on fire, I don’t have enough resources and I am tired of getting yelled at (And I want to have a life outside of the office).”

In the end it is important to have both perspectives. I reflect on the past 15 years, I still see every client falling into one of these two camps.  Part of my job is to help them appreciate the other perspective.  While some vendors may position one point of view as more important than the other, I always make sure we talk about both because I believe we owe that to our clients..  Some who are less scrupulous  might just focus on the client’s one hot/pressing need and not help them with the long term or big picture. 

The third and final thing that I want to share is that the number of PPM vendors once numbered greater than 20, but this has really been reduced to what I see as the big 3 or 4.  This consolidation has brought about many benefits to the market.   On the plus side, it’s easier to find vendors who are in PPM for the long haul, and we all share a consistency of vocabulary (for example “project” almost always means the same thing).  

As the market has consolidated,  I firmly believe that there is an opportunity for more innovation and thought leadership.   From my perspective, the market will reward innovators.  As opposed to those who just say “me too”. 

What do I mean by innovation – what about something like: 

  “an automated capability to forecast / predict project success based on performance data”.  

Do you think that would indeed be innovative and valuable?  – I Do.

I think there is an incredible opportunity for the vendor that takes the next leap in thought leadership – they will stand a tremendous chance of converting past losses into new clients. 

To wrap things up I think the PPM market is about

  1. people and dollars and
  2. the customer’s need to understand the past as well as forecast the future. 
  3. There’s an opportunity for true innovation now.

To be clear, I didn’t write this for my own good, but to spark a dialogue, discussion or even debate.  


So what did you think of Mike’s perspective?

  • Do you agree or disagree?  
  • What is the innovation that you are waiting to see from the market?

Let’s have a discussion… Go ahead and comment.

If you want to contact Mike off line – you can either contact him through your HP sales rep or drop me an email at and I’ll get you in touch with Mike.

If you’re interested in HP PPM, you can follow us at the HP PPM Blog  or even follow us @HPPPM on Twitter

Article source: HP PPM Blog

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