Mar 18

PPM apps vs PPM plugins

There is plenty of fish in the Project & Portfolio Management (PPM) sea, one might say. Obviously, fish on this occasion refers to PPM software, mostly available either as a standalone application or a plugin for existing software. Even though they have a lot in common, apps and plugins are different types of solutions, and each of the options has its pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look at both to find whether it’s a standalone app or a plugin that would better fit your organization.

A brief history of PPM apps

PPM applications emerged primarily alongside classic management methodologies. Companies needed tools to supervise and control the workflow, and higher-ups weren’t interested in changing the way teams managed and reported their work. However, the IT departments were interested in improving their work methods. Hence, by using a bit of autonomy that the “IT Crowd” usually has, they started the little revolution. The Agile Manifesto, published in 2001, set the new goals for the management and accelerated the rise of agile and swift methodologies. Although the top management was, and sometimes still is, reluctant to implement agile methods, they cannot ignore the wind of change. New forms of PPM apps, suited for more iteration-oriented methods, quickly rose to popularity. It doesn’t mean classical PPM apps are dead. On the contrary, they still dominate the billion-dollar worth market. 

Traditional PPM apps are behemoths, which are swollen from functionalities and features. Their implementation in large organizations might take years. Besides the technical aspect, teams have to learn and understand a new tool and often change their well-established habits and routines, sometimes even the whole culture of the organization. The bigger the piece of software, the greater the risk of failure. Up to this day, many companies fail to use new software, and paradoxically, what is supposed to make work easier for managers and their teams makes it even more difficult. 

Some managers have to put on a brave face and show upper management that software, worth millions of dollars and requiring months or even years for implementation, actually work. They generate few reports for the executive board, but teams still use their favorite, not recommended apps. Sometimes big PPM software is used by teams only when higher-ups want to see the effects. Millions of dollars and man-hours are wasted on an app that isn’t used or is treated as a nuisance. Of course, there are success stories when talented managers implemented big PPM apps with benefits for the whole company, but yet it’s still difficult. To this day, many organizations ask the same question: “How can we benefit from big PPM apps features with lesser risk”?

Other solutions

Fortunately, some solutions do not require turning the company culture upside down. Some organizations prefer smaller, cheaper apps with fewer functions and are dedicated to specific areas like reporting, data visualization, roadmapping, or workflow supervision. These software types have one big advantage over PPM behemoths – it’s much easier and cheaper to implement them for a company. Also, teams can start using these tools much faster; however, it comes with a price. Smaller apps are far less agile in terms of configuration and do not offer deeper integration with existing tools. 

PPM apps and plugins – what’s the difference?

PPM apps PPM plugins
complex, many features fewer features, focused on limited aspects of work
time-consuming implementation fast implementation
multi-dimensional tool designed for specific use
expensive more cost-efficient
useless without  proper training applicable without training, powerful after basic training
Companies can refer to plugin apps that rely on data from systems like Jira or Azure DevOps, which are already big. For example, Jira implementation is expensive, complicated, and time-consuming. Managers must learn how to use this useful but complicated software to manage products, processes, work, and tasks. Adding another big tool to learn may leave employees frustrated unless companies will decide on plugins or addons. They are the best solution in terms of implementation from the perspective of time, costs, and low entry threshold. Instead of another big implementation, the company can invest in smaller, easier software that expands Jira’s features. This flexibility allows managers to experiment with plugins and see which one is the best solution that may also be scaled for the whole company. 

Plugin app: the third solution 

Plugins do not require a big shift in organizations workflow or long training sessions for managers to learn how to use them. The company isn’t forced to commit to a new vendor for many years. It doesn’t have to audit new apps, or the audit is much easier and shorter itself. Team leaders, who implement plugins, omit the whole process of admission, which usually requires permits from different departments and levels. The company’s workflow and culture are undisturbed. This shortened line of implementation is one of the cornerstones of BigPicture’s success, as it allows buying the plugin from the marketplace and starting to use it right away. 

Contemporary plugins, such as BigPicture, allow users for live integrations and data synchronization from different sources, such as Trello, Azure DevOps, or Jira. It’s one of the few apps that allows a connection of different sources of information and manages them from the level of BigPicture. Also, the only tool for cloud and server apps available at the Atlassian marketplace. Usually, team leaders or managers had to import data manually into PPM systems or create and maintain expensive integrations. It not only creates waste in man-hours but also increases the risk of creating incorrect or junk data. BigPicture helps to avoid this kind of problem. 

In the contemporary PPM landscape, PPM applications are considered tools for higher-ups. It’s not implemented to make the workflow smoother and work easier, but to create a false sense of innovation that usually leads to wasted time and frustration of those who must learn their work from scratch. 

On the other hand, PPM plugins are considered a great tool for managers. They do not replace the already used apps but enhance their capabilities without much interference, quicker, and for less money. Contemporary plugins are often invisible to team leaders and members. They upload data necessary for reporting automatically without interfering with the workflow of employees. BigPicture is a perfect solution for managers that want to work on reliable data without turning the whole company upside down. It does not require special and complicated implementation. BigPicture relies on data uploaded directly from different sources. It’s a PPM umbrella app that allows for capping information from many tools and using it to report and control the workflow.

About The Author

Content Specialist @ Software Plant