Straight Talk on Project Management

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Shhhh! A P3MO partnership that the Project Management software vendors probably don’t want you to know about

Blog by Nicol Cutts, Head of Projects, Professional Services at Stoneseed.

Have you ever found yourself with “buyer’s remorse”? It’s quite common on big ticket items, like after completing on a house purchase or driving your new car away from the dealership (and having to learn where everything is!!) but it can also strike buyers of more modest purchases, even a haircut (at least that will grow out – given time).

What about purchasing and implementing a project portfolio management software application? Have you ever spent a small fortune on project software only to find it doesn’t quite fit your needs, or worse, makes your team less productive as they get to grips with the new system? Stoneseed was built on an ethos that we’d always take a “client-side” stance, so it’s always ground my gears when a glitzy vendor sales pitch has left a business with a system that doesn’t deliver what they believed it would. It’s more common than perhaps you’d think!

BUT what if you didn’t need the latest cutting-edge platform? What if everything you need to efficiently and transparently deliver projects was already sitting on your desktop? AND what if you were already paying for it? Read on!

First, do any of these sound familiar?



1 – Costs: The implementation of a portfolio management software application can incur significant expense.

2 – Integration: Integrating portfolio management software with existing applications across the organisation can be difficult.

3 – Time-Consuming: Building and refining a portfolio management system can be a laborious process.

4 – Data Capture Complexity: Capturing diverse data types across various locations with varied access levels can be a mine field!

5 – Collaboration Barriers: Difficulties can be encountered in developing collaboration and communication across different areas of an organisation.

A friend tells the tale of his CEO driving the purchase of a new CRM system after he’d been impressed by it while visiting another business.

“It’s just what we need,” he’d said. Apparently, the CEO listed the benefits of the “AI-powered sales solution” (my friend doubted the CEO knew what that meant!), and he believed it was the secret to the business closing more deals, boosting efficiency and tying up customer data. There was push back from the CIO, but inevitably the CEO prevailed, and the order was placed.

My friend left that business but tells me that the CRM system “never settled”, colleagues found it cumbersome and unnecessarily time consuming, and it wasn’t delivering what was needed for the business in terms of funnelling leads into sales. “It’s almost as if our company and the company he’d seen it at were different firms with different needs,” I recall my friend saying with a sardonic smile. That’s the problem, isn’t it? From CRM to portfolio software applications, one size rarely fits all.



“Why?” is a great question. We ask it a lot when engaged in an advisory role. We ask it not to catch you out, make you wrong, or imply we know best, but to really understand what makes your business tick and how your decision-making processes are formed. Finding out why a business purchased a software package, for instance, can quickly reveal better solutions for the initial need. It’s surprising how many businesses adapt how they operate to fit the software they’ve bought, rather than the other way round.

“Why” is such a useful question that we’re always surprised it isn’t given a higher priority at the start of the process of selecting a new system or making any big strategic business purchase. Most businesses find that they don’t have a convincing reason for the software they use or the processes that they are married to! In the case of that CEO who’d seen the CRM system at another business, an early “why” would have concluded that the purchase was being driven by a “keep up with the Joneses” mindset, it was ego, a desire not to look inferior in the business circle the two men frequented, it was the latest must-have innovation (or so the CEO believed).

By the way, when my friend was leaving and had nothing to lose, he told the CEO that the business needs behind the CRM investment could have been met using Microsoft Dynamics 365 … for next to no extra expenditure … saving a fortune!

And that brings us neatly to what the Project Management software vendors probably don’t want you to know. You don’t have to spend tens of thousands of pounds on Project Management software because …

Microsoft have already invested billions!



Let’s face it, Bill Gates and Microsoft have a track record of identifying need and creating a solution for it, dating back to when typewriters and word processors gave way to Word – and they’re very good at it. It was only a matter of time before their attention turned to project management and they created irresistible cloud-based platforms that meet our needs.

So, it is now possible to successfully implement a project portfolio management system that works for your organisation by better utilising your existing Microsoft platform. You can improve efficiency and quality of delivery across your portfolio, with what’s probably already available on your desktop and perhaps within your existing subscription (or for a fraction more). You can:

1 – Optimise cutting-edge technologies for unprecedented efficiency and innovation.

2 – Provide a dynamic and intuitive platform for project planning and execution.

3 – Enable seamless collaboration within Teams.

4 – Take project management a step further with robust data analytics capabilities.

5 – Transform project-related data into actionable insights.

6 – Gain a deeper understanding of project performance and facilitate informed decision-making.

7 – Use Project for the Web and Power BI to foster a culture of teamwork and shared knowledge.

8 – Contribute to a holistic portfolio management approach.

9 – Allow organisations to oversee multiple projects with greater visibility and strategic. alignment

10 – Adapt easily to meet changing needs.



If it’s that easy, why isn’t everyone just firing up Microsoft apps?

Why do project teams and their parent companies still source and invest in expensive systems and apps?

I don’t have a definitive answer, but most just don’t know what Microsoft apps can offer. Also, from client feedback, there’s perhaps a legacy “stigma” that needs to be broken down. I hear variations on the theme that using software that’s freely available on their desktop feels like “how we used to manage projects”, it conjures up memories of managing projects on an Excel spreadsheet (which many still successfully do, by the way). Again, there’s a degree of ego satisfaction derived from working with the latest “bells and whistles” app that the columns and rows of Excel can’t deliver. BUT this isn’t Excel and in these times of squeezed budgets (and demands that around every project management corner there must be some form of return on investment), apps that come with a smaller price tag are starting to look more attractive.

More firms are investigating what the Microsoft offer is and liking what they discover but also concluding that if you don’t know what you’re doing, it looks a bit of a faff to piece together!



By its nature, if you’ve spent thousands on “bespoke” software, you expect it to be tailored for your needs right out of the box. The Microsoft offer isn’t like that out of the box – and this is a good thing and a challenge. It’s good because you can grow and adapt your “platform” based on your changing needs, you can add elements as and when you require them. The challenge meanwhile is knowing what you need and – what’s available. And what’s available keeps evolving!

I’ve been quietly studying the “365 for Project Management universe” for years, since I first got wind that Microsoft were investing heavily in apps to deliver our needs, and the AI to support them! I figured that they wouldn’t spend such time and money without expecting a market disrupting return. I think the returns Microsoft would have been anticipating are taking shape now and many businesses are watching and taking notes – but knowing how to take full advantage is another thing.

My colleague David compares utilising Microsoft apps for project management to building a house. You have a pile of bricks, windows, and doors, from which you can build your house … or an office block, or a parade of shops. Or you can leave the windows and doors aside, dig a hole and build a well! When the same building blocks can be used to create such different things, you have to know how to arrange them, so you hire an architect and builders to design, and create and, that way, you don’t end up living in a well!!

At Stoneseed, we are the architects and builders who create your P3MO platform. You already have access to the bricks, i.e., the Microsoft components, but possibly don’t know how to build them together to suit your needs. That’s where we can come in and help you pull it all together to create a “bespoke” platform for a fraction of the cost. We build the component parts together based on what you consider important to your business, creating YOUR P3MO Platform rather than lumbering you with superfluous elements of a project process which won’t help delivery.

So, it’s a P3MO partnership that’s all about you!

Stoneseed uses your methodology and maps out the process in PowerApps to match. We use your reporting methods, but just make it easier using Forms and Power BI to give you better access to information.

Initial feedback from clients who have adopted Stoneseed’s P3MO Platform are enjoying early gains:

1 – Updates from a Project Manager take five minutes to compile rather than an hour each week (in a Power deck no one reads and is already out of date on completion). We use the project managers everyday activities, so, updating project Gantt, keeping track of milestones, maintaining a risk log, to provide reports, etc and the PM just provides the project progress and items for escalation.

2 – Easier prioritisation of projects to be tracked, maintained and changed (depending on business priorities).

3 – Familiarity! Like that CEO driven CRM system, new project software apps can take time to bed in as users familiarise themselves with its quirks and methods, chances are that you use Microsoft applications every day and so have learned how they work by osmosis!

4 – Constant development! Implementation of a platform through the Microsoft gives you access to the constant evolution that they invest billions in! Microsoft are always developing and updating apps to help make life easier, so you’ll always be using the latest tech available.

5 – New levels of transparency and communication. Using Teams as the focus point for project managers and Power apps for the project office, with Power BI providing the reporting platform for stakeholders and the senior people in the organisation, projects become more transparent and communication across the whole project community is improved.

Easy! If you know what you’re doing!

Thankfully, you have a P3MO partner that does!

Unlock your PMO’s full potential with Stoneseed’s P3MO Platform