Project Management System resources Center

Module 5: Selecting a Project Management System

Emphasizing the selection of a project management system (PMS), this portion of the PMS resource center (PMS) features techniques and tools for analyzing the organization’s requirements for a PMS, publishing a PMS functional requirements specification (FRS), identifying and qualifying potential PMS solutions, and building a business case recommendation for adoption of the optimal PMS solution.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Construct PMS selection criteria.
  2. Devise PMS evaluations process.
  3. Prepare business case for PMS.

For Your Success & Readings

Need to choose a project management system? This module considers selection criteria, processes for evaluating various systems, and making a compelling argument for the implementation of your chosen system. The recommended reading and hyperlinks within the content will help to guide you as you consider your options.


  • Part 1: Chapters 4 & 9 in A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (6th ed.)

1. Analyze Organization’s PMS Needs

collection of diamond-shaped road signs layered on top of each other. Each sign reads ‘choices ahead’

The project management system (PMS) selection initiative is a project in its own right, therefore, it is best accomplished by applying the principles and practices of project management throughout the PMS selection project life cycle. The initial activities involve ensuring enterprise support for the PMS. Identifying key PMS stakeholders throughout the enterprise and soliciting their engagement is crucial for optimal PMS outcomes. Enterprise-wide stakeholder input and involvement are essential for designating the organization’s PMS requirements, evaluating the potential PMS solutions, and adopting the optimal PMS solution for the organization’s needs.

To understand which PMS is best suited for the organization, the organization’s needs for a PMS must be identified and analyzed (needs analysis). The criteria informing the organization’s PMS needs comprise the characteristics and attributes that define the organization’s the project management environment and the organization’s strategy for advancing its project management maturity level.  Factors, such as the project management methods, standards, and techniques, and practices used throughout the organization, identify elements of the PMS’ functional scope. The functional scope factors include:

  • project selection practices (i.e., financial models, strategic alignment, etc.),
  • project organizing and planning practices (i.e., project charter process, WBS creations, scheduling, estimating, risk planning, etc.),
  • project monitoring and controlling (i.e., project dashboard, earned value management, project risk monitoring, etc.), and
  • project closing practices (i.e., closure checklist, project audits, project archival, etc.).  

Organizational needs for a PMS are determined by:

  • the degree of control and influence of the project management structure on projects within the organization (e.g., supportive, controlling, directive),
  • the scale of enterprise-wide deployment of project management throughout the organization,
  • the degree of project management alignment with the organization’s strategy and mission, and
  • project management maturity evidenced (or desired) within the organization. 

Other nonfunctional requirements typically include IT infrastructure compatibility, ease-of-use, training and support, and total ownership cost (TOC) guidelines.

2. Develop PMS Functional Requirements Specification

a pen hovers over the final box in a checklist. All other boxes have check marks.

After ensuring enterprise support for the PMS initiative, the designation of a PMS project team is essential for determining the PMS project scope, planning the PMS selection activities and time frames, performing PMS selection activities, and delivering the PMS project objectives. One of the initial activities performed by the PMS project team is conducting a needs analysis and assessment. The organizational, non-functional, and functional scope factors designated for analyzing the organization’s PMS needs should be itemized in the form of a checklist for PMS features, functions, and criteria.

The organizational scope factors are introduced in “Page I: Analyze Organization’s PMS Needs” and include criteria derived from analysis of the organization’s culture and project management environment. The factors of an organization’s culture typically include considerations such as the degree of empowerment, collaboration, information sharing, and governance; project management environment factors typically identify the project management structure (i.e., Project, Program, Portfolio, and Project Management Office), project methods and standards adopted, and resource allocations.

The non-functional criteria include considerations such as:

  • ease-of-use,
  • device or platform interoperability,
  • accessibility, and
  • scalability.

Ease-of-use addresses training requirements or the intuitiveness of the application as well as the administrative complexity of the PMS. The device interoperability stipulates the variety of devices (e.g., desktop, mobile devices, smart phones, etc.) or information interchange between IT systems required for effective operations, while accessibility involves information sharing requirements, security, and the degree of connectivity (local, remote, anywhere) needed.  

The functional criteria address the automated support requirements for the specific activities performed in the practice of project management. The PMS’ functional project management support may address the following activities:  project feasibility assessment and selection, project risk management, project communications management, project scope planning including work breakdown structure development, project task management, project cost and estimate management, project schedule management, project resource management and time tracking, project invoicing, earned value management, project audit and governance compliance, and stakeholder management. 

Once the PMS functions, features, and other criteria have been itemized, they should be ranked by order of priority and weighted by value contributed to the organization. Table 1 illustrates a practical approach for PMS functional criteria priority ranking. Additionally, each PMS criterion may be assigned a weighting factor, as illustrated in Table 2, which used in conjunction with the priority in a mathematical function yields a metric for quantitative PMS selections evaluation. The culmination of the elicitation and analysis activities yields a prioritized and weighted itemization of PMS checklist criteria.

Table 1
Prioritization Schema for PMS Functional Criteria



Priority Score


An essential criterion for PMS stakeholder acceptance



A necessary criterion for PMS functionality.


Highly Desirable

A useful but deferrable PMS capability criterion.



A nice to have optional criterion.


Table 2
Weighting Schema for PMS Functional Criteria



Weight Score

Customer Value

PMS criterion needed to satisfy customer value proposition.


Strategic Value

PMS criterion needed to achieve mission or goal results.


Project Value

PMS criterion needed to advance project management maturity.


The prioritized and weighted itemization of PMS checklist criteria becomes a key component of the PMS functional requirements specification (FRS), which documents the PMS’ business needs and its functional and operational use criteria.  Although the FRS is typically used in a context of systems engineering or software development, in this consideration, the FRS describes the overarching objectives of the PMS, delineates assumption and constraints, identifies significant enterprise risks, and incorporates the PMS checklist criteria as well as the method of identifying and evaluating PMS solutions. The FRS document is used as the central guiding reference for identifying and evaluating project management systems and associated components or supplementary systems (PMI, 2017b). See the sample FRS templates from Smartsheets, AlMooc, and Maryland State.

3. Identify and Evaluate PMS

a magnifying glass rests in front of large block letters that form the word ‘review’

The FRS can be incorporated into a formalized request for information (RFI), which is a standard practice of soliciting vendor information about the conformance of their products and services in satisfaction of the criteria stipulated in the FRS. The RFI is distributed to a known or identified group of potential PMS solution providers, thus, requesting information about how the vendor’s products or services satisfy the organizations PMS needs from the designated solutions providers. The RFI typically incorporates a self-rating mechanism requiring the vendor to provide an empirical needs-fits in addition to descriptive product capabilities, which assists in the quantitative solution assessments.

For a less formal approach, internet search capabilities provide a convenient means to stipulate key PMS selection criteria (i.e., online collaboration, portfolio project management, earned value management, etc.) to retrieve a narrowed list of potential PMS solutions or solution components. Additionally, marketplace surveys or product evaluation services such as Capterra, Software Advice, or PCMag Project software review offer information about potential PMS solutions. Using this approach, the PMS project team performs the rating of the vendor product’s needs-fits.  See the video The Best Project Management Software as PCMag Senior Editor Juan Martinez describes considerations for project management software evaluation.

The Best Project Management Software

Watch the Video

Once the potential PMS solutions have been identified and best needs-fit rating information collected, the PMS rating information should be evaluated based on the methodology set forth in the FRS. The evaluation is typically accomplished by aggregating needs-fit ratings to develop a ranked score with cohesive categories. Weighting factors may be applied to the category scores and further summarized to develop an overall PMS score for each potential solution. Using a matrix format, the individual PMS scores can be assessed to identify the top few best-fit potential PMS solutions for additional due diligence in the quest for a PMS solution recommendation.  

4. Proposing a PMS Solution

a large box with check mark inside

The PMS solution recommendation is the foundation for developing a compelling business case proposal for adoption of the PMS solution. The PMBOK® Guide (PMI, 2017a) defined a business case as “a documented economic feasibility study used to establish validity of the benefits of a selected component lacking sufficient definition and that is used as a basis for the authorization of further project management activities” (p. 530).  Moreover, BABOK® (IIBA, 2015) stated that “a business case provides a justification for a course of action based on the benefits to be realized by using the proposed solution, as compared to the cost, effort, and other considerations to acquire and live with that solution” (Section 10.7.1).  In this context, the PMS business case solicits sponsor approval by making a compelling recommendation, which incorporates a clear and concise statement about the need for the PMS, sets forth the specific business value and desired outcomes, delineates financial and non-financial requirements, and identifies constraints, assumptions, and risks.  The approved business case guides the adoption and deployment of the PMS.


International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). (2015). A guide to the business analysis body of knowledge (BABOK®) v3. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: [Author]

Project Management Institute (PMI). (2017a). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (6th ed.). Newtown Square, PA: PMI Publications.

Project Management Institute. (2017b). The PMI guide to the business analysis. Newtown Square, PA: PMI Publications.