IT Governance and Project Portfolio Management: Vendor Delivers a Phase-based Approach


In today's economy, the role of technology has evolved from facilitating operations to strategically driving business. Chief information officers (CIOs) are expected to align technology with the overall business strategy of the organizations they lead. Consequently, project portfolio management (PPM) solutions have stepped in to provide the technology to implement an information technology (IT) governance framework to monitor and to evaluate the investment of projects. Although most PPM vendors provide organizations with the tools to meet these objectives, few provide a strategy to implement a governance framework successfully. In reality, many organizations implement PPM either by mapping the solution to an organization's established IT governance framework, or in a modular fashion meeting the needs to specific business processes (such as portfolio management or project management). The former scenario requires a well established governance framework, while the latter can only meet the partial needs of a less mature organization. In light of this, Pacific Edge has developed a unique approach to assisting a wide range of IT organizations with their specific PPM needs.

Based in Seattle, Washington (US), Pacific Edge has roots in the project management space. Founded in 1998, Pacific Edge delivers a web-based PPM solution focused primarily on the needs of internal IT departments. Its flagship solution, Pacific Edge Mariner, delivers IT governance through PPM and application portfolio management capabilities. In addition, Pacific Edge serves the new product development (NDP) space by offering product portfolio management capabilities. In terms of its target market, Pacific Edge has had the most success at the lower end of the enterprise market, with revenues ranging from $500 million (USD) to $8 billion (USD).

Pacific Edge Methodology

Although the concept of PPM has been around for years, most IT departments have been slow to adopt it. Pacific Edge has recognized that there is diversity in the adoption of PPM frameworks by IT departments. By developing a top-down approach, Pacific Edge offers its clients an option of three stages to implement IT governance within an organization. Based on an organization's state of maturity, its maturity-based provides a streamlined phased approach to quickly implementing project portfolio management (see figure 1).

figure 1 (source: Pacific Edge)

Specifically, Pacific Edge caters to the following three stages of maturity in an organization:

  1. Aligning IT portfolios: The objective at this stage is to help organizations with a limited IT governance framework gain high-level visibility into their portfolio of projects. Pacific Edge proposes a thirty-day timeline to reduce redundancies in portfolios, align business stakeholders with IT stakeholders, identify resource allocation, and balance supply and demand of projects.

  2. Managing IT performance: The objective at this stage is to implement tighter process controls and decision workflows. This stage focuses on closing the loop between planning and execution through detailed task planning and time tracking, delivering metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) for both projects and the available resource pool. Ultimately, organizations at this stage will streamline their projects and service delivery.

  3. Maximizing IT value: The objective at this stage is for organizations to manage the complete lifecycle of their IT investments from the time of the project request to the final retirement of the IT investment. This stage focuses on the total lifecycle cost of IT investments, and shifts organizational perspective from project-centric goals to investment-centric goals for improved decision making across the entire organization.

Pacific Edge is unique in its value proposition in that it offers its solution within this three-stage framework, allowing its clients to follow a "pay as you go" track, and to thereby purchase a solution based on their level of maturity.

Pacific Edge Components

Pacific Edge Mariner is Pacific Edge's web-based solution, and it provides organizations with a top-down approach to PPM. With portfolio management at its core, the Mariner solution delivers the following components as a part of its offering:

  • Portfolio Management: This module provides integrated decision support to track lifecycle, resource, financial, and project data. Core to its offering, the portfolio management module captures all metrics in a single dashboard to create what-if scenarios and analysis within a predefined approval workflow. Pacific Edge also delivers a user-friendly interface which is highly configurable.

  • Project Management: Pacific Edge provides complete out-of-the-box project management functionality including issues management, risk management, document management, and collaboration. This module provides web-based task planning designed for most IT project scheduling needs. For more complex scheduling requirements, clients have the ability to take advantage of Pacific Edge's complete bidirectional integration with Microsoft Project.

  • Demand Management: This module enables the capture of all demands, including non-project-related work. The classification and approvals can be set up through a configurable workflow engine which routes all messages and notifies all stakeholders based on defined business rules. As a key differentiator, Mariner has the ability to track and to provide visibility of work items through integration with leading help desk applications.

  • Financial Management: This module allows an organization to treat the lifecycle of project portfolios as an investment. Financial models can be configured to track KPIs, including return on investment (ROI), total cost of ownership (TCO), net present value (NPV), and internal rate of return (IRR). The financial management module enables calculations for time-phased costs and benefits.

  • Resource Management: This module permits granular tracking of an organization's resource pool for both project- and non-project-related activities. Functionalities include resource allocation, skill matching, and resource utilization. There are also complete timesheet capabilities for approval and tracking of tasks. Mariner delivers excellent capabilities in the tracking of resources, providing a hierarchal view of the resource breakdown structure (RBS).

Product Strengths and Challenges

In terms of functionality, Pacific Edge delivers solid PPM capabilities for internal IT departments managing numerous short-term projects. Pacific Edge's roots in the project management world ensure that the exchange of granular data between active projects and its solution provides executives with a clear picture of their project investments. In addition, the Mariner solution delivers help desk capabilities to track work that is both project- and non-project-related. This is achieved with its pre-packaged Mariner Connectors, which link to various IT services applications (such as HP OpenView Service Desk and HP Service Center). Furthermore, its core strength lies in managing resources, while delivering solid insight to key performance indicators.

Pacific Edge is designed for non-technical business users, providing highly configurable modules. Its interface is user-friendly, and allows organizations to view information relevant to their business requirements. In addition, its project management module provides complete out-of-the-box functionality for project management, as well as complete bidirectional integration with Microsoft Project.

However, similar to the majority of the smaller best-of-breed PPM vendors, Pacific Edge is limited in its ability to handle global organizations. Currently, its primary business model is a direct sales channel with a limited distribution channel outside of North America. In addition, it solution supports only English-speaking regions.

Although Pacific Edge also delivers solutions for PPM for new product development, currently its expertise is focused on PPM for IT departments. Furthermore, its Mariner product presently does not support out-of-the-box integration with business intelligence solutions (such as Cognos or Business Objects) that are frequently demanded by larger IT organizations.


Pacific Edge is well suited for organizations that have mature IT infrastructures with either limited or no IT governance framework in place. For organizations that are seeking to gradually establish a PPM framework in an affordable manner, Pacific Edge offers a pay-as-you-go model to assist implementation of a successful IT governance framework. In addition, the Mariner product does a good job of covering the main components of PPM, by aligning business stakeholders with IT. For global organizations that require highly complex analytics that can only be delivered through business intelligence, Pacific Edge will likely fall short. Bearing this in mind, its solution is excellent in delivering detailed visibility into an organization's resource pool, and provides highly configurable views to monitor financial metrics of project portfolios.

Another thing to consider when evaluating PPM solutions is the vendor's vertical market expertise. Although Pacific Edge delivers a strong approach to implementing a PPM framework, it is still developing its expertise in various vertical markets. However, from an application point of view, Mariner's ease of use and configurability are designed for organizations seeking to implement an IT governance strategy that will meet their business objectives.

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