From a technical perspective, a PO information system should have the following characteristics:
A single point of entry: Data needs to be entered only once, whereon it is made available to all the components that require it.
Data integration: The various tools making up the system have access to all data. Data integration requires that the data being shared have the same meaning, representation, and units across tools. For example, if two tools share a piece of data called "task duration," it is crucial that both tools use the same calendar and that both agree with respect to whether the duration is expressed in working or calendar days.
Control integration: This refers to the possibility of one tool being able to invoke operations—for example, sending mail, raising a flag, or updating a data element in response to a change—on a second tool.
Presentation integration: This addresses the need for a common look and feel across modules and tools. This characteristic is key for the acceptance of tools. There are few things as annoying as having to learn and unlearn a new set of rules every time one switches applications.
Analytic and aggregation capabilities: Since different levels of the organization require information with different levels of detail, it is crucial that the information system be capable of filtering and aggregating data across multiple dimensions.
Openness: This supports the capability of adding functionality, such as a risk module or a critical-chain planning extension, to the core tools via the acquisition of specialty add-ons or macro programming, or to add new data fields to the database to address the particular information needs of each project. Taking this approach allows the PO to cater to different needs while attaining tool commonality.
Interactivity: Very few managers will rely solely on the output of an optimization algorithm in making a decision. The output of resourcebalancing algorithms, for example, rarely produces a plan that an experienced project manager will consider acceptable. Experienced managers employ recognition-based reasoning in making decisions , so it is important that the tools support this cognitive strategy by providing some results, preferably in graphical form, then asking the user for some additional input or guidance, which is then used in generating new output. The process is repeated until the user is satisfied.
Exception reporting: An adequate information system will integrate multiple sources of information to provide a composite picture of what is going on within projects or with respect to the portfolio, and will report exceptions to customizable or user-defined business rules via e-mail based on a subscriber paradigm similar to that used by many Web-based news and trading services.
Security and views: Different people (i.e., project managers, portfolio managers, and resource managers) need information arranged and aggregated in different ways. The information system should support the way people work by providing different views consistent with the role of each user, rather than by forcing them to align their thinking with incompatible views or go through complicated workarounds to gain access to the information they need. Similarly, access privileges (i.e., who has the right to read, add, change, or delete information) must be centrally controlled and based on the roles different users play.