CA Clarity PPM Review

The Gantt chart is very well built and easy to use. Scheduling and resource allocations are very clunky at best.

How has it helped my organization?

CA PPM has given our organization a way to collect, share, and store data in one place as opposed to many. Prior to the install of CA PPM, we had to pull data from many different sources to compile even a standard executive status report. Since the implementation of CA PPM, we can now ad-hoc a report or dashboard that has all information (allocated project hours, resource lists, risks and issues, and other data, for example) in a matter of minutes.

What is most valuable?

The Gantt chart is very well built and easy to use. The tool comes out-of-the-box with an MS Project clone called Workbench, and for the most part it is useful, but there is an interface that can also be utilized to connect directly with MS Project. The best feature in my opinion is the Jaspersoft reporting suite as this is well crafted and, not only contains many useful reports out of the box, but creating ad-hoc reports is as simple as drag-and-drop. It is a very powerful tool and ad-hoc reports can be turned into a standard report that shows up in all user libraries. The export of the reports or dashboards can be done in several formats, including MS Excel, MS Word, PDF, and XML. I have to say that exporting into Excel is the best I have ever seen as the resultant spreadsheet is very clean and well laid out. There is little to no adjusting that has to be done on the spreadsheet.

What needs improvement?

Scheduling and resource allocations are very clunky at best. Being able to have a standard calendar that a resource could access that would give them a schedule by day would be very helpful, but to date there is no solution (including third party vendors) to make this happen. For a resource to review his or her schedule, the process involves several steps and is not user-friendly. Getting CA to work on issues, even directly after the install, was and remains very difficult and slow. As one of the administrators of the system, it frustrates me greatly when we discover a bug in the system or need customizations done (which we pay for) and they take an unacceptable amount of time to complete the task. They are very sales-driven, but once the product is in-place, the support seems to dry up a bit.

How is customer service and technical support?

Tech support and customer service on the part of CA is very lacking. Even at the CA World user conference that they hold every year, it seems that the third-party vendors offer much more support and education than CA does, anf that does not speak well for a technology company. They have been very slow to address bugs or other issues with our system. The best help I seem to get when I need information or assistance, comes from the CA Community boards on their website. I tend to get much quicker answers from other users than I do when I call the CA support line.

Which solutions did we use previously?

Our company previously used a home-grown project solution. It worked very well and was very user-friendly, but unfortunately did not have the capability to disseminate data from different regions or parts of our organization. Reporting in the system was very minimal and we utilized several solutions (including MS SharePoint) to share deliverables and other collaborative data to complete projects. We did evaluate other solutions (such as Oracle) but based on our organization’s needs, and promises made by the CA sales team on the system capabilities, we found that CA PPM was the best option for us.

How was the initial setup?

The initial set-up and configuration was very time-consuming and complex. Over a year after the initial install we are still fighting through some issues. Building the user database can be very daunting, but the worst is getting the projects migrated over from our old system. There was a lot of heartburn from that process, even though CA system architects promised us a smooth migration. Setting up Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) and Organizational Business Structures (OBS) are also very complex and sometimes confusing tasks. Cross-over from divisions within the organization can be very difficult.

What about the implementation team?

Our implementation was completed by CA Systems Architects in collaboration with our in-house team responsible for the system health and performance. The best advice I can give to anyone thinking of utilizing this tool is to create a rock-solid requirements document and make sure that you stick to your guns on what you want out of the system. If the System Architect that they provide you is not giving good customer service or is not willing to step back and explain the configurations that are being done on the system, stop the person and contact your sales representative immediately. Do not proceed with the configuration until you get the answers you are looking for, or your go-live can be pushed back quite a bit.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Licensing can be quite expensive, depending on the size of the organization. Even though there are many types of licenses (full, restricted and limited to name a few), the full licenses are the only way to utilize the system as intended and the cost per user is very high.

What other advice do I have?

For many of the project creation and lifecycle functionalities, it is quite useful, but the overall user feel and agility is lacking. In the gaming industry, project lifecycles are very short compared to a standard PMP model (typically a 16-18 week cycle for larger projects and as few as two days on some of the smaller projects). Because there can be many changes to the project team, schedule, project scope and other factors, we needed a system that could be agile. While CA PPM has many tools and reports, being able to make changes quickly or being able to pull specific data out of the system requires a large effort for a small amount of information. A specific issue I have with the tool is the fact that there is no true project schedule in the system (calendar view). The Gantt chart is very helpful and well built, but there is no resource schedule that can be pulled out of the system for an employee who wants to know when they are traveling, how long they will be on a customer site, or whether or not there is a double-booking or other conflict. This can be very frustrating to our teams, schedulers, and managers.

The best advice I can give anyone looking at this tool for their organizational Portfolio/Program and Project Management needs is ask for very specific details from your sales representative. If they say that the system can do something, make them prove it in a demo. Many of the functions that they sold us on don’t exist or are much more challenging than they lead on. When it comes time to install, make sure the System Architect they send is comfortable with walking clients through the system processes and configurations. Our architect was not friendly and was clearly uncomfortable in front of an “audience”. He was also very confrontational in many instances. If you start to see this in your architect, halt all proceedings and get a replacement ASAP. If not, you can be looking at a lengthy delay in deployment.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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