When it comes to managing work, there are a lot of different solutions out there. You may have heard acronyms like Collaborative Work Management (CWM), Adaptive Project Management and Reporting (APMR), and Portfolio and Project Management (PPM) thrown around, but what do they all really mean? And how do you choose the right one that fits the needs of your team in a digital work environment? 

You need a solution that is intuitive, powerful, and can easily flex to meet the varying needs of your organization, and we’ll explain why a CWM solution can do just that.

First up, what is CWM?

Collaborative Work Management is a market term that represents a category of work platforms where teams, departments, and even entire businesses can manage their work in one place. If you’ve ever felt frustrated or disappointed after managing a complex project (or multiple projects) using a mix of spreadsheets, email, Slack, and other apps, you’re not alone. 70% of knowledge workers feel stressed having to juggle multiple apps and systems every day, according to our Dark Matter of Work research

Most common tools are only designed for very limited use, or simple data analysis and basic work plans, and don’t meet the needs of today’s workers. Much of our daily work is complex, involving processes, people, technology, timelines, and budgets that require alignment to strategic initiatives, reporting to executives, and constant cross-functional collaboration. When you consider the complexity of all of this — a reality that is costing organizations 60M dollars each year — choosing a CWM platform to manage all of your work is a no-brainer. 

CWM solutions have been used by companies of all sizes since the 2000s, but they really took off in the 2010s. They are affordable (even for very large deployments), can evolve and update quickly to meet customer needs, and they represent significant cost savings for organizations that want to maximize productivity and run more efficiently. The best CWM tools can connect work in a myriad of ways across people and initiatives; they have smart features like AI to automate workflow processes, as well as robust mobile apps designed to keep work moving when you’re away from your desk.

Understanding the categories: CWM vs. PPM

CWM sits in the sweet spot of workplace productivity between ad-hoc collaboration tools and more niche offerings like PPM. It can be thought of as the connective tissue that streamlines work happening in disparate tools like your Microsoft Office or Google suite and email and messaging apps, and it provides a single source of truth for internal and external teams to create, plan, manage, collaborate, and report on work and processes. 

Portfolio and Project Management, on the other hand, represents a category of work platforms that are function-specific, and intended for planners to align programs and projects into portfolios. PPMs are designed primarily for project management offices (PMOs) with dedicated portfolio, program, or project managers, and they are much more cost-prohibitive. 

If you’re familiar with PPM, it means you're serious about organizing and reporting on your work, but it also means that you recognize one major deficiency of these technologies: very few people actually use them, and even fewer can use them for their actual work. This is due to limitations such as:

  • Outdated UI (versus work platforms designed to balance planning and delivery)
  • Complex feature sets that most of us will never use
  • Rigid structures and hierarchies that don’t represent the workflows we use daily
  • The need for both technical integrations (some PPMs even require integrations from their product into their own product) and long deployments with ongoing oversight

CWM has actually subsumed a significant portion of PPM capabilities over the years in order to provide a universal solution to host all work at a lower cost.

Understanding the categories: CWM vs APMR

In another niche corner, you will find Adaptive Project Management & Reporting (APMR) — a market term for a category of technology that represents how project managers, citizen developers, and individual contributors can execute detailed project plans more seamlessly than by using point technology, like a spreadsheet, or traditional portfolio and project management technology. APMR is a subcategory of CWM technology and represents the evolution away from planning-centric technologies. 

If you’re a project manager or lead an outcomes-focused PMO, you’ll recognize that you sit in the middle of an imperfect Venn diagram between planning and execution. On one hand, you need the work to get done (ideally on time or even ahead of schedule) and on the other hand, you need to report progress to your executives to show how that work is helping the company achieve its goals and objectives. 

Companies often try to manage project timelines and progress reporting with APMR, but when you take a closer look at what makes a good work management technology, you probably need to consider collaborative work management tools instead.

CWM software works for every team and every business because it’s quick to get started, speaks the language of different departments, is easy to use, scales work – no matter how complex – and brings teams together across entire organizations, all in one place. Bottom line: it’s the only work management solution your team will ever need. 

Why is a CWM, and Wrike specifically, the most powerful choice?

Regardless of the new names and claims out there, we have been in the game for more than 15 years and understand that more technology isn't always better. Today's modern workers need a single platform — not disparate applications — that allows them to manage a multitude of workflows to streamline all work, while also having visibility into what‘s happening across the organization. 

This need to “work as one” is further magnified as companies are forced to take a closer look at the bottom line in this uncertain economic climate. We can confidently say that Wrike has the tools to get the job done. 

Wrike’s platform includes some of the most commonly-requested capabilities from our customers, and the tradeoffs customers have made with other solutions – in our category and in others – prior to selecting Wrike as the best CWM platform for their business. With Wrike, there are no tradeoffs. 

Top features the Global 500 demand today

  • Custom Item Types to go beyond standard tasks and projects and enable users to create their own work item types tailored to their team’s specific culture and style; Wrike is able to define different types of work to support any team’s workflows and keep cross-functional work connected within a single source of truth
  • Detailed project and work demand intake using dynamic request forms
  • Basic demand prioritization and selection using either financial terms or strategic inputs
  • Resource capacity planning and modeling across different project teams
  • Detailed project and work planning and management
  • Resource assignment and allocation to ensure work is assigned appropriately
  • Task management with multiple view types like table, Kanban, calendar, and lists, that includes time-tracking and status reporting
  • Project and work risk management
  • Project and work change management
  • Features, including commenting, live editors, and built-in approvals, that allow for real-time collaboration
  • Analytics that support decision-making and help form business strategy across multiple dimensions, not just at the highest portfolio level
  • Rich analytics, either natively within the platform or exported directly into your business intelligence and analytics stack to help guide progress on goals and objectives
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) that supports work creation, allocation, and risk
  • Mobile access and support across all major mobile platforms
  • Advanced integration strategy including integrations to popular applications like Microsoft, Google, Zoom, and Slack; workflow specific integrations like Hubspot, Salesforce, and Quickbooks; data syncs between technologies like Wrike and Jira, an integration platform that connects and automates technologies across an enterprise or even an advanced API for teams that really need that configurability

What to do next?

We understand how important it is to have the right tools to mitigate both the financial and human costs of work complexities. If any of the above features resonate with you, it’s time to consider implementing collaborative work management. 

If you want to learn more, I encourage you to take a tour of Wrike or hear it straight from our customers at Wrike Collaborate, our free work management conference. If you want to get started right away, begin a free trial now!

Authored by John Notman, Senior Director, Product Marketing at Wrike