March Madness – that crazy college basketball time of year when 64 teams play for the national championship. One winner, 63 losers. Everybody and their brother fill out their own “bracket” pre-tournament in office and friend pools all over the US hoping to win the jackpot of $5, $10, or maybe even $1000. The madness emerges as Cinderella teams advance, upsetting highly-ranked and favored teams as they fail to deliver.
Do you ever feel like this same kind of madness is reflected in your project and portfolio management? Some favored or particularly important projects fail to deliver while others progress unexpectedly. This article explores some of that mystery… or project madness.
Portfolio management is the practice, the science and the art of balancing investments and resources between a group of multiple projects. This could mean half a dozen projects at one company, several hundred projects across another enterprise-level organization, or even a singular ‘bet the company’ project that encompasses the tactical, technical, and strategic elements needed to achieve success. The key is to ensure every project captures and reflects the needs important to customers and key stakeholders – plus you have the resources and talent assembled to deliver results.
Failing to consider, maintain awareness, and relationally prioritize even one project in a portfolio can undermine or derail other important work. Chasing down updates, manually making changes, and constantly reprioritizing across siloed projects in a growing organization and PM infrastructure is disruptive and unproductive. The right project portfolio management tool will help you ensure that isn’t happening.
Manage Project Madness with Improved PPM Alignment
According to the Project Management Institute, project-focused organizations lose almost $110 million for every $1 billion spent on projects and programs. Portfolio management helps organizations minimize loss by aligning individual projects with larger business strategies. There are a few ways this happens:
Organizations must determine which work is most important to advance key strategic initiatives. Executives and project managers set priority according to which projects have the highest potential for profit, which pose the greatest risks, which should receive the largest share of resources – and then allocate investments accordingly.
Work doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The most important work in an organization is invariably reliant and informed by adjacent efforts, insights, and contributions. A tool that enables top-down perspective of portfolio management affords decision-makers better visibility into areas where projects overlap and connect. Portfolio managers can also use modeling techniques to predict the impact of specific changes.
Keeping projects aligned with larger business strategies means that, occasionally, you’ll find some that aren’t. Rather than letting these projects slowly atrophy, a portfolio mindset will help you decide when to cut the cord so you can stop committing resources or discontinue projects altogether. This allows project teams to focus for the win!
Portfolio management methodologies and specific PPM solutions tend to see the most use in large companies. Recent findings by PM Solutions indicated that 60 percent of firms use PPM processes and practices at the enterprise level. This correlation is probably due to the fact that enterprises have a higher quantity of demanding projects. But it doesn’t mean PPM is only for the enterprise. Regardless of size, there are several signals that might indicate the need for a PPM methodology or a specific PPM solution, such as:
- Your company is innovative and product focused
- Your business regularly juggles multiple projects at the same time
- Your projects require collaboration from dispersed teams and groups of stakeholders
- Your projects are asset-intensive and involve a high degree of risk
Considerations for the Projects in Your PPM Infrastructure
Is the project worth pursuing?
The promise of project outcomes can get anyone running down a rabbit trail chasing something they maybe should not be chasing. So many projects, so much revenue and growth potential. We understand the temptation. But stop! Is it really in your range of skills? How about technology? Do you have enough of the right people to take on all projects? Possibly not. Prioritize properly. Take on those aligned with organization strategic imperatives and say no to those that don’t. Take on too much and you run a genuine risk of burning out key team members, losing clients or customers due to poor performance, missing deliverables, or mediocre outcomes that don’t move the needle.
How do you prioritize projects?
Start with your organization’s mission and strategic imperatives. If the project is not aligned or related to advancing what is most important to the enterprise, then it doesn’t belong. You have to let go of the ones you should not take on. And don’t stop there. Each project should be stacked in relative importance or impact to the others. Some initiatives are more important or valuable than others and should receive prioritized attention and resourcing. Then, look inside the project at discrete tasks or assignments of work. Set these in priority order as well.
Do you have the resources to deliver?
People deliver results, not the project itself. Do you have the right people and skills represented to deliver desired outcomes? If not, then be realistic. Build a project plan that includes longer timelines or time to acquire needed resources. And bear in mind that in today’s marketplace, finding and hiring the right talent may be tough. Build a project plan you can trust, reflecting the truth of available resources and capacity for throughput. Anything more is simply a false home… perhaps akin to hoping your bracket will be intact at the end of March.
The right project and portfolio management tool will help your organization prioritize work and define resources while keeping everything aligned with your organization’s goals and mission. Investing to build a project plan you can trust is of critical importance. And this importance only increases when the odds go up due to complexity increases across a portfolio of interconnected and related projects. Avoid the project madness that can ensue without clear project priorities. Leverage technology and expertise available in today’s software marketplace to advantage yourself and your organization. Just like the bracket you spend more time building, your project portfolio results will be better in the end if you invest thoughtfully in the beginning.
Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience. He has been named the #1 blog to follow in 2022 and the “#1 Provider of Project Management Content in the World” with over 7,000 published articles, eBooks, white papers, and videos. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV.