Portfolio management: some suggestions for managing the project portfolio

Project Portfolio Management is the continuous process of selection and management of project-oriented initiatives that offer the best in terms of business value or return on investment.

It is a dynamic decision-making process that allows the management to reach a consensus on the best use of resources in order to focus on projects that can be implemented and strategically aligned with the business goals.

The gathering of essential information for the portfolio management process

The basis for the portfolio management process is a database that collects all information related to initiatives of the project.

This database allows:

  • Maintaining visibility of all project information within the company
  • Collaborating using consistent information to reach a consensus on the alignment of projects with respect to company goals
  • Providing quick access to all relevant information, horizontally as well as vertically, within the organization, enabling to make objective decisions about project priorities, future investments, and resource utilization
  • Creating a link between corporate strategy, project selection, and their execution.

Bad management of Portfolio Management is the result of a disconnection between the information and the processes used to support the strategic and operational planning of the project.

The Portfolio Management process

The portfolio management process has four phases.

The first is the inventory phase, which includes the collection of project and organizational data in order to support the second phase, the evaluation phase.

In the evaluation phase the previously collected data are analyzed and reviewed.

The third phase, the alignment phase, makes it possible to establish metrics and balances of the portfolio of projects.

The last step, the management phase, means the efficient coordination of the various projects.

Let’s have a look at the individual phases in more detail.

Portfolio Management: The inventory phase

Project information can be acquired from any valid source including the tools used within the organization or simply by interviewing project managers and project participants.

This phase begins by collecting all the main information about ongoing projects and on the organization in general.

In this way, the project categories are determined.

Moreover, here the strategic goals of the organization are identified and the initiatives for each project are determined.
portfolio management suggestions

Portfolio Management: The evaluation phase

The evaluation phase assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the project portfolio.

There are many types of analysis that can be done simply starting from the inventory data.

For example:

  • A simple order for project justification can reveal different projects that attempt to solve identical or similar problems. These projects could be more efficient if combined, or perhaps it would be better if some of them were canceled.
  • An order based on the category of resources can reveal any future deficiencies in time in order to allow to have a look at possible solution options: staff increase, use of external resources, such as freelancers, or cancellation of some projects.
  • A departmental order could show that the customer service department will soon be overwhelmed by the contemporary release of three new applications.

Once this phase is completed, it is possible to have a clear understanding of the entire project portfolio model.

Portfolio Management: The alignment phase

The alignment phase results in a “new” project portfolio.

This means that each project in the portfolio is reclassified.

The decisions taken during this phase are made in order to achieve the delicate balance between what is desired and what can be achieved, between the ideal n theory and the reality. Here, the Project manager decides which projects can be delayed or even cancelled.

Obviously, with a project portfolio the decision is more complex tan with a single project as the different stakeholders could have different perceived values.

During the alignment phase, the portfolios of alternative projects are evaluated on the base of different “what-if” scenarios.

The key challenge of the alignment phase is therefore to make the project portfolio more optimal.

Portfolio Management: The management phase

This is the phase in which the true “Portfolio Management” is verified, in which the projects are aligned with the corporate goals and where it is possible to identify the structure in terms of business.

The challenge now is how to communicate horizontally and vertically within the organization.

This is where automation, through specific project portfolio management tools, can help manage priorities, planning, budget, and resources of a project.

The success of an organization can therefore depend heavily on its ability to effectively manage the project portfolio and ensure that business goals are respected over time and within budget.

The importance of managing project portfolios should therefore be taken quite seriously.

Here are some final best practices to help the project manager manage Portfolio Management:

  • Select and prioritize the right projects. Not all projects have the same urgency. It is therefore important to recognize the hierarchy between them based on organizational goals.
  • Predict the cost of delivering the project portfolio. Since profitability is the key of a successful organization, it is important to keep track of project portfolio costs and monitor them. It is necessary to have general visibility in order to determine if a particular project must be canceled based on the costs that exceed the benefits.
  • Provide real-time status reports for executives. Managers are often the ones who make business decisions and it is important for them to have real-time visibility for project statuses in order to make the best decisions.

Get a complete view of all projects. It is important that organizations, when it comes to the status of various projects, have a single version of the truth.  This eliminates questions and doubts and helps establish the correct priorities.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

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