The Basics of Project Portfolio Management

Efficiency Straight AheadFew project managers have the luxury to work on one assignment at time. Many leaders are responsible for dealing with multiple initiatives and delivering high-quality results to every client. Anything less than perfection can result in dissatisfaction and hurt the company’s bottom line.

That’s why creating a portfolio is an essential facet of project management. Supervisors need to have organized systems for finding information in a timely fashion to ensure that every assignment will be completed on or ahead of schedule.

Every manager a unique approach for handling this responsibility. The following is a look at some of the best practices of project portfolio management that every team leader should follow.

Potential mergers
In a report for the Project Management Institute, Roger Chou wrote that creating a project portfolio can allow managers to merge projects that have similar risks and results. This makes sense as supervisors can better utilize their resources and increase efficiency by turning multiple assignments into one.

It’s difficult to achieve this objective without a clear system in place. When you’re moving from one assignment to another and not looking for similarities, you’ll likely never figure out that you can work on multiple programs simultaneously to enhance productivity.

Additionally, merging projects will eliminate redundant steps. If employees have to repeat procedures for each assignment, they’re wasting precious time that could be better spent on more difficult processes.

Evaluating balance
Every project is unique. Some are straightforward, others are complex and there are a few that are unbelievably risky. Managers will tackle each of these types over the course of their careers, but the key is to ensure that there’s a solid balance.

Our own Lee Appleyard recently pointed out that leaders need to have an even amount of risky and low-value projects. This is to ensure that the team isn’t overwhelmed with overly difficult initiatives, but is still contributing by handling some intricate work.

When project managers have unbalanced portfolios, they need to find ways to correct that issue. If there’s an overabundance of high-risk assignments, supervisors should speak with management about having some of them moved to other production teams. In the case of too many low-value projects, leaders need to lobby for new initiatives to show that their staff can be trusted with high-value programs.

Have your priorities
In another article, Appleyard explained that a lack of prioritization is one of the worst mistakes managers can make with their project portfolios.

Because every assignment has its own specifications and clients have varying demands, supervisors need to decide which ones deserve the most attention and which can be put on the back burner for a bit. For instance, the project with the highest projected ROI should likely receive considerable dedication.

The issue is that some managers act like every project has the same value. As a result, resources are divided equally so there aren’t sufficient tools available for more complicated initiatives. This leads to additional programs and can quickly derail production as employees try to make do with their limited assets.

Implementing software
Project and portfolio management software has become increasingly popular in recent years. The programs allow managers to analyze assignments and monitor resources.

Some officials have had success with this technology. ComputerWeekly’s Shamus McGillicuddy reports that the implementation of PPM software helped Tom Freeman, CIO of the city of Roseville, Calif., cut his budget by 6.8 percent. Freeman believes that enterprises should follow in his footsteps as other solutions aren’t nearly as effective.

“To get a bigger view, [companies] use Excel. They put it all in one big spreadsheet to compare and see which ones are in trouble and which ones are going well. On the operations side they’re probably managing [maintenance] on a help desk type application that allows them to see all the incidents that are coming up and the scheduled, planned work, but they won’t be able to apply a business lens to it,” Freeman said.

Indeed, PPM software can make a world of difference as it features all of the information that project managers need to access. As a result, supervisors can easily find data instead of searching for disparate elements and developing solutions for merging them together. Capitalizing on new programs can go a long way toward bolstering efficiency.

in ]
Marie Larsen
Marie is a writer for ProjectManagers.net. She has an educational background in languages and literature. She covers project management topics and tips, as well as career advice for project managers.