Project Management Institute

Responding to today's world



Initiate a fast-tracked project portfolio management system
—you can't afford to wait!

by JOAN KNUTSON, Contributing Editor

How much money is your organization spending on projects? Thousands of dollars? Hundreds of thousands? Millions? Are they the right projects considering the current economic environment and the reverberations of the recent terrorist attacks?

Your organization must design and implement an intelligent and measured response to the current economic and political climate. This means developing a strategy to enable sustained growth in an environment that leaves little margin for error. While battling increased costs and meeting tighter deadlines, we are being asked to get more work done with fewer people. This is the business reality.

It is imperative that executives define which projects should continue and which projects should be cancelled as well as how to allocate limited resources and prioritize active projects. To accomplish this, you must stop, evaluate and redirect your organization's significant project investment by initiating a fast-tracked project portfolio management process.

First, assemble an environmental response task force consisting of decision-makers from all the appropriate areas of the organization. Once the task force is in place:

  • Take an inventory of all projects currently under way and those new projects that are being proposed. Create for each project a succinct, one-page business case analyzing the impact in financial, internal perception, external or marketplace perception, risk and alignment with strategic goals.
  • Choose the business-justified projects in an objective, nonpolitical way by evaluating each project against a predefined set of quantifiable evaluation criteria based on the business case data. Each criterion is designed as a grade so that at the end of this analysis, a numeric score represents the value of the project to the organization.
  • Prioritize the surviving projects in the order in which they need to be performed by sequencing them objectively using the scores generated.
  • Analyze if there are enough resources to staff these approved and prioritized projects by performing a “quick-and-dirty” resource capacity analysis. If there are not enough resources available in-house to perform the work, either postpone the lower-scored projects until resources become available or subcontract the work.
  • Provide clear direction to everyone in the project community by canceling those projects that are not in sync with the new strategy; jump-starting those projects that must be initiated quickly; and creating a sense of urgency around those projects that are under way.
  • Register the projects that are active and those that have been placed in the queue by creating a repository (paper-based or automated) for all to see. This database defines who is accountable for the project, what the time frame is for completion, how much it will cost, its priority relative to other projects being performed and other pertinent information.

Even though this initiative deals with the immediate crisis at hand, there are long-term benefits to performing this exercise. You will have set the stage for a truly systematized portfolio management process by:

  • Creating a real-world pilot
  • Modeling a process that can be replicated
  • Developing procedures, templates and checklists that can be improved and expanded
  • Establishing tailored project evaluation criteria that can be used during future project selection and prioritization endeavors.

When new strategic goals are articulated that address the current business climate, your organization can sharpen its focus to concentrate on the project efforts that will support those goals. Now, more than ever, identifying and completing mission-critical projects is a business imperative that no organization can fail to achieve. PM


Joan Knutson is president of PMSI-Project Mentors (a part of the Provant solution), a San Francisco- and Atlanta-based project management training, services, and product firm. She can be reached at +888-PROJ-888 or [email protected].

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