Time out

take a closer look at how time affects your projects. It might be costing you.



I recently realized that an important part of effective portfolio management is really all about time. While my organization, the Mayo Clinic, has migrated to a new enterprise time-tracking tool this year, it's struck me that many portfolio managers need to look more closely at time. Time heavily influences the expected value in all projects and organizational activities. Time, as the saying goes, is indeed money, and the different types of time need to be managed effectively.

The first way to think about time is how long it will take projects within our portfolios to successfully achieve their intended benefits and value. In competitive markets, time will make or break the project. Will it beat the competition to market and gain the necessary ROI? In government-regulated organizations like healthcare, time can be in the form of a mandated deadline required to conduct basic business operations.

Time is limited, and finding ways to spend it more effectively is not only good for business but also rewarding for our staff.

For every project, the cost of time needs to be identified and quantified. For example, what type of time should a portfolio manager estimate, count and manage? Is it the billable hours you pay to external consultants and vendors? Is it the time that internal staff dedicates to this project? Also, how much time do high-level leaders who oversee the project need? At my organization, we also have to factor in our consulting physicians and clinical leaders. How much of their time is necessary to make sure whatever we are working on meets our patients’ needs?

These are tough questions that need to be discussed and addressed to provide for a consistent enterprise approach to estimating and quantifying the cost of time.


We try to answer these questions by looking at another type of time: What each person, each day, spends their time doing. I realize many organizations track this time very closely, which often translates into billable hours to a customer. Organizations also want to measure this time to determine if the projects are profitable. While this measurement can be a valuable tool, for my organization we need to make sure it does not adversely impact patient services. The main point is to manage time so it can provide actual benefit.

So how exactly are we tracking time? First, we're keeping it simple by starting at a high level. We are creating major categories of effort so our staff can record their time quickly and easily. Second, we're implementing time-tracking tools in areas that need it. For instance, an in-demand department like IT gets great value from tracking and managing staff time. Next, we'll introduce this concept to other parts of the organization that provide core business services that could improve operations through time management.

Time is limited, and finding ways to spend it more effectively is not only good for business but also rewarding for our staff. As author and business coach Brian Tracy says, “There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.”

Portfolio management requires using a wide range of skills, knowledge and information to make sure our organizations spend their time wisely to achieve success. PM

img Teresa (Terri) Knudson, PMP, PgMP, is the director of the enterprise portfolio management office at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA. She can be reached at [email protected].




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