5 Best Practices For Project Portfolio Management

“5 Best Practices For Project Portfolio Management” on Glasscubes, August 28, 2019.

1. Define roles.

Alan Zucker, founding principal of Project Management Essentials, says that defining roles for individuals and groups is an important first step. “Many organisations fail to establish expectations in the beginning and it leads to confusion and conflict down the line.”

He calls out three key questions to ask:

  1. What is the role of the portfolio management office?
  2. Who plays which roles in establishing the organisation’s strategic priorities and approves projects that align with the strategy?
  3. Who “owns” the projects and is responsible for those projects meeting their scope, schedule, and cost goals?

2. Rank projects by priority, then by order of execution.

Prioritizing projects—designating them as having high, medium, or low importance—is a common practice within organizations. However, Zucker says senior management has a tendency to rank most (or even all) projects as high priority. “This type of system alone doesn’t help allocate scarce financial and human resources appropriately.”

He recommends an additional step of ordinal ranking, whereby projects are listed in order of how they will be executed—first, second, third, and so on. “This forces executives to think about trade-offs and make hard decisions about which projects are most important to the organization.”

3. Minimize the number of projects.

“Many organizations are more focused on ‘putting planes in the air’ than in actually landing them,” says Zucker. In other words, they focus on starting projects but don’t pay as much attention to following them through to completion.

Rather than starting a lot of projects that may not get to the finish line, Zucker notes that focusing on completing projects results in better outcomes for the organization. “Minimizing the number of simultaneous projects will result in work getting done faster, which means you can more quickly see the value those projects generate.”