In Step with Projects

In Pace with Progress

New Year: Great Opportunity to Apply Project Portfolio Management


Author: Reinhard Wagner     Source: IPMA website
It was a busy year, busy as all the previous years and you may not have finished all the work due to lack of time, funds or energy. The same procedure as every year… And now? We start with regained energy, optimism and time… yes, we have another year ahead of us… However, in one year´s time we have the same dilemma and blame everyone and everything for failing, especially we tend to say “there was not enough time to finish our projects!”

This year it´s a great opportunity to apply project portfolio management in (our own) real life. We (or our clients, spouses or bosses) never run out of ideas and what should be done with high(est) priority. Time passes by and many new ideas pop up and we tend to immediately start into a new project, not finishing others or simply blocking resources for other activities. How could we change that habit? Simply by applying project portfolio planning techniques. A simply list of all ideas, proposals, inquiries or however you call thing just “popping up” may be satisfactory for planning rather starting them. As we have limitations in resources (time, money, equipment, ideas etc.) and also strategic priorities, it is important to filter the ideas popping up through a systematic evaluation process. Figure 1 shows one possible process being applied in project portfolio management and is depicted in The Handbook of Project Portfolio Management:

Filing a project proposal requires us to think of the idea, to clearly state purpose, objectives, deliverable, resource needs, time and cost estimates and other details in order for a decision maker (or yourself) to evaluate and decide, whether this idea is worth of being worked on. Just starting with an idea may end up in a congested pipeline, stress and project delays, resource blockages and frustrations. Better apply formal processes and be disciplined – it pays off in the end. What you need is a set of evaluation criteria, which is transparent to all stakeholders and is applied with discipline to all ideas without any exceptions. The active portfolio may on a regular basis be evaluated against the criteria and a decision may be taken to interrupt, postpone or even cancel projects.

Another way of planning and controlling the project portfolio is a KANBAN board (see figure 2 below):

On a white board, a pin board or even with Post-it stickers on a wall you can display the project portfolio with project ideas, proposals, projects in the queue, running, blocked, cancelled and finished projects. The more you follow this systematic approach, the more you are satisfied with the achievements and aren´t overwhelmed anymore. Yes, it´s difficult to let ideas wait, or park proposals before jumping on them, but reality is that we have limited time, funds and energy and need to do “one step after the other”. Have a good start into 2019 with a lot of accomplishments…

Source: Seidl, Jörg (2018): Planning the Portfolio and its Components. In: Lock, Dennis; Wagner, Reinhard (Eds.): Handbook of Project Portfolio Management. Routledge, Milton Park, pp. 258-270

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