Dependency Analysis in Portfolio Management

Instructor: Sudha Aravindan

Sudha has a Doctor of Education Degree and is currently working as a Information Technology Specialist.

In this lesson we will learn about dependency analysis in project management, associated interdependencies, and risks across portfolios as an aid to decision-making.

Dependency Analysis

As the program manager of an IT consulting firm, Colin is working on conducting a dependency analysis for the portfolio that includes product development and marketing. Dependency Analysis is a technique in project management where the relationships or dependencies between activities and the influence of time on execution of activities are defined.

When the outcome of an activity or the occurrence of an event influences how another activity is executed, a dependency happens.

Colin meets with various team members and management staff of the product development team and decides on the steps to identify the dependencies among the projects in the portfolio. They start off with the following steps:

  1. Identify all the steps for the overall process.
  2. Determine at what point of the start or finish of each step the succeeding step starts or finishes.
  3. Use a chart (example Gnatt chart) to show the relationships between each preceding and succeeding event.


Gnatt chart example
Gnatt Chart


Project Interdependency

Colin and his team discuss project interdependencies and how they involve a two-way process. No project can work in isolation. Projects depend on other projects for successful implementation and also make contributions to other projects. Managing interdependencies between projects increases cohesiveness and connects project management to portfolio management by illuminating the impact of project links on the portfolio.

Colin and his team identify four types of dependencies related to project start and finish times.

Finish to finish (FF):

The preceding event must finish before the succeeding event can finish:

  • Reporting on the testing results cannot be finished till the testing is completed.
  • Documentation on the use of the hardware cannot be finished till production is completed.

Finish to start (FS):

The preceding event must finish before the succeeding event can start:

  • Testing the concept cannot start before the blueprint for the product is completed.
  • Marketing of the product cannot start before product testing is completed.

Start to start (SS):

The preceding event must start before the succeeding event can start:

  • Recording the processes for the manufacturing of the hardware cannot start till the manufacturing of the component has begun.
  • Meetings to discuss the results of testing the hardware component cannot start till the testing process has begun.

Start to finish (SF):

In this scenario, the preceding event must start before the succeeding event can finish:

  • Testing must start before product review can be completed.
  • Production must start before marketing can be completed.

Categories of Dependencies

As they continue their analysis, Colin's team considers factors like resources, logic and preference that may be responsible for interdependencies.

  • Resource dependency: The task can be completed sooner if there are more resources. For example, the documentation can be finished sooner if there are more technical writers.
  • Logical dependency: These are dependencies based on natural logic. An example would be you cannot develop a product until it has a completed blueprint.
  • Preference based dependency: These are dependencies based on the fact that the program or project manager decides to schedule the tasks or events in a certain way even though there may be other ways in which they can be scheduled.

Internal and External Dependencies

Colin's team also learns that some of the dependencies are internal, and some are external to the program.

  • External dependencies are outside the direct control of the program manager but need to be recorded anyway. An example of an external dependency is an external government agency that has to approve of the product design.
  • Internal dependencies are internal to the project: For example, staff cannot be trained until the product manual is complete.

Managing Dependencies

Following analysis and identification of dependencies, Colin and his team decide on a plan of action for managing dependencies.

1. Identify all possible dependencies and constraints

In addition to identifying dependencies, they also learn that constraints or restrictions define the boundaries within which the task has to be completed, and constraints can also cause dependencies sometimes. Budget, staff, time and experts are all constraints because without sufficient funds and staff with the required knowledge, the project cannot be completed on time.

2. Stakeholder engagement

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