Identifying Existing & Potential Portfolio Components

Instructor: Martin Gibbs

Martin has 20 years experience in Information Systems and Information Technology, has a PhD in Information Technology Management, and a master's degree in Information Systems Management. He is an adjunct professor of computer science and computer programming.

In order to ensure that current and proposed projects align with business goals, we need a standard process for project portfolio review. This lesson will describe steps you can take to ensure organizational fit of current and proposed projects.

Project Portfolio Management

At any given time, you are probably working on a handful of projects: Between work and home life, there are any number of activities that keep us busy. We decide on the profitability of projects based on a number of qualitative or quantitative factors, e.g., the new garden will provide both food and a place for rainwater runoff.

An organization has a different set of priorities for deciding on a project. Project portfolio management describes the analysis undertaken to determine the return on investment/profitability of projects. One of the big challenges in project portfolio management is having an appreciation of WHAT is in the portfolio and WHAT is upcoming.

Project Portfolio Analysis
Project portfolio management

Identify Existing Components

Just because a project is in-flight doesn't mean it is the right project to be working on! You may find yourself with a dozen small, low impact projects that are in flight. But what IS in flight? Before starting new projects, you'll need to complete an assessment of the organization.

Review Documentation

You are going to have to look through documentation surrounding all existing projects. This is called a Current State Assessment. During this review, you will be examining the following types of documents:

  • Business Plans
  • Statements of Work
  • Project Charters
  • Value Proposition Documents (the Value Proposition Document should state how the project aligns with overall goals and strategy of the organization.)

Your organization may have different names for the above documents; e.g., business functional documents, functional specifications, etc. There may be additional documents: Review everything surrounding the projects to get a sense of what is in flight. This will help you build scenarios for the future.

The point of this review is as follows:

  • Ensure you understand the business need for each project
  • Ensure the need is stated and the project aligns with tactical or strategic goals

With the current state, you are also reviewing proposals for projects. This leads us into the next phase of portfolio management, identifying future/potential components.

Identify Potential Components

As with existing projects, potential projects should have a Value Proposition Document, and be tied to the organizational strategy. They should also have the documentation listed above, especially if someone has written a big check to get the projects going.

The proposed projects should have proper documentation, and should be clearly defined in terms of their benefit to the organization. They must align with tactical or strategic needs. Once the review of current and future is complete, you can begin to prioritize work and develop scenarios for future portfolio management.

Align to Strategy!

This can't be said too often: Each project should align with the goals of the organization. If you have experienced a major project failure, you may have noticed a dozen other projects pop up. These may be intended to fill the gap left by the cancelled project; or they are just filler to make up for the failure. Remember: existing and potential work must prove its value-add to the organization.

A project might not fully meet the goals of the organization, but may be tactical in nature. For instance, if the current payroll system is failing, and you are looking to replace it. In this case, it is not a strategic goal to have a working payroll system, but it is a tactical goal.

Portfolio Scenarios

Once you have an assessment of the current and proposed projects, AND they have been aligned to the organization's goals (or meet a tactical need), you now have to begin planning for possible scenarios.

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