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The ins and outs of IT project portfolio management

Bob Lewis begins this article by introducing a curious situation that often occurs in the process of project portfolio management: in some situations, companies make estimates about how much projects will cost and how much time they will consume when those projects are still in the conceptual phase. These companies often perform project portfolio management (PPM) once a budget year, making it hard to get an accurate accounting of project cost and time. Lewis explains that IT has to get away from this model of working even if it’s difficult to convince the company to invest in more accurate ppm efforts. Using suggestions from the trenches (including simply taking the worst estimate, multiplying by 2, and then adding 10 percent), Lewis indicates that the smoke and mirror way of estimating projects for management just isn’t going to cut it anymore. To that end, he provides four big ideas on how to make estimates, project management, and project portfolio management more effective within an organization. One of these tips is to not stop a project once it’s started: Here’s a rule that matters: Except for dire emergencies or game-changing opportunities, never put a project on hold once it’s launched. Putting a project on hold is no different from killing it. By the time the staff who have been diverted to other efforts are returned to the tabled project, they’ll lose at least a month figuring out how to reactivate everything while rebuilding team cohesion and remembering the myriad agreements and design decisions that had been part of the team’s collective unconscious before the project had been placed in stasis. While they’re doing this, they’ll also be figuring out whether the original project business case is still relevant, now that so much time has passed. Another rule that makes sense on paper but is rarely followed in real life is making sure projects are fully staffed. Lewis states that no project should be scheduled unless all of the people needed to work on the project are available to work. This is another area where PPM steps in, tracking who is working on what and helping with resource allocation. Following some of the suggestions that Lewis offers in this article can lead your organization to more effectively utilize PPM and, thereby, get more work done.

About Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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