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4 Gnarly Tips for Managing Your Project Portfolio

If project portfolio management were a sport, it would be surfing. No other aspect of IT management involves more balance, more attentiveness to changing conditions, or more hidden risk. As project success rates currently stall at 64% and major names are devoured in the rip tide, Jen Skrabak gives us four useful tips for enhancing our skill at all things project portfolio:

  1. Select sustainable projects / programs.
  2. Know your portfolio’s upper limit.
  3. Admit mistakes and adjust quickly.
  4. Measure your averages.

Choose project goals that fit with your organization’s strengths and weaknesses. Be realistic, not overly optimistic when planning ahead. Also, for every shiny new project there might be an inhospitable culture waiting to reject it. Remember how baby sea turtles have to make the long journey past hungry seagulls to the ocean after hatching? Just because you’ve “hatched” a project, doesn’t mean that it’s safe from culture! And don’t forget about change management, especially when dealing with that “monster wave” of a project involving hundreds of process changes in only a short span of time.

Skrabak also advises to work within the portfolio’s “upper limit,” meaning to stretch potential figures beyond static goals such as “Achieve US$100 million in portfolio ROI in 2015”:

The upper limit of your portfolio may be defined by budget, capabilities (skills or knowledge), capacity (which can be stretched through new hires or contractors) or culture (existing processes, organizational agility and appetite for change).

In sum, plan the upper limit beyond the initial ramp by aiming for the “highest resource consumption period.”

What if you need to wipe out early on a project run? Are you prepared to make the case to sponsors? Do you have the appropriate metrics to do so? Clear financial performance monitoring is crucial for maintaining a healthy portfolio. As Skrabak warns, huge changes can happen almost overnight, requiring no small degree of agility when it comes to correcting course on projects.

Lastly, a portfolio is of course about many projects, not just one. Don’t get caught up cheering or jeering only the big kahunas; use a portfolio average to gauge slow steady wins or creeping declines

Read the original article at: http://www.projectmanagement.com/blog/Voices-on-Project-Management/12945/

About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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