Project Management

First Steps to a Lean Portfolio

Nick Oostvogels

A large petrochemical site is taking steps to create a lean project portfolio, including a lightweight approach to building a business case and "smart release" planning, which breaks larger initiatives into smaller "waves" that can be interrupted by more urgent projects. The early returns have been positive.

When coaching portfolio managers, my goal is always to improve the end-to-end value stream — from ideation until the release to customers. In September 2015, I began to manage the project portfolio of all custom development at a large petrochemical site. I spent my first months getting a good grip on the current process; it is important, of course, to keep business running before you try to improve things. The existing process was fairly well-structured and contained the following 10 steps:

1. Intake meeting
2. Initial project document
3. Project application
4. Final project document
5. Final planning
6. Kickoff
7. Implementation
8. User acceptance testing
9.Turn into production
10. Closing

I believe a portfolio manager can have the biggest impact in the first five steps. You can help the business owner to shape the idea, or propose alternatives based on existing software or re-use. Often a new request comes from a departmental view and doesn’t take the rest of the company into account. Only when there are no solutions available, do …

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"The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible."

- Albert Einstein