By Wanda Curlee
Why do organizations implement portfolio management? There is no right or wrong answer. However, there is a right and wrong way to implement it. Sometimes organizations become so excited by the possibilities of portfolio management, they take the big bang approach. In other words, they implement everything at one time. This is definitely the wrong approach for almost all organizations.
A more desirable approach is what I like to call baby steps. With baby steps, there’s less to lose if something needs to be abandoned or tweaked to better meet the demands of the company. The first step of this approach is to develop the portfolio management methodology the company wants to eventually adopt. This helps leadership see the full value and builds buy-in.
For some, determining what to adopt first is very painful. My suggestion for deciding what aspects of portfolio management to implement first has to do with resources. Today, organizations usually lack all the resources needed to deliver everything desired. So start with your most in-demand resource—the type that gives you the most trouble—whether it’s human, capital, hardware or something else. Then take all your projects and programs and decide the order in which you’d like to deliver them. This is your portfolio roadmap. Are the in-demand resources in collision? In other words, would a scarcity of resources cause bottlenecks in project or program execution? Most likely the answer is yes.
Next, you might want to roughly determine the cost of each component (e.g., a project or program), the highest two risks on each one, and the perceived value of delivery. Cost is normally quantitative, but perceived value and risks may be qualitative. That’s okay. Just try to have four or five factors for each and assign a numeric value for low, medium and high. This makes it easier to come to consensus.
For each component, have concentric circles with value at the center, cost surrounding the value and finally a red circle to describe risk. For example:
The first set of circles has a relatively small value, but large cost and risk. For the amount of benefit received from this component, it might make sense to cancel.
The second set of circles shows a large value, a smaller cost and a large risk. Since the value is so large compared to the cost, it might be worthwhile to see if the risks can be reduced.
Finally, the last set of circles has a moderate value, a large cost and a fairly low risk. This may be a good one to keep, especially if the costs can be negotiated down.
Once each component has three circles, then the portfolio roadmap can be looked at again with each of these concentric circles. Does it match what you had before? Probably not. Based on the circles, you will probably make changes to the portfolio roadmap. Some portfolio components may be canceled and others will change priorities.
Yes, the resource that causes bottlenecks or collisions still needs to be evaluated, because most likely there are still some issues. However, you may have more resources because some components were canceled or delayed. With a better handle on what components can and should be executed when, you’re on your way to a successful rollout of portfolio management at your organization.
Have you ever done this kind of resource audit and prioritizing at your organization? If so, has it helped?