Project Management

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A blog that looks at all aspects of project and program finances from budgets, estimating and accounting to getting a pay rise and managing contracts. Written by Elizabeth Harrin from

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Recent Posts

Spring clean your portfolio: Setting clear priorities and roadmapping

Spring clean your portfolio: Resource management

Spring clean your portfolio: Portfolio review

3 Types of programme cost (that are not project costs)

How to keep a business case up to date


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Spring clean your portfolio: Portfolio review

Here is the Northern Hemisphere it really feels like spring has sprung. Evenings are lighter, there is less rain (and while the garden won’t thank me for saying it – we had a soggy start to the year so this is something I’m really pleased about) and I don’t know about you but I’m feeling like I’ve got renewed energy for a spring clean. It truly is the season of starting fresh.

That goes for project portfolios too. If you haven’t looked at the work you’re doing across the organisation, across your department, or even simply your personal workload, then now is a good time to take stock of what’s still outstanding and what (maybe) is no longer relevant.

Are you ready to spring clean your portfolio? The way I’ve been thinking about this is in 3 steps. First, we assess and rationalise, which I’ll talk about in this article. Then we review resource optimisation and reallocate where necessary. Finally, we set clear priorities and a roadmap to take us through the rest of the seasons until it’s time to review again.

Step 1 is decluttering – you might have already done some spring cleaning at home, and now is the time to do the same for your work! So let’s share some strategies for renewal and realignment.

Review the current portfolio

First, take a look at the current project portfolio. Make sure your list of projects is up to date, and that it’s complete. There shouldn’t be any projects that have snuck on to the list without the proper approvals, but if there are, add them formally.

Check the basics for each project: they have formal approvals, there is an assigned project manager, they are hitting their governance milestones or anything else that is the normal for your portfolio.

Identify performance issues and misalignments

Next, identify performance issues, overlaps where several projects are tackling the same thing, and any misalignments with strategic goals. Make sure reporting is up to date and source new reports if they are not. Look for milestones that have been missed or risks that are not managed. When was the last time there was a peer review or an audit? Check that each project still meets its financial objectives and is still viable, with a business case that has been recently reviewed and a benefits case that still makes sense.

Review the ‘go’ criteria

Refresh your criteria for project assessment. Remind yourself of how decisions are taken about pausing, continuing or terminating projects. Do you need to update any criteria or measures around financial performance tracking? Perhaps there are new metrics to include.

Review how resources are allocated to live projects and check everything on the list is a good fit strategically. You might not end up changing any of your criteria or measures, but it’s still worth the effort to run through them and check they are still fit for purpose.

Involve your stakeholders

Finally for this step, talk to stakeholders so you can build in their perception of project value and potential. Are there any projects that sponsors have fallen out of love with? If so, these could be taken off the list and the resources reassigned to projects that will add more value.

Next time, I’ll look at step 2 in your spring cleaning plan, which is dealing with resource optimisation.

portfolio review

Posted on: May 01, 2024 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

How to keep a business case up to date

You’ll see that at various points in the project management lifecycle you are supposed to review the business case and check it is still fit for purpose, but what does that actually mean? What are you looking for?

I’m not sure that continuing commercial justification of a project sits solely on the project manager’s shoulders, but you can do a first pass review and raise any concerns with the sponsor. After all, power sits with them to make changes to the project or cancel it, should it no longer be fit for purpose and likely to achieve its goals.

Here’s what to look for when you do a business case review to check if the project is still viable.

business case review

Strategic alignment

Hopefully your strategy doesn’t change that often, but if you’re managing a multi-year project or program, or you’ve just had some strategic change at the top, it’s worth checking to see that your project still aligns with the organisation’s goals.


Can you still afford to do the project? In other words, have costs spiralled due to unforeseen issues, scope changes, requests from the client that have to be included because the contract was so vague they are saying you have to pay for it (of course, that never happens…) and so on.

The challenge with assessing for affordability is that it then opens up a conversation about sunk cost. If you’re three weeks off finishing the project, it may well be worth the cost uplift to get you across the line. If you’ve got two years still to go, not so much.


Look at whether the riskiness of the project has changed. Hopefully as you know more, risk levels have decreased. But a portfolio manager would probably want to assess the risk of this project along with the risk of the portfolio overall, and if the whole portfolio risk profile has changed, there are some conversations to have.

Look at whether your risk budget or contingency time in the schedule is adequate to cover the risk. If not, if you added more, would that make the project unviable?


Consider whether you can still complete the work. Achievability might be challenged if key resources have left, deadlines have changed, a supplier has gone bust, or there are plans for a merger. Anything might affect your ability to achieve the plan as it is today.

If you can’t achieve the baselined plan, would a replan mean other criteria for viability are not met? For example, you could achieve the plan with more time and more money, but that would mean the project would not be a cost-effective initiative.


Check that you are still going to get the benefits, or enough of the benefits to make it worthwhile from a cost/benefit analysis. If the project ticks all the other boxes, it might not tick the box for benefits. For example, a delay in the schedule may push back realisation of the benefits to a point that undermines the business case. Additional resources pushing the price up will eat into benefits. Perhaps the project no longer represents value for money.

Carry out these checks at key governance points and gate reviews. Highlight where there are issues to resolve, and come up with a plan if you can. Then discuss that with key stakeholders, the client and sponsor, and see if you can resolve any business case challenges without having an impact on viability of the project. Ultimately, if the business case is no longer viable, the decision is around cancelling the project – and that’s a tough conversation for everyone.

However, if the business case no longer stacks up, cancelling could be the best thing to do.

Posted on: April 15, 2024 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

It's the old gag: people that pay for things never complain. It's the guy you give something to that you can't please.

- Will Rogers