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10 Steps to Revitalize Your Project Portfolio Management Process and Greatly Improve Performance

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RISMEDIA, December 11, 2009—In an age of scarce customers and scarcer resources, performance is everything. Organizations must have the right strategy, supported by the right projects, brought to fruition through the right processes. Take one wrong step and you’ll be choking on your competitors’ dust.

Yes, it’s a lot of pressure. And if you’re counting on a steadily-creeping-upward economy to let you off the hook, think again: The same performance issues that plague you in the recession will plague you just as mercilessly in the recovery.

If yours is like many companies, your current struggles may very well boil down to a dearth of effective strategies for project and portfolio management, says author Simon Moore. And by simply closing this gap, you can become more productive right now—when you need it most.

“Project and portfolio management can be a challenge for many organizations,” says Moore, author of Strategic Project Portfolio Management: Enabling a Productive Organization. “That’s why it’s important to remember that at its core, it’s all about capturing ideas, aligning them with the strategic goals of the organization, and putting them into action.

A robust portfolio selection process is a valuable component of that solution. Making critical changes to portfolio selection ensures that all projects target results consistent with the organization’s strategic direction. Here, Moore provides 10 steps for creating a successful strategic project portfolio management process.

Know what you have. Before you start your process, understand the resources and skills that exist across your organization. Even if there are high-profile examples of project failures within your organization, it is likely that there are some best practices within particular groups and divisions that should be retained or even expanded and showcased.

Build momentum. The more you can do to demonstrate that portfolio management is an exciting and powerful process—not just for executives, but for all stakeholders across the organization—the more effective the system will be.

Define business goals. Without business goals, project prioritization is arbitrary and potentially misdirected. That’s why defining appropriate business goals is the critical first step.

Capture ideas. The more ideas you capture, the stronger your portfolio will become. Increased choices improve your options for finding opportunity and managing risk across the portfolio. Remember, proposals should be captured broadly from across the entire organization. If all ideas come from the same source—be it a particular division, role, or geographic area—then the creativity across that set of ideas is likely to be lower.

Be transparent. Opaque processes are seldom magnets for ideas and voluntary engagement and cooperation. Therefore, transparency has many benefits. A transparent process is more likely to be improved because the set of people who can observe and refine it is larger. And as a result, it is more likely to enjoy greater support and buy-in.

Prioritize. Make the prioritization process robust and clear. If everyone is aware of which projects are happening, then it is less likely that two projects are inadvertently doing the same thing. Making the process clear and accessible also makes it easier for participants to suggest improvement and understand how the system works so that there are higher quality proposals, and there is a greater degree of understanding of the overall goals of the process.

Use efficient decision making. While collecting up-to-date and accurate data is a challenge, building an effective reporting system is relatively easy. In short, reports should answer specific questions and be tied to specific processes.

Establish communication frameworks. Providing effective tools for communication can dramatically improve project performance. This is because communication is the critical ingredient to project success. An easy-to-use set of communication and collaboration tools is critical. Tools can and should include the latest e-mail technologies, customizable portals, wikis, instant messaging, and so on.

Conduct postmortems. The interesting trait about project management is not that projects go over budget, but that the problem is constantly repeated. Project portfolio processes should be made more efficient over time. Use postmortems to uncover opportunities for improvement.

Improve continually. Portfolio management is an organic system. Each component impacts the others. Change should be constant to ensure that the portfolio is reacting to business needs and changes in organizational conditions.

“In today’s tough economy, projects are running on shorter timeframes and smaller budgets,” says Moore. “Projects must be executed seamlessly and efficiently, or organizations will be unable to outperform their competitors. Ultimately, a strategic project portfolio management system with proper training, adoption, and facilitation offers many opportunities for organizations to become more productive by focusing on the right objectives and executing them well.”

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