Project Portfolio Management: Avoid Bad Data’s Domino Effects

Information is one of your organization’s most important assets. But if you oversee projects of any size, you know that you don’t just need information—you need good data to make the right decisions and ensure optimal results. Using information that’s inaccurate, out of date, incomplete, or duplicative can trigger a series of unwanted domino effects across your entire project portfolio.

bad data

Adding to the bad news is that weak data doesn’t just affect the projects active in your portfolio today. Organizations with multiple initiatives—those currently in flight plus any still in the planning and consideration phases—often discover too late that bad data infects every project in every stage of development. Poor financial results or workforce challenges in one initiative typically spread to other projects as they move forward, and bad data will only continue to push your results downhill.

There are several areas where the use of substandard information can cause enduring and widespread damage to your organization’s portfolio. Consider how far things can deteriorate if you don’t have good data informing your decisions.

Poor financial returns. You need good data to regularly assess your project portfolio’s performance, otherwise there’s a strong chance you’re not getting the returns you expected from your investments. Are delays chipping away at your ROI? Is one at-risk project threatening to drag down the financial value of other initiatives downstream? Bad data won’t enable you to identify when your project investments aren’t performing. A single project that doesn’t deliver full value is bad enough, but weak data could mean your entire portfolio is falling short and you won’t know it’s happening until it’s too late to fix it.

Budget overages. Expenditure data that’s incomplete or out of date can have serious negative impacts across the budgets of multiple projects. Opportunities may pass by that would have resulted in reduced spend on labor or supplies, or project teams may have been able to protect contingency budgets if they had access to a wider view of activities and resources. Unless good data is available at the portfolio level, you may never discover the root of your budget woes.

Workforce planning complications. Without good information across the full portfolio, your workforce management strategy may not ever align with your project needs. You may not have the right data to accurately forecast your staffing requirements, potentially leading to a situation where you hire more people than necessary to support your projects’ activities. You might also discover you’re understaffed during critical periods, leading to additional delays and/or cost overruns as you push tasks back and pay for last-minute labor support.

Low quality results. As project teams scramble to address problems that should have been caught earlier, from lagging schedules to dwindling budgets to mismatched workforce availability, they’re prone to cutting corners. Steps may be skipped to save time or money. The plan for one project to provide a launchpad for the next could be scrapped, with subsequent initiatives instead adding only incremental value as deliverables are omitted.

Project team impacts. Systemic problems, particularly those that can be traced back to poor or ill-informed decision making at the leadership level, will inevitably wreak havoc within your project teams. Morale and motivation are among the early victims, with productivity often falling once workloads and deadlines become too chaotic. High performers, who are likely to recognize that a lack of good data at the portfolio level is behind many of the company’s project challenges, may seek opportunities elsewhere if they don’t think the situation will improve in the near term. The loss of key personnel will only expand the team’s troubles.

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