Information is the backbone of project planning and execution. The quality of your project data gains greater visibility at the portfolio level, where accurate and reliable information rolls up to give executives a comprehensive view of the company’s efforts and enables them to make good, timely business decisions.
Our project portfolio management consulting teams have worked with a wide range of companies that struggle with challenges around information flow, and data silos continue to be a common stumbling block.
But while data analytics and other, more advanced processes are often a primary area of focus, organizations that can’t eliminate legacy data silos are likely to find it’s more difficult to nurture a healthy and productive portfolio over the long run. Pulling information out of closed systems and developing processes to bring data across functional lines is critical to building a portfolio that delivers a strong ROI and boasts consistent success.
If you’re still grappling with long-standing data silos within your business, consider some of the ways your project portfolio could suffer as a result.
Data silos create too many unknowns
One of the biggest risks when it comes to data silos is that you may be in the dark about critical elements of your project portfolio. You can’t possibly comb through every disparate data set manually to see what’s happening across every project in your organization. Unfortunately, it’s often the unknown factors that can be the most damaging to your portfolio’s health. Are key metrics missing from the reports your leadership team uses to make strategic decisions? Do you lack awareness of risk factors that could damage your portfolio over the long run? Can you confirm your resource information is current and complete for every project? Data silos create too many knowledge gaps, and these have the potential to create big problems within your project portfolio.
Data silos chip away at your portfolio’s shared goals
Sponsors, executives, business partners, vendors, and your project team all have their own perspectives and concerns when it comes to the initiatives your organization executes. When you’re working to maintain a healthy project portfolio that encompasses a variety of efforts, the factors that are important to each stakeholder need to be aligned in order to achieve consistent success. However, data silos become a serious roadblock when trying to make that happen.
For example, your finance team may utilize metrics to measure performance that are gathered within their department but aren’t distributed to sponsors in other divisions. This siloing of data is harmful because if the financial group leverages intra-departmental data to assess your portfolio’s ROI but that information isn’t available to other stakeholders, then you’ll be challenged to gain consensus about how well your portfolio’s financial performance stacks up against expectations. And without agreement on what’s working and what isn’t, it’s nearly impossible to make course corrections to improve your ROI over time.
Data silos occupy time you should be spending on other things
From a day-to-day standpoint, your team’s project workloads are busy enough and you don’t need to add the stresses and time consumption of uncovering and unblocking data silos to everyone’s list. But knowing how vitally important good data is to portfolio management—information that’s accurate, objective, complete, and current—it’s a task you can’t afford to neglect. Something has to give, and either your team will be forced to cut corners when carrying out their project tasks or their ambitions to break down the barriers that hinder the flow of data within your organization will be deprioritized. Either way, your ability to build a healthy project portfolio is likely to deteriorate.