Portfolio management isn’t always the first thing project teams think about when shifting to a remote work structure, but it’s crucial that PMs maintain good awareness of the organization’s broader portfolio during times of transition. Driving productive conversations to enable that awareness, however, can be daunting when business leaders are working from home (WFH) or when project teams and senior staff are dispersed.
Some key steps can help ensure that everyone remains engaged in discussions about the project portfolio and committed to successfully moving priority initiatives forward.
Begin the conversation. If your organization is managing significant disruption such as the WFH transition triggered by COVID-19, it may be a struggle to shift the focus from a reactive strategy—quickly pivoting on existing projects—toward something as proactive as portfolio management. PMs should begin the conversation as early as possible so it’s on the leadership team’s radar. Choose a communication platform that enables you to provide important data points, such as a video conferencing solution that includes screen sharing. A full-featured approach will help drive engagement with your executive group and also give you the tools to distribute your project data most effectively.
Establish a priority structure. When business activities are thrown into disarray, your project portfolio needs to be reassessed. Take time to evaluate if and how the current environment has changed your priorities and choose which projects should be at the top of your ranking. A portfolio management application or similar technology is a good resource that enables your team and senior staff to access the overall list of projects remotely. They can see which initiatives are under consideration and you can work collaboratively with them to determine which are important and time sensitive, and which can be shelved for review at a later date. Once you have more clarity on how business activities are shaping up in your industry or region, you can then use the technology to carry out periodic reviews and update the project list as necessary.
Identify the first important milestone. With most of your team’s attention likely focused on immediate actions, you may not have good visibility into where the initiatives in your portfolio stand. To inform your plans going forward, you need to identify the first key milestone among your portfolio’s highest priority projects. Is there a go/no-go date that must be managed to either move ahead with that top-rated project or to determine it will be postponed, for example? Identify top-tier milestones and schedule a conference call to bring your key stakeholders together to discuss a plan of action to ensure any priority tasks can be executed on time. You should also flag the milestones—either within your portfolio management application or your project management software—so everyone is able to track them as they approach.
Ensure ongoing alignment with strategic objectives. Your company’s needs and resources may evolve in the coming months as the pandemic response moves into a recovery and adjustment phase. Your project portfolio should be evaluated against those changing needs to ensure the value propositions remain relevant. Schedule recurring meetings dedicated to assessing your portfolio and mapping it against the organization’s mission. A remote environment makes these periodic follow ups even more important, as they provide an opportunity for team members to gather new information on where strategic goals may have changed as well as where opportunities exist to restructure the project portfolio to be as efficient and effective as possible. Maintain ongoing communications through the use of on-demand project management software and other information-sharing technologies to ensure the latest updates are incorporated into the portfolio knowledge base.