Are any of your high-impact, high-visibility, can’t-fail projects at risk? Hopefully the answer is“no,” but if you don’t know for sure, now is the time to reevaluate how your team measures and reviews the health of your project portfolio.
Most organizations have a process in place for reviewing individual projects. That usually translates into a monthly get-together that covers a standard list of status reports and a review of concerns that have come up since the last time the group met. Companies with a more rigorous approach to project management might hold weekly control meetings or similar gatherings, where progress is measured against the plan and deviations are noted, discussed, and addressed as necessary.
This is a useful strategy at the project level, but too few businesses have a process to conduct similar reviews of their entire portfolio. Without a broad look across the full scope of the organization’s activities, it’s possible that at-risk efforts may not be caught until it’s too late to apply a cost-effective fix, or sometimes too late to save them at all.
What does a portfolio review process give you that you don’t already have?
Exception meetings are an important mechanism that go beyond the weekly get-togethers, giving project teams and their high-level sponsors an opportunity to review and resolve critical issues. But without a streamlined process in place to review the entire portfolio, you may not even know an exception meeting is needed unless your project and portfolio managers are astute enough to identify a problem among the granular data that’s typically generated at the project level.
It’s important to remember that the organization typically has everything it needs to fix the problems and get a troubled top-priority project back on track. But until that first step—awareness that something has gone wrong—happens, the project will continue to shift farther off the rails. The time and expense necessary to implement a solution and return progress to the good will only increase the longer it takes the team to get going.
Where does the strategy go from there?
Only after an at-risk project has been identified and its challenges evaluated can the team begin to develop and deploy a solution. Even at this stage a portfolio view is important, since it’s likely they will need to pull together a sub-team to execute and monitor the fixes and, because the resource consumption rate may jump while the issues are resolved, activities need to be properly managed so they don’t hinder the progress of tasks that are already underway in other areas or even in other projects. Executives can also become involved as needed. It might be necessary for them to approve additional funding or staff, or to expedite the reallocation of resources from other projects or operational areas that have a surplus of time or money available to them.
Don’t forget these steps in the process
You’ll want to be sure that all of the data from each project in the company’s portfolio is pulled together. The information should be gathered in a uniform way at the granular level, so it can then be rolled up to provide a consistent view across the entire portfolio. This allows the team—along with high-level stakeholders, sponsors, and executives—to examine the data from multiple angles as they look for variances and potential problems. It’s also helpful to leverage a platform that provides the ability to search and sort the information, so people aren’t getting bogged down with data about activities that are on track or about projects or tasks that aren’t relevant to the current situation.