It’s important that PMs regularly assess their organization’s entire project portfolio. Recurring reviews enable them to ensure each initiative is properly prioritized against the business’s needs and available project management support, and that any opportunities to share resources or consolidate workloads across projects have been identified and evaluated.
But when time is short, you want to be sure you’re focusing on the initiatives that will deliver the most value to the organization. That means future projects on the low end of the priority scale shouldn’t consume much attention during portfolio reviews. These could be efforts whose value to the company is currently below other, more urgent projects, or where the time horizon is still too far out for further action.
Because there could be a number of low-priority projects sitting in the queue, PMs should consider some strategies to ensure these initiatives remain visible but don’t necessarily take up time during every review cycle.
1 – Set a follow-up date for individual low-priority projects. This may be the simplest and most efficient solution for those initiatives in your portfolio that aren’t clearly urgent. You likely already know that certain efforts won’t be ready for launch until a later date, such as upon completion of an upstream project or after the company goes through a growth cycle. There could be a number of low-priority projects sitting in the queue and PMs should consider some strategies to ensure these initiatives remain visible but don’t necessarily take up time during every review cycle. In those instances, determine a reasonable date for the next review and don’t dedicate additional energy to it until that time.
2 – Discuss the need for future reviews with the project’s sponsors. If the business environment has evolved since the initiative was first added to the portfolio, you may discover the sponsor’s vision for the project has changed. Whether they now have a better idea on launch timing or they have essentially shelved it mentally, you want to know if (and when) it might warrant further effort.
3 – Create criteria for portfolio reviews and inform sponsors of it whenever a new project is proposed. For example, initiatives that haven’t received executive approval may be added to the roster but they won’t be allocated any additional resources, including review time or preliminary plan development work, until the project team receives a formal go-ahead to proceed.
4 – Require sponsors or senior-level champions to attend their project’s status review meetings. The reason this stipulation is effective is simple: it’s easy to keep an initiative on the active roster when it doesn’t consume any of the sponsor’s time. Once they’re obligated to participate in the review process, they may opt to de-prioritize the project themselves.
5 – Let the senior staff know how much time portfolio reviews consume. Provide data that shows the project team’s time investment, in particular highlighting the workload associated with the list of low-priority projects. As resource needs, requests, and capabilities are assessed, the work involved in reviewing the same projects over and over again will become apparent as a possible source of inefficiency. With information on the other, higher-value tasks you could be tackling instead of reviewing a batch of stagnant projects, you can demonstrate where your team’s time and energy would be better focused.
6 – Eliminate low-priority projects your company will likely never execute. Some firms use the project portfolio as a place to store ideas that are still in the germination phase. The problem is that they don’t establish a good process to periodically trim those initiatives that aren’t viable in the long run. Begin by presenting a short list of two or three projects to be considered for elimination. You may want to choose from those that have languished at the low-priority level longest to make executives’ decisions as easy as possible.