You don’t want your portfolio review exercises to become a lesson in inefficiency. Many PMs can recall sessions where executives and sponsors have engaged in all the same discussions, raised the same points for and against certain projects, and pored over so much data that no one felt they had a truly good handle on the scope and health of the overall portfolio.
If you want to increase the value and effectiveness of your project portfolio reviews, consider these strategies to help supercharge your process.
Assign a priority to every project. There’s a tendency to identify only those projects that are most important, but that approach overlooks the value in examining lower-status projects as a complementary part of the review. By knowing where projects sit across the entire priority scale, the team can assess the full scope of everything in the pipeline. They’ll have enough insight to quickly scan initiatives that are low priority to determine if those efforts are ready to move up the scale or if they should be scrapped to preserve resources for more important projects. This multi-level review ensures projects aren’t overlooked during busy periods and also provides a vehicle to eliminate low-value initiatives when appropriate.
Assign a category to every project. Just as prioritization allows you to filter your portfolio against one set of criteria, the use of categories provides additional filters for greater flexibility. The more deeply you can sort and classify the initiatives within your portfolio, the more opportunity you’ll have to view the full picture of your projects from different perspectives. Categories enable you to arrange your portfolio using the tags that are most important to your organization, such as low-budget versus high-budget projects or projects sponsored by one business unit versus another.
Involve sponsors in your review exercises. To keep the process moving along, PMs may opt to limit review activities, bringing in only internal team members and a select few executives. But omitting project sponsors could result in a more fragmented process, potentially creating conflicts if stakeholders aren’t able to discuss their concerns, questions, ambitions, and intentions for the full group’s input. Wider involvement ensures you aren’t juggling a slew of offline discussions or scheduling follow-up meetings to cover items that should have been addressed earlier.
Prime the pump with a preview. Rather than spend the first portion of the review orienting participants to the components of your company’s portfolio—which can be complex in large organizations with dozens or even hundreds of projects—PMs should give everyone a jumpstart by providing the review team with an overview a week or so before you bring them together. The data doesn’t need be highly detailed but do include a full list of initiatives and the status of each, a lineup of anticipated participants, and a skeleton agenda with any specific talking points or questions you may have already compiled from the various stakeholders. This ensures your review will begin on a productive note and that the team is on target for an efficient process.
Expand your reporting capabilities. Different stakeholders will want to evaluate different datasets as part of the review. Rather than expect them to translate portfolio information—possibly created confusion or misunderstandings—consider widening the variety of reports available to help inform their review. Executives are likely to want a high-level reporting of financial and status data, while others on the review team will probably find more granular information to be useful. Customized reporting is driven by a robust data collection and management strategy, so begin evaluating your reporting capabilities now to prepare for your next portfolio review cycle.