A Project Portfolio Management Approach

by | June 22, 2013

I introduced an approach to project portfolio managment (PPM) to my IT team at the American University of Sharjah.  After 9 months here, I have a real sense that we were doing too many projects for the resources that we had available.   The result of trying to do too much was that our planning activities and basic operations were suffering.  I want to build concensus around on consolidated list of projects within my team and then throughout the University.   If we are successful with project portfolio management,  we will clearly demonstrate what value we bring to our University community.

By adopting project portfolio management approaches, I am hoping that we can achieve the following:

  • make fact based decisions on which projects should proceed and when so that we have a clear workplan
  • clearly identify what benefits the university will receive from the project
  • communicate the workload of our IT department with the hope of encouraging planning
  • break the cycle of dropping what we are doing to respond to the next “critical” project

I got some great ideas by reading some of the following posts from people I respect.

Mike Kavis (@madgreek65) : Project Portfolio Management Cheatsheet  – Mike writes about the four categories of business drivers we should consider.  This is an older post but credit to Mike as it is still relevant today!

  • Financial Analysis
  • Strategic Alignment
  • Tactical Importance
  • Risk Mitigation

I also got some excellent ideas and approaches for project portfolio management from my very good friend Dave Cresswell (@dcresswell).  Dave created some diagrams to communicate the impact of projects to our community.  Dave provided me with the ideas of audience:

  • Single Workgroup
  • Department
  • Division
  • Enterprise

Here is the process we used for our PPM exercise:

  1. Create a template and asked all IT teams to enter all the projects they had.  We used the following definition for a project:
    • Work that had a defined start and end
    • Requires at least 5 person days of effort to complete
    • Was in progress or planned to be started in the next 12 months
  2. Added project attributes as columns to the template:
    • Primary IT Team – this is the team that will take the lead on the project
    • Project Name – business focused name to describe the value delivered
    • Technical Project Name – technical name for the project
    • Stakeholder – University, College/Division, Department or Single Workgroup
    • Service Catalogue Category – the service category this project impacts
    • Planned Start Date – year and month (or quarter)
    • Planned End Date – year and month (or quarter)
    • Project Budget Amount – this is an estimate of the total cost of the project
    • Project Size – determined by the Project Budget Amount – small, medium and large
    • Budget Type – where does the funding come from: Operational or Capital budget
    • Project Category – Compliance, Strategic, Tactical, Operational or Evaluation
  3. Consolidated the 6 separate lists into one master sheet
  4. Added our ranking criteria as columns to the template:
    • Finance –  deliver budget revenues or savings (hard costs0
    • Capacity –  provide work efficiencies (soft costs)
    • Risk – decrease risk for the University
    • Sustainability – provides a “green” sustainability benefit
    • Business Continuity – provides capabilities for business continuity and disaster recovery
    • Academic Impact – supports the delivery of teaching, learning and research
    • Complexity – describes the complexity of implementation
  5. Using a zero or one scoring system, we ranked the projects.  We had 65 projects on the list and did the ranking by having each of the 8 people vote.  Since this was our first attempt, I wanted to keep things simple.  In the future, we will be adding weighting to the ranking criteria to allow for higher priority criteria to score more.
  6. Once the ranking was done, we sorted the lists and began discussing where the projects showed up based on rank.

There was quite a good discussion on the projects’ first draft rankings.  I thought the team really found this exercise valuable and it contributed to our teamwork as all of us worked from a comment set of project data.

In a future post, I will discuss our findings from our project portfolio management exercise.  If you would like a copy of our ranking template, please email me.

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