You have evaluated and prioritized projects, scheduled resources, and now the scheduled projects are underway. You may assume that your job is done. However, in the same way an investment manager’s job isn’t complete when the stocks are picked and the trades are completed, a project portfolio needs regular monitoring and evaluation.
Your project portfolio management (PPM) process should now track the progress of the projects regularly and changes to project status should be shared with stakeholders in all approved projects because delays in one project will have a ripple effect and delay the projects next in queue that require the same resources. When major schedule changes occur, you will need to revisit the overall project schedule since they will likely impact resource availability.
Besides the schedule, it is also important to monitor whether or not the project is on track for budget and scope and if any significant issues or risks have emerged. For projects completely off the rails, the monitoring process should also dictate at what point the project should be halted (higher risk projects should probably have phase gates built in up front).
The PPM manager should regularly provide the project portfolio status reports via your intranet, email, or in-person meeting—whatever works best for your organization. Automating or at least standardizing the generation of an active project status report will help to remove some of the effort of preparing it. Tailor the format and content of the report to the recipients’ needs. It may take several iterations to get it right. You may want to use a PPM system for status reporting; however, they tend to be expensive. A spreadsheet or a SharePoint list can work just fine while getting started with PPM.
Project managers should keep all team members and other project stakeholders regularly informed about the status of the project. Since it’s likely that multiple project managers will be involved in the active projects in your portfolio, you should develop some mechanism for collecting project status reports from them. The PPM manager will need to have some leverage to hold them accountable to provide those updates.
An important—and often skipped—step in PPM is to follow up after a project closes to determine if the project has delivered on the anticipated benefits and within the budget estimated during the project request stage. With a big backlog of projects waiting to start, it’s tempting to finish a project, move on to the next, and not look back. However, you can gain beneficial insight about how the project review process could be improved to more realistically assess proposed project value and how effort and schedules are estimated. You may determine that certain business units and project requesters are not very accurate at estimating value and/or cost or that certain types of projects are consistently over-valued or under-valued. You may also notice similar patterns with budget, schedule, or project scope.
The project retrospective is a great technique to capture some of this information about what worked and what didn’t about the project. Much useful data comes from that exercise.
Maintaining the high-level information on all completed projects also helps to demonstrate IT’s productivity and document the organization’s resource capacity to execute projects. It is important for team morale to look back and see all the project work that was accomplished. In a previous position, I would use the “shirt-size” of completed projects (i.e., S, M, L, XL) as a rough gauge for how many projects could be completed by my team in a year. I totaled points from previous years’ completed projects and it showed the total was consistent over time except when we added resources (especially project managers!).
Your organization has completed the approved projects. What next? Now it’s time to repeat the cycle and continue improving it with each iteration. As you improve the process for selecting and executing the projects that matter the most to your organization, be prepared for the demand for projects to increase. An increase in demand makes having a solid PPM process even more critical to your organization’s success.
But Wait…There’s More!
Need help with establishing a PPM process? DelCor can help.
Mike was a guest on DelCor's Reboot IT podcast, Episode 12: Talkin' IT Leadership.