Understand Where Your Program Is Today


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A portfolio can include multiple programs, and/or the projects within a single program can be a portfolio. A portfolio is just a logical grouping of projects under a common leadership structure.

Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solutions, like WorkOtter, are inputs to a decision maker’s judgment process. Any solution should ensure thoroughness and structure the information in a way that allows a decision maker to make a decision. This includes helping the decision maker know what information is firm, what information is fuzzy, how the information was processed, what information was excluded, and what the solution recommends. The decision maker then must assess all the input before factoring in his or her experience or intuition and making the actual decision.

This 7 part Guide to Portfolio Management Essentials walks a decision maker through the different factors of portfolio creating and planning.

Part 1 of 7: Regulate Capacity Utilization
Part 2 of 7: Prioritize the Portfolio
Part 3 of 7: Assess Where Your Program Has Been
Part 4 of 7: Understand Where Your Program Is Today
Part 5 of 7: Drive Where Your Program Is Going
Part 6 of 7: Business Cases
Part 7 of 7: Strategic Elements of the Portfolio

Part 4 of 7: Understand Where Your Program Is Today

Understanding where the program is today involves some of the same fundamental questions we just addressed for the prior year, except now you’ll address them in the context of this year. The questions are as follows:

    1. What are the business goals and targets for the current year?

  • Are the goals realistic?
  • What do you assess as the likelihood that you will achieve each of the goals?

Business goals and targets should create tangible objectives that are specific, measurable, agreed on, realistic, and time-constrained. Having a business goal of being the “leading provider of Gobbledygook widgets and services” is meaningless without qualification of what that means. After all, what does “leading provider” mean? How do you know when you’ve attained that status, specifically? When should that goal become reality? Is it even possible?

Often the program manager may be responsible for attaining such a vague goal. It is then up to him or her to characterize what “leading provider” means and obtain buy-in on the characterization from stakeholders. Organizations sometimes set goals that are unachievable, and it is the program manager’s responsibility to work with stakeholders to establish achievable goals.

    2. What projects:

  • Are currently in work and part of the portfolio?
  • Were in work when the previous year started?
  • Were born or created during this year?
  • Were completed already this year?
  • Have been terminated during this year?
  • Are in danger of being terminated this year?

The questions about project status are important in defining what projects the organization actually has in work.
When you are doing portfolio planning, you need a catalog of all the projects in work within the organization. Rogue projects outside the program manager’s control could be consuming resources, slowing the work of projects within his or her control.

The question about projects being terminated is a necessary one. Examine the project failures and overruns your organization has had in the last few years. Assess whether the termination of a project at an earlier time would have saved resources. Organizations sometimes have a problem acknowledging failure, but the sooner you acknowledge failure, the greater will be the cost savings.

Once your team has decided on their plan and process, PPM software can help you execute that process. WorkOtter helps you successfully execute your program process strategy for project success. Get a demo of WorkOtter and see how we can make your program management effective.

“The Handbook of Program Management: How to Facilitate Project Success with Optimal Program Management, Second Edition” by James T. Brown is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. ©2014 by McGraw-Hill Education. Purchase the book on Amazon.