Assess Where Your Program Has Been

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 3 of 7: Assess Where Your Program Has Been

A good program manager should look back at the preceding year and document the following:

    • 1.What were the business’s goals and targets for the year?


    • 2.What was the variance of actual results from those goals?


    3.What was the root cause of each variance?

This is important information to have. First, it documents that there were or are or should have been definitive goals and targets. Second, establishing a root cause for the reason a goal was not met or was exceeded can sometimes tell us how good we are at setting goals.

One school of thought says that goals should be stretch goals, or goals that are beyond the organization’s current reach. People will stretch for the achievable but won’t move a muscle for the unachievable. Consider the following questions:

    • 1. What projects were in work when the previous year started?


    • 2. Were any new projects born or created during the year?


    • 3. What projects were completed during the year?


    4. Were any projects terminated during the year?

To accurately characterize the workload for the year, you also need to obtain the following information:

  • What organizational problems, opportunities, or challenges existed or were first identified during the year?
  • Which of them were solved, resolved, or otherwise acted on during the year?

Most organizations do not have the resources to work every project, fix every problem, and leverage every opportunity. Therefore, the program manager needs to assess how well the team did at working the right projects, fixing the right problems, and leveraging the right opportunities while meeting goals and targets.

You also need to evaluate project success on the basis of whether the project delivered the business value it promised. Business value is important, and before that value can be accurately assessed, the business unit requesting the project must provide measurable requirements logically tied to the project’s purpose and measurable goals.

Some companies routinely implement projects with no real measure of whether those projects truly add value to the organization. When this is allowed, customers often run amok with project requests. If it is an external customer with huge resources to spend, thus creating revenue for your program, it may be to your short-term advantage to implement projects of questionable value; however, in the long term there is no substitute for providing value.
Measuring the effectiveness of projects after delivery causes customers and stakeholders to carefully consider projects before proposing them. It creates an accountability culture in which people submit high-value projects.

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.

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