Managing multiple projects can be tough. As the manager, it’s your job to see that deadlines are met, resources are managed, and budgets are adhered to at all times. But when you’re managing multiple projects and coordinating with dozens of teams scattered across the map, staying on top of your various workflows can feel downright impossible.
That’s because, in some ways, it is. The hands-on project management approach isn’t always suited for managers in charge of multiple projects, which is why project portfolio management (PPM) was created.
Project portfolio management looks at all projects within an organization’s portfolio and determines which of those projects are best aligned with the company’s goals and objectives. Projects that push the company further towards a desired outcome are then picked up, while irrelevant and excessively risky projects are suspended or rejected completely.
In other words, PPM looks at which projects you should undertake to meet your specific goals. After all, healthy project portfolios are more likely to achieve your target objectives and maximize your return on investment.
In theory, this management technique reduces friction by integrating all active projects into a single portfolio, effectively removing teams from departmental silos and having them work together, under one roof, to reach a common objective. However, for PPM to function efficiently, there needs to be complete project transparency. Everything from the tasks completed to the resources assigned should be documented and assessed when managing a project portfolio, so that you and your stakeholders know your project’s status, budget, and allocated resources at any given moment.
Regardless of your preferred management style, overseeing multiple projects can be both daunting and time-consuming. And if you lose track of your workflow progress, you’ll have a hard time maintaining transparency and ensuring project success. For this reason, you should always answer the six questions below when building your project portfolio. That way, you’re able to effectively gauge the health and success of your PPM.
1. What goals are you currently working towards?
The goal of PPM is to have teams work towards achieving common goals that benefit your organization. As such, it’s important for you to have these goals and objectives clearly defined before you start launching projects. Once you have specific goals you want to achieve, you’re able to get a better sense of which projects will help you reach those goals, as well as which could potentially turn into time and money pits.
2. What are your teams working on?
The whole purpose of PPM is to track multiple projects allocated to a single portfolio. If you don’t have an idea of what projects and tasks your teams are working on, it’s impossible to get an accurate representation of the progress and estimated outcome of each project underway. Moreover, tracking your teams’ initiatives and progress helps you to get a better idea of how to allocate resources more effectively, so that all members get the assistance they need to meet your various goals.
3. How are you using your resources?
One of the primary benefits of PPM is that it gives organizations the ability to minimize costs while improving their return on investment. But to achieve that outcome, your resources must be utilized efficiently. When you’re overseeing multiple projects, how do you ensure resources are being used effectively?
The best way to guarantee that resources are utilized appropriately is by only working on projects that further your goals. That way, your resources are only being used to complete tasks that push the company forward, rather than being wasted on useless projects that don’t support your strategic objectives.
4. How can you predict and control risks?
Part of effective project management is being able to handle risks that could impact your project performance. The advantage of PPM is that it requires you to take a data-driven approach to managing projects, which means that you should’ve already documented premeditated risk and concerns, as well as workable solutions, in the decision-making stage before a project begins. If not, it’s important that all parties involved look at potential risks before breaking ground, as PPM doesn’t involve the same hands-on micromanagement as traditional project management.
You might even want to think about bringing in external consultants to help brainstorm risks and solutions, if needed.
5. Can you set an accurate, data-driven budget?
When it comes to PPM, data-driven is more than just a popular buzzword – it’s an absolute necessity. Since managing a full project portfolio requires a more generalized approach, managers need to rely on metrics to inform their decisions about:
- Which projects to begin
- How to estimate risks, profitable yields, resources needed
- Setting up an accurate budget
Without accurate data which reflects your performance of past and ongoing portfolios, you won’t have a complete idea of what all goes into setting your projects up for success. And nowhere is this as true as your budget.
Of course, collecting and analyzing data across an entire project portfolio sounds like a challenging, even overwhelming process for one person to undertake. Fortunately, PPM software can do the legwork for you – including helping you come up with an accurate budget and allocation of resources that should carry your projects from one milestone to the next. Or in some cases, even support projects from start to finish.
6. Can you absorb any changes?
Projects don’t exist in a vacuum. Abrupt changes in the social, political, or economic landscape of one or more countries can greatly impact the performance and the scope of your project portfolio. Even something as seemingly minor as changes in technology can have a huge effect on the outcome of your project.
In other words, no project comes without uncertainty.
Bracing for unexpected changes starts in the planning phase and should be carefully considered when assessing the health and performance of a project or your whole portfolio. Mitigate setbacks caused from changes by brainstorming potential changes during the planning stages of your portfolio management. With the help of a few backup plans, you’ll be more likely to weather any dramatic changes and safeguard the health of your project portfolio.
Optimizing Your PPM Process
When optimized, portfolios enable teams and project managers to work towards joint goals that contribute more value to their organization. What’s more, successful PPM can help you to reap more benefits as a collective than you would by managing a series of individual projects.
With the help of a comprehensive project portfolio management tool, overseeing project portfolios has never been easier. From developing strategic plans to distributing resources efficiently across projects, these portfolio tools aim to simplify the PPM process by automating calculations and compiling important data, so that you’re able to come up with a series of action strategies that push you closer to your goals and objectives.