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The R&D executive read the first slide of the portfolio review; you won’t believe what happened next! – Enrich Consulting

Publié le By Dr. Richard Sonnenblick

paper-stackIt’s every portfolio manager’s nightmare.

The annual portfolio review is about to kick off. Hundreds of hours of preparation have gone into the main presentation’s PowerPoint deck, and hundreds more into each of the backup decks, readied in case management asks about the details of any of the projects under discussion. Information encompassing over a hundred different initiatives has been painstakingly compiled and distilled into slide after slide.
The portfolio team is ready to review the current budget and the changes in the portfolio since the last review, and to make recommendations for adjustments to keep R&D activities aligned with strategic goals. Everything is in place. Or so the manager thinks.

Then, the first slide goes up on the wall, summarizing spending since the last review meeting and listing the estimated total value of each division’s initiatives. The manager highlights key milestones each division has met, and heads all around the room nod.

Except one.
 The leader of one products division is clearly not happy. His expression sours as he looks at the slide. “You’ve understated the value of our projects by at least $400 million,” he complains.

“But we took these figures directly from your product team summary spreadsheet,” says the portfolio manager.

“Which one?” the exec demands. “We updated that spreadsheet last week based on the market research report from last quarter.”

“Oh that explains it,” the manager says, relieved. “We began building this deck four weeks ago, and we took the latest spreadsheet available at that point.”

The exec is not mollified. “I don’t think this meeting is an effective use of my time, or anyone else’s for that matter, if we don’t have current information.” He begins gathering up his things. “Let’s postpone until you can get all your ducks in a row.” The meeting is over before it has begun.


This portfolio team is like many others. The desire to anticipate every question, at every level of the portfolio, resonates with our experience across many dozens of firms. Savvy portfolio managers know that executives are like dolphins, starting at the surface of the portfolio and immediately diving down to ponder project-level details, only to come up for air and repeat the process, again and again. If they don’t like what they find in the depths, they’re likely to swim away, disengaging from the meeting until their questions can be answered (or simply making decisions based on incomplete information).
Thus, seasoned portfolio managers, knowing they have to have the right bait to keep the execs focused and engaged, build not just the main portfolio presentation, but numerous backup presentations that address every detail that might be questioned by the executives.

That means that portfolio reviews take weeks to prepare. Often, the decks are out of date before they’re even finished.

But out-of-date materials are sure to derail the portfolio review process. Bringing an outdated presentation to the table is almost worse than bringing no presentation, as the execs start to question your command of the facts. Those who are looking at the possibility of budget cuts or resisting changes to the portfolio composition can point to the outdated information as a showstopper, and postpone decisions for a little longer.

So what’s a portfolio manager to do? Risk not having some answers, in the interest of keeping documents timely, or come to the meeting with some slides almost certainly inaccurate, and risk losing execs’ attention—or worse, leading them down the wrong path?

Some companies meet this challenge by enforcing a no-change window on project documents in the lead-up to the review, but this can be difficult when hand-assembling portfolio documents is so time consuming. Others employ a fully distributed review, where program teams come to the reviews with their own decks, and roll-ups to the top-level occur rarely, if ever. (“We don’t do portfolio” said one executive at a recent conference.) Still other firms set aside the last fifteen minutes of each division presentation for late-breaking news, using that time to bring executives up-to-date on project shifts since the portfolio review documents were socialized.

But all of these solutions still require weeks or months of preparation, maybe even an all-nighter or two. And they still don’t guarantee the credibility of the presentation won’t be sunk by a late entry or a transcription error. What’s needed is a way to get the information—and the analysis that should be the focus of discussion—from the divisions to the C-suite in a way that’s timely, accurate, and above all flexible.

The right solution offers a range of tools to streamline reporting, standardize incoming data, and support both the central analyses and the detailed questions execs love to ask. And it allows execs to keep an eye on projects over time, not just at the review meeting. That means:

  1. Self-service reporting tools that enable the only kind of portfolio exploration that satisfies executives, starting with the top-level summary but also allowing instant recall of every project’s financials, market analysis, and lifetime value forecasts.
  2. Forecast validation and approval processes that immediately incorporate every “blessed” project forecast into the portfolio views, so executives know they are always getting up-to-the-minute information about project health, value, risk, and cost.
  3. Views that present project financials alongside less tangible information, such as results from focus groups and clinical trials, competitive landscape assessments, project scores on critical value dimensions, and other important measures.
  4. The ability to slice the portfolio across any dimension—technologies, geographic regions, payback period, anything you can imagine—especially those that are relevant to key strategic goals.
  5. An audit trail that captures every change to every project and lets execs and portfolio managers see the effect of those changes on the portfolio via variance analyses and waterfall diagrams.

What you need, in other words, is a dedicated analytics platform designed for R&D portfolio management, like the Enrich Analytics Platform (EAP).

It’s not feasible (yet) to completely eliminate the security blanket of the PowerPoint presentation—though we believe that day is coming. But you can leverage a system like the EAP to support the central PowerPoint. Your slide deck can focus on the highest level of the portfolio review, leaving backup questions to the EAP. With its seamless access to current data and an almost infinite array of flexible views, EAP will allow you to respond gracefully and accurately to execs’ demands for more detail, slightly different analyses, better information. What’s more, a powerful analytics platform like EAP will help you make sure the main presentation is as accurate as it can be—you’ll be able to extract up-to-the-minute data to quickly true up the slide deck just before the presentation.

In short, no more months-long slogs only to find a key dataset has been updated and you have to start over. No more fear of getting caught flat-footed by a last-minute change to the projections. You’re in control—of the data and of the presentation.

The clip below gives you a taste of the reporting possibilities of the EAP. Take a few minutes to watch it and imagine what you could do with this kind of analytic and data management power.

We’d like to hear your tales from the front. Have you ever had a meeting end like the one we described? How do you deal with backup questions and changing data? Tell us in the comments!

Want to know more about how Enrich and the EAP can help you streamline your portfolio review, keep your data current, and respond to C-suite queries? Check out our free white paper, “Eight Rules for Effective Portfolio Management”, or follow us on Twitter. Have a specific question or application? Contact us.

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Rédaction du contenu Dr. Richard Sonnenblick Chief Data Scientist

Chief Data Scientist de Planview, Richard Sonnenblick possède une solide expérience acquise auprès d'organisations majeures des secteurs pharmaceutiques et des sciences de la vie. Fort de son expertise, il a développé d'excellents processus de priorisation et de revue de portefeuilles, systèmes de scoring, et méthodes d'évaluation et de prévision financières pour améliorer à la fois les pronostics produits et l'analyse de portefeuilles. Richard Sonnenblick est titulaire d'un doctorat et d'un master en ingénierie et politiques publiques de l'université Carnegie Mellon, et d'une licence en physique de l'université de Californie à Santa Cruz.