Head of Practice (Projects, Programme & Delivery)|Kerv Consult
Published 16/01/24 under:
We all understand how prioritisation works once projects are in delivery. We may prioritise one project over another in terms of resources or funding and transfer resource or funding from one project to another. Unfortunately, many organisations don’t recognise the importance of prioritising which projects they should start in the first place.
Reducing Work in Progress is a recognised approach to speeding up delivery in agile teams. By reducing the total amount of tasks in flight, a team will reduce the amount of time spent switching between tasks and focus instead on those that matter. This same principle should be applied to the number of in-flight projects in a portfolio at any one time.
Every organisation has a portfolio of projects, and those portfolios are being managed, but most businesses we meet don’t apply basic portfolio management practices to ensure they are getting the “biggest bang for their buck”.
Many projects are started because they are a part of what I like to call “The good ideas club”. They generally arise from senior management, and quickly become pet projects that must be completed. But what is the real value of doing them? Can you deliver them, and can you afford to do them? Without any proper investigation, the organisation fixes the value, cost and delivery timeframe, and Project Managers are expected to deliver within these constraints. Is it any wonder that projects fail to deliver the expected value, go over budget and/or fail to deliver on time?
Project initiation is an important part of every project, not just because it puts a deliverable plan in place, but because it is an important part of the decision-making process. Organisations set budgets every year, but many will do this without planning their project portfolio. By starting to plan projects before the budget for the following year, they can be assessed against each other for attractiveness, achievability and affordability at each stage of the planning process. At each decision point, the number of projects in contention can then be reduced becoming more refined as time goes by.
The work undertaken on planning these halted projects is rarely wasted, as they are likely to be re-considered in future budget cycles or, if funding does become available in year, they can be resumed from where they were left off.
Attractiveness refers to the value a project will deliver. This should be aligned to your corporate strategy and be measurable. The definition of value and how projects are measured should be captured in a simple Portfolio Strategy, so all projects are using the same measures.
Achievability relates to the capability of your organisation to successfully deliver the project, and should include internal and external resources, partners and suppliers. The Portfolio Framework should specify how this is defined.
Affordability is, as it sounds, the ability to pay for the project. This should be done in consultation with your Finance Team, as different colours of money and treatments will affect it.
When you actually prioritise, it isn’t simply the most attractive projects that are selected. It’s important to make sure you have a balance across the portfolio, paying particular attention to:
- Resource availability, smoothing out peaks and troughs over the year
- Change capacity – ensuring the business can absorb any change
- Running a mixture of low and high-cost projects – ensuring there isn’t too much risk being taken at any one time.
A simple visualisation can be used by plotting achievability against attractiveness in a bubble chart, with the size of the bubble reflecting affordability. Projects can be discounted, accepted, and amended to get the best balance, so your organisation can make the most from its investments.
Kerv Consult can help you develop simple prioritisation tools, and further develop your Portfolio Management so you successfully deliver the right projects, consistently.
If you need some help to prioritise your projects, get in touch. We can help you to identify:
- Are you are delivering the right projects?
- Are you able to deliver them successfully?
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