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Project and Portfolio Management – Aligning Projects With Corporate Strategy
By Jessie L. Warner

Project Portfolio Management is not just about managing several projects. Harvey Levine describes PPM as the “management of the project portfolio so as to maximize the contribution of projects to the overall welfare and success of the enterprise.” He continues to explain that for PPM to be effective, projects must:

  1. Be aligned with the firm’s strategy and goals
  2. Be consistent with the firm’s values and culture
  3. Contribute (directly or indirectly) to a positive cash flow for the enterprise.
  4. Effectively use the firm’s resources-both people and resources
  5. Not only provide for current contributions to the firm’s health but must help to position the firm for future success.

Over the next few days I will be discussing each of these steps in detail. First, let’s talk about some ideas to help align projects with a firm’s strategy and goals.

Align Projects with a Firm’s Strategy and Goals

In a survey by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, only 2.5 percent of global businesses achieve 100 percent project success. Another research report from Business Improvement Architect’s found that the chief reason for project failure is that most organizations do not ensure that all projects they implement align with their organization’s core strategies. In fact, 80 percent of organizations had no formal business case for the development of Project Management Offices.

So how do you align projects with corporate strategies and goals? Michael Stanleigh suggests three things to help:

  1. Undertake a review of all the projects that are currently under way within the organization as well as those completed over the past year.
  2. Ask every department to list all of the projects that they are currently working on. What is the goal of each? What is the strategic alignment, if known?
  3. Create an inventory of all projects in the organization, regardless of size or scope, that are currently on the go within all departments and within the whole organization.
  4. Measure each of these projects. Are they are on time and on budget according to the original scope? Are they meeting customer requirements as defined? Or, are there no measurements in place?
  5. Identify projects completed over the past year and measure their success rate. These lessons learned will help to identify project prioritization in the next step. For example, if many projects were unsuccessful because of a lack of resources then resources required to complete future projects should be considered a criteria for determining project viability. If a project requires many resources, they may rate low on this criteria. If you decide that it is a strategically important project, you will have to ensure that the right resources must be made available or the project might fail.

Develop a systematic approach to prioritizing all projects.

  1. Develop criteria against which to prioritize all projects. Include impact on corporate strategy and customers. This is best done with a subcommittee of senior management.
  2. List all projects along with their goal, purpose and strategic alignment and the identified criteria necessary for determining the expected impact each project will have on the organization, its departments and its customers. This process will allow you to rank each project quantitatively and determine its level of priority.
  3. Establish a committee of senior management to review and assess project prioritization on a monthly basis. This committee will provide final approval on all project implementation priorities.

Align projects to corporate and departmental strategic plans.

  1. Review the corporate and departmental strategic plans and if none exist meet with the senior executive team to gain an understanding of the key strategic priorities.
  2. Examine all projects to determine their alignment with the corporate strategic goals. This strategic alignment will demonstrate how each project’s successful execution will support the corporate and/or departmental strategic plan.
  3. Terminate projects that are of low priority or not somehow linked to corporate and/or departmental strategy. Their immediate termination will ensure they stop costing the organization money, resources, time and lost customers. Projects not linked to corporate or departmental strategy add no measurable value to the organization.

I hope these ideas help your organization achieve better project alignment. As Harvey Levine suggests, this is only one of five important factors in project portfolio management. My next article will focus on helping projects become more consistent with the firm’s value and culture.

Jessie L. Warner, MBA and eternal student of project management, seeks to promote the need for and benefits of project management software. Employed by @task, an online project management software company, Jessie understands how project managers and teams members use project management tools to plan for and manage projects. You can learn more about @task by visiting http://www.attask.com.

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