Project Portfolio Management: How to Say Yes Without Digging a Hole
By Demian Entrekin
When the stack of projects starts to grow on you, the good news is that you still have work to do. Think about it this way: when the list of projects starts to dwindle down toward zero, you might want to make sure you have a reason to show up next week.
On the other hand, when the list of projects grows beyond your ability to perform well, you have an altogether different problem. Perhaps you have a new compelling event that drives a whole slew of new projects. Perhaps a new business plan. Perhaps you have been acquired or you have acquired someone else.
This is where the discipline of prioritization starts to come to the rescue. How do we take on the right projects first? What are the right projects to take on first? How do we determine the right projects in the first place? You might need to look at several variables:
- Ability to execute – can we do it?
- Skills – do we have the skills as well as the capacity to do it? Can we get them if we don’t have them?
- Collisions – does the project impact other projects?
- Financial impact – what will this cost? Will it generate revenue? Will it generate savings?
- Time to market – will this impact our ability to get products to the market?
- Quality – will this project impact the quality of our products and services?
- Measurement – can we measure the impacts of the project on the busienss?
While we might not want to start out by saying that “we can NOT do that,” we want to figure out how to say “Yes – we can do that and let’s do the right things in the right order.”
There are other techniques we can deploy in the case where “the list is overflowing,” such as using Minimum Viable Products to manage scope and test ideas without taking on too much. But some questions remain: How do we prioritize? What do we need to do well? What are we good at? Where is the real value here?
Demian is the CTO of Innotas. As founder and CEO, Entrekin oversaw marketing, product development, sales and services for the company. Today, he focuses on strategic product direction. Prior to Innotas, Entrekin co-founded Convoy Corporation and was Chief Architect of its initial products. In that role, Entrekin helped the company lead the middleware market with an annual growth rate of 670 percent and played an instrumental role in Convoy’s subsequent acquisition by New Era Networks in 1999. A recognized thought leader in Project Portfolio Management, Entrekin has published numerous papers on PPM and his blog (PPM Today) explores current issues related to successful PPM implementation. During his 18 year career, Demian has assumed leadership roles as a consultant and as an entrepreneur, delivering commercial and corporate database applications. Demian holds a B.A. in English from UCLA and an M.A. in English from San Francisco State University.