Why you should start with Lean PPM right now

Why you should start with Lean PPM right now

If your project prioritization is a mess, there’s no roadmap or too many roadmaps, your stakeholders are digging through old emails to understand who is supposed to do what, and any simple question requires an emergency meeting, you have to act now to urgently improve the situation.

Or so you think before you talk to your boss. And then it turns out that yes, there may be challenges here and there and things can be improved, but let’s not go too fast. You have to think the whole matter through, make a business case, evaluate a dozen options, draw conclusions, and wait for the management decision.

Options get evaluated, stakeholders require more and more details, discussions go on and on, and the whole thing starts to feel like a swamp that sucks you into endless conversations with no result.

Try, learn, and improve

Myth: I need to run a large company-wide business case to find the best approach and tools before I can even get started.

Reality: You can start making changes now. Most decisions you will make are going to be reversible and are not worth the delay.

Having up-to-date information about your projects, priorities, and roadmap in one place is much more than a matter of efficiency. It’s a matter of work hygiene. If you are running a lot of projects at the same time, you simply can’t afford to keep the data dirty and spend ridiculous amount of time to figure out simple things like what are the top 3 projects we are supposed to work on next month.

As a matter of work hygiene, having simple portfolio management does not require complex ROI calculations, in the same manner as you don’t make ROI cases to buy soap or towels in the office. In theory you could make an economically sound case on why employees should not walk around the office with their hands dirty, but should you? If your project data is a mess you need to improve it, simple as that.

Most if not all the decisions you will make during the early stage are completely reversible. You can start prototyping with the simplest tools like a spreadsheet or a whiteboard, try different dashboards and processes, make mistakes, learn, and improve.

We made starting with Portfoleon a completely reversible decision too. There is no vendor lock-in in Portfoleon, you can always get your data back conveniently: either through a simple copy-paste compatible with any spreadsheet tool, a CSV export, or an API-based export.

Start small

Myth: I need to work for several months, I cannot achieve any meaningful results in a week’s time.

Reality: Start making small steps, one step at a time. You can add a lot of clarity to your portfolio just in a few days if you know where to start.

You can achieve a lot by making a few first steps:

Step 1. Make sure you have a 100% reliable and up-to-date list of things you do. A simple list, minimum details. Start with an official name of the project, the name of the responsible person, and data that you need to communicate priority. You can add more details later.

Focus on accuracy instead of trying to collect more data fields. There should be no doubt about the content of your first list.

In Portfoleon you can make a simple spreadsheet board to get started.

Note: You may have a difficulty with Step 1 with the definition of what is a project, i.e. what belongs to the portfolio plan, as opposed to individual backlogs / ticketing system. Be pragmatic about this choice and do not overthink. Your definition may (and likely will) evolve in the future, for now select something that makes sense for you to prioritize and monitor.

Step 2. Set up a (simple!) governance process around using and updating the list. Simple process + clear responsibilities + iron discipline is much more important than having a big detailed work instruction that is difficult to understand and memorize. Ideally the “rules of the portfolio game” fit half a page.

At first it’s OK to go for a periodic list update, but eventually you want to update continuously.

Focus on doing steps 1 and 2. This should take no more than a week. If it takes longer time, focus on a certain part of the portfolio first and get it done right.

Congratulations! You already have your first project portfolio plan!

Once you are done, here are the next steps you will want to take:

Step 3 Talk to your stakeholders often, have meaningful conversations using your list as a reference material. Discover what additional information they need and why (important!).


Having good dialogue with your stakeholders is the most important part. Your goal is not to create an ideal system and set of procedures that will eliminate any need for human interaction.

Focus on creating clarity and sharing information that will be a basis for good conversations and quality decision-making.

You can use Portfoleon to build and share boards with your stakeholders, put them on projector or or print them out and bring to the meeting rooms, and enjoy the interaction.

Step 4 Enrich the list with additional data (e.g. priority, dates, product info). But be careful to not add too much. Less info but up-to-date is more important than more info that is inconsistently updated.

Step 5 Close the loop by introducing data about actual results.

Do the first steps yourself before you bring in consultants

Myth: I need to hire expensive consultants before I can get started.

Reality: You can accomplish a lot without external help. Even if you decide to bring consultants later on, it’s always advised to try things on your own to get a better sense of what works and what does not work in your specific situation.

The early steps you take are important. You know your company culture, current situation, challenges you’ve faced in the past, and you are best positioned to create something that will work in your situation. Consultants are great if you already have a good idea about what you want to accomplish and have internal buy-in for the approach.

Once you have a working prototype that you and your stakeholders are happy about, you can decide whether you need external help in scaling this up.

Starting with Portfoleon is easy and safe

We will be happy if you decide to take Portfoleon with you on your journey.

  • The decision to go with Portfoleon is completely reversible at any time since you can always export your data to a spreadsheet, CSV, or to any system with an API.
  • As your portfolio grows, you can be confident that Portfoleon will grow with you. Advanced features like Jira and Zapier integration, automation rules, or webhooks ensure that Portfoleon will fit your current and future IT landscape.

Photo by mostafa mahmoudi on Unsplash

Recent Articles

The Emperor's New Strategy

A good strategy is a strategy that may fail.

Agile Cult

The biggest harm for agile does not come from heretics, it comes from zealots.

Yes-managers, No-managers, 'Yes and No'-managers

Yes, No, Yes and No - a trio of ineffectual leadership styles that bring your company to a catastrophe.