When your team is running many projects at the same time, you need to take care of two things - effectiveness and efficiency of your projects.

Efficiency is about maximizing your output.

Effectiveness is about making an impact.

It’s important to maintain focus on both. The comfort zone of many teams is focusing on efficiency: optimize the processes and procedures, or improve individual output of team members. Neglecting effectiveness is dangerous. Squeezing another 3% or even 5% of productivity can sound tempting, but selecting and prioritizing the right initiatives can regularly prevent millions of dollars and months of time wasted.

Effectiveness vs. Efficiency

Portfolio management practices focus on the overall effectiveness of the projects and initiatives that you do. This comes down to two focus points:

  • Alignment, aka managing context

    Your portfolio both supports and influences the organization strategy. At the same time, the portfolio sets the context for the executing part of the organization.

    Better strategy and execution alignment leads to better decisions made at all levels of the organization, greater transparency, and buy-in.

  • Governance, aka taking effective informed decisions

    Important decisions need to be made to keep your portfolio running - selecting and prioritizing initiatives, responding to change, applying constraints and boundaries.

    Effective governance requires a system where decisions are made at the right time, based on data and on all relevant stakeholders’ input.

How Portfoleon helps

To succeed in Alignment and Governance, we put the people at the forefront.

Here are some examples of what this means:

Portfoleon, people-focused
Calculate and automatically decide using internal algorithms We enable decision makers’ dialogue by visualizing the data for everyone
The system works when precise and complete data is fed to it Portfoleon is designed to work with incomplete and approximate data, encouraging progressive elaboration
Permanent immediate changes to projects We give decision makers time to think the future decisions through, experiment with data, make cohesive changes to the portfolio, and only then roll out to the rest of the stakeholders

Our approach to put the decision makers to the driver seat is based on a few misconceptions we want to address in organizations.

Portfolio management is poker, not chess

A game of chess is deterministic, with no element of luck or randomness, and is based on a set of pieces with known abilities. It is natural and often necessary for managers to seek clarity when facing unknowns. However, it is important to understand that data can support decisions, but not eliminate uncertainty and risk.

Investing too much time and resources in gathering information, conducting analyses, and forecasting potential outcomes can create a false sense of certainty, render the team slow to respond to change, or lead to analysis paralysis.

Portfoleon helps addressing this problem by explicitly enabling managers to work with incomplete data. Here are some examples:

Timeline can be progressively elaborated

Progressive elaboration in scheduling

People workload can be progressively elaborated

Progressive elaboration in resource management

You and your team can still use all partially-defined information for analysis and decision-making.

Portfolio management is not reporting

Connecting strategy to execution is a two-way street. Portfolio management must not be reduced to presentations, reporting forms, or status meetings. While reporting is important in portfolio management, it isn’t the entire story.

Important decisions like project selection and prioritization, portfolio-wide risk management, change management, or resource allocation are made based on the context information that goes beyond the projects that are currently at the execution stage.

Project workflows

Consider a report made from a task management system. This report would contain aggregate data based on all tasks present in the system. And what about the more vaguely defined areas of your portfolio where the task decomposition is not yet done? And more importantly, what about the projects and initiatives that are currently at much earlier stages of the pipeline - being in the ideation phase, considered as options, pending contract signature, and other cases like that?

Portfoleon takes a higher-level view on the whole portfolio. Based on the portfolio data, decision makers can discuss options and immediately reflect the changes to communicate the outcome and involve the rest of the organization.

Portfolio management is not reporting, part 2

Definitely project portfolio management is a two-way communication - and this communication goes well beyond reflecting decisions already made.

Group exercises like open discussions, interactive “what if” games, or decision-making simulations are extremely valuable when it comes to complex and contentious decisions.

Portfoleon helps achieving that by introducing a draft system where all changes are temporary and can be rolled back fully or partially until they are published to the rest of the team.

Draft/publish system

Being able to accumulate and roll back changes serves two important purposes that are often overlooked in portfolio management systems.

First, important decisions take time and typically do not boil down to one edit.

Suppose you want to increase priority of a project. Making this change would cause other projects to shift, people to be reallocated etc. This in turn would trigger discussions that would require some time to converge.

Leaving the portfolio in a “dirty” state would send a confusing message to the rest of the organization. Even more so, if the option does not play out, it would trigger a reverse change, further adding to the confusion.

The video below demonstrates how such a change scenario can unfold in Portfoleon.

Second, managers should not be afraid to make changes.

Updating projects and initiative can cause a domino effect. One consequence is that people are hesitant to make changes to a well-balanced portfolio - even if the change means reflecting the reality. Portfoleon eliminates this fear by giving managers an opportunity to review the changes and roll them back if necessary.

Is Portfoleon for me?

YES, if you believe that:

  • You need to connect strategy to execution through initiatives and projects;
  • A meaningful conversation is more important than precise calculations;
  • Having simple, visual, and up-to-date information is more important than having unnecessarily precise data that often gets outdated.