6 Simple steps to add projects to your project portfolio

by Jan Schiller

The success of knowing how to add projects to a portfolio requires some steps. Is your project portfolio in a spreadsheet, disconnected from the business value it is intended to produce, and clouding your view into resource allocation and capacity? You are only six practical steps away from being able to easily add projects to your project portfolio in a way that helps decision-makers see the big picture and accurately forecast the return on future project investments.

Every strategy roadmap requires a person or team to monitor the uptake of projects into a project portfolio. When done well, the capacity of the project portfolio’s resources is aligned with the effort to deliver the intended strategic value while maintaining quality, performance, momentum, and effectiveness. Introducing projects to your project portfolio does not have to be a complex, tedious endeavor. Here are some steps to add projects to a portfolio.

Consider this simplified 6 step process: 

1. Submit an idea.

Accept all the ideas from everyone! Ideas are a source of innovation. Think ‘suggestion box,’ only it is really an ‘innovation box.’ This box can be physical or digital. The important part is to make it easy and convenient for the person with the idea to share their idea. 

2. Read the proposed ideas.

Create a team that regularly reviews ideas. Open that innovation box and read each idea. Is it the right time for your organization to explore that idea? If the timing is not quite right, keep track of those deferred ideas. One day, that idea may have its day. Above all, resist the urge to skip to step six!

3. Evaluate ideas whose time has come.

Before your organization can add projects to a portfolio, ideas need to be evaluated and resources need to be allocated. Allocate a relatively small amount of resources and time to elaborate on and justify the idea. You may know this as a ‘business case,’ a brief document or presentation that represents the beginning of a project charter at a 50,000-foot level. Consider my 5/10 rule of thumb: create the business case with about $5000 and in about 10 business days. This step aligns with the Initiate phase of the project management process, although most good business cases also include the beginnings of the Plan phase to develop an initial schedule with resource and cost ranges. 

4. Repeat step two.

Read the business case. It contains additional details and key elements that will help the review team decide if it is still the right time to pursue the idea. Does your organization still have the resource (human and nonhuman) capacity to take the idea on? If not, defer the business case. The best time to defer an idea is before the organization dedicates a lot of resources to implement the idea (especially resources they do not have). Remember to acknowledge the person that submitted the idea and involve them in the remaining steps. 

5. Assign a project manager.

Now that the business case is approved, the sponsor of the idea should elaborate that business case into a project charter, the document that sets up your project manager for success. There is no sense in adding a new project to the project portfolio without a project manager. At this point, the idea has officially become part of a project portfolio and the Plan phase of the project management process is solidly in progress. 

6. Deliver the solution.

This last step to add projects to a portfolio enables product and service delivery. Working with stakeholders, the project manager, and the team, identify the best methodology, practice, or paradigm that moves the idea from a plan to a result that delights your customers and stakeholders. This step traditionally includes activities like requirement definition, analysis of those requirements, designing a solution that delivers those requirements, building the solution according to that design, ensuring a quality solution through testing, and implementing that solution. The Manage and Control phases of the project management process are in full swing until the solution implementation has proven stable when the Close phase launches.

When your organization utilizes a robust enterprise project management solution instead of a spreadsheet, the project portfolio manager is freed from routine tasks associated with this process and can add value in other critical areas. By following these steps to add projects to a portfolio, your organization can improve its performance.


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