How to optimize the number of project portfolios for your organization?

by Jan Schiller

Have you ever wondered how many project portfolios you should have? Do you wish you had cohesive insights into your organization’s ability to achieve its strategies? Here are three guidelines that will help you optimize the number of project portfolios for your organization.

One project portfolio per strategy

It is important to understand the distinction between a strategy and an objective. A strategy describes an organization’s overall, primary, longer-term goal. It crisply describes the target that an organization is aiming at in its entirety. A strategy may have one or more objectives associated with it. An objective represents a measurable step on the path to delivering your strategy.

Your project portfolio delivers a strategy; programs and projects in your project portfolio deliver objectives.

Establish one project portfolio per strategy. No more, no less. More than one project portfolio per strategy diminishes the ability to achieve a single view of progress towards a strategy. Less than one project portfolio per strategy robs your organization of its ability to achieve a strategy.

Pick one to start

Is your organization in the process of identifying its strategy? No worries. Establish one project portfolio. Just get started. Inventory your projects, identify those that are active, and group them into a project portfolio. Perhaps the resulting project portfolio is for your department, or your team, or for a specific event. As your organization’s strategies mature, you can re-allocate those projects to the project portfolio structure that emerges to deliver those strategies. In the meantime, the interim project portfolio will begin to shed light on information your executives are likely seeking in order to prioritize projects, guide resource allocations, and understand progress.

Only one resource pool

Regardless of how many project portfolios you have in your organization, it is critical to establish and utilize a shared resource pool. Without a centralized resource pool, you will either be unable to understand your resource capacity or will constantly endure extra work to ensure an accurate picture of your organization’s ability to support your executives with the insights and information required to make important prioritization decisions.  

Does your organization already centralize its resource pool, perhaps in one business function and one software platform? Integrate that resource pool with your project portfolio management function and software to avoid the mess of duplicated resources. Once integrated, changes to your resource pool (such as new hires, transfers, and departures) are seamlessly reflected in your project portfolio.

Does your organization attribute its resource pool with a resource’s project role and top skills? Then you are ahead of the game because planning and managing your project portfolio resources will be more transparent and accurate. You will be able to develop and articulate resource gaps easily and quickly.

Harness the power of project portfolio management by having the right number of portfolios. Then you will have the information you need to make critical decisions that ensure your organization is realizing the value associated with its investments.


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