“We’re not big enough for PPM!” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this I’d still be very poor indeed. Yet, it irks me to hear this because it represents a disturbing misunderstanding of what PPM is and does. And how about, “We’re not mature enough for PPM?” Ditto! If your firm has perhaps a half-dozen projects, and has to deal with selecting and prioritizing among multiple requests for investments and resources, you will surely benefit from PPM. And, to use an overworked cliché, it’s really not rocket science.
This is not an issue of maturity. It is simply a question of “why are you doing projects?” Is completing your projects your terminal goal? Or are the projects a means to larger goals – goals that represent key success factors for the business as a whole?
Now surely you’ve seen this before: “The five phases of project management are as follows: initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing.” Really? Is that all there is? Well, the answer can be yes if projects are your terminal goal. The statement is true if your entire horizon is just to take a project from start to completion. And for many of us, that’s what the job is. And, also for most of us, this narrow vision of projects is short-sighted, as it does not do anything to assure that our projects deliver the maximum benefits from our limited resources.
Today’s management thinking has expanded beyond that. It would have us consider how the project got into the mix in the first place, and what benefits it produced for the firm. So our lifecycle has expanded to deal with this new reality. The Project Portfolio Life Span extends well beyond the project lifecycle, to include Identification of Needs and Opportunities, & the Evaluation and Selection of projects, on the front end, and the Realization of Benefits at the other. So the five phases of Project Portfolio Management are:
- Identification of needs and opportunities
- Selection of the best combinations of projects
- Planning and execution of projects
- Product launch (acceptance & use of deliverables)
- Realization of benefits
This is not an issue of level of maturity. It’s an issue of making projects count.
Let’s examine for a moment why this expansion of scope is so important. Look at your group of currently active projects. Have you ever wondered how some of these became projects? How were they chosen? Why were they chosen? What benefits are they delivering to the firm? Are some of these questionable projects siphoning off critical resources from other more important work? What strategic initiatives do they support?
And even if the projects pass this test, there are still other considerations.
- Are some of these projects in distress?
- Are they sliding out past the time where their deliverables will no longer be needed or as valuable?
- Are they building up cost overruns that will make it impossible for the project to come anywhere close to the target financial performance?
- Are they running into technical problems that will compromise meeting product standards and performance targets?
And these projects go on – continuing to drain valuable and limited resources? And why? Because there are no practices in place to evaluate these projects for their ability to produce the intended benefits. And there are no policies in place to delay, modify, or terminate projects in stress.
Do your systems and practices address these conditions? There is a simple, structured way to deal with these issues. It’s called Project Portfolio Management (PPM). And, even if your company and project load is small, if you’ve had to deal with these issues, then PPM is for you. You are more than ready for PPM.