Review: Manage your project portfolio

9781680501759-480x600Johanna Rothman wrote the book Manage your portfolio Second edition – Increase your capacity – Finish more projects. A book for the more professional portfolio manager or as mentioned on the back of the book: Expert skill level.

If you are facing too many projects, if firefighting and multitasking are keeping you from finishing any of them, this book will help you to manage your portfolio. It makes use of agile and lean ways of working and brings the biggest benefits when you are running your projects in an agile way too. Projects become to be delivered features and evaluation means prioritizing feature sets. In the quick reference card, I highlighted the way the author promotes the usage of Kanban boards to manage your portfolio and it visualizes some of the decisions to be taken.

Manage your portfolio (QRC, 171017) v1.0

To download: Manage your portfolio (QRC, 171017) v1.0

The author divided the book in fourteen chapters and these chapters gives you a step by step approach to build your portfolio. All chapters end with several situations and possible responses to try.

  1. Meet your project portfolio: It’s not your customer who cares about your portfolio. If you are facing issues to finish projects, if you want to deliver faster, more often and qualitative good products to your customer, you need a portfolio
  2. See your future: by managing your portfolio you make the organization’s choices transparent. It becomes clear what to work on first, second, third. It will help to avoid multitasking. What does it mean if you apply lean approaches to your project portfolio? You must think in terms of value, let teams work in small chunks that they can handle and complete
  3. Create the first draft of your portfolio: start collecting all the work before you attempt to evaluate and determine whether you need to do it now. When needed organize sets of projects into programs. Divide your projects in feature sets or Minimum Marketable Features. Not all feature sets are equally important.
  4. Evaluate your projects: the very first decision is about whether you want to commit to this project, kill the project, or transform the project in some way before continuing. If you don’t want to commit but you can’t kill it either put the project on a project parking lot (name, data, value discussion and notes) so you don’t lose track of it.
  5. Rank the portfolio: You can use many methods to rank. The author discusses the rank with Cost of Delay, business value points (divide a total number of points across your projects), by risk, organization’s context, by tour product’s position in the marketplace or by using pairwise comparison, single or double elimination.
  6. Collaborate on the portfolio: Making portfolio decisions is never a single person’s decision. Facilitate portfolio evaluation meetings.
  7. Iterate on the portfolio: Set an iteration length for your review cycles. This cycle length is affected by your project life cycle (agile delivery gives you the opportunity to have shorter review cycles), your product roadmap, and budgeting cycle.
  8. Make portfolio decisions: Conduct portfolio evaluation meetings at least quarterly to start with, decide how often to review the project parking lot. How are you going to cope with advanced R&D projects? Build a project portfolio Kanban (create backlog, evaluate, project work, assess/validate and maintain) to manage your portfolio.
  9. Visualize your project portfolio: Create a calendar view of your projects with predicted dates. Show not only your staffed projects but your unstaffed work too.
  10. Scaling portfolio management to an enterprise: What are the consequences of resource efficiency thinking (100% resource utilization is 0% flow)? How can you scale by starting bottom up or top down? You need both but scale with care. Do you know your enterprise’s mission or strategy otherwise it will be very difficult, if not impossible to make large decisions? Set up a corporate project portfolio meeting to answer the questions which projects help to implement our strategy and which project distract us from our strategy.
  11. Evolve your portfolio: Using lean can help you to evolve your portfolio approach. What does it mean if you stabilize the time-box or the number of work items in progress (see Naked planning video too).
  12. Measure the essentials: for a lean or agile approach consider the following measures: team’s velocity (current and historical), amount of work in progress (cycle and lead time, cumulative flow), obstacles preventing the team to move faster (how long in progress), product backlog burn-up chart, run rate. Never measure individual productivity.
  13. Define your mission: Brainstorm the essentials of a mission, refine the mission (specify strong verbs, eliminate adverbs, avoid jargon), iterate until you feel comfortable, test your mission, make the mission real for everyone.
  14. Start somewhere…but start!

Conclusion. Johanna Rothman wrote a must read for portfolio managers who are struggling with their role when their organization is moving towards more business agility, with more and more permanent agile teams in place but also for the traditional portfolio manager, facing too many projects and almost no delivery to get hands-on practical advice to start organizing their portfolios.

To order: Manage your portfolio Second edition – Increase your capacity – Finish more projects.

Naked Planning Overview by Arlo Belshee

Arlo was one of the first to lay-out the inspiration for Kanban systems for software development.
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