Portfolio and Project Management Insights

What does it take to effectively manage projects...or a portfolio of projects? Have you worked with an ineffective project manager...and those that are able to juggle project priorities with ease?! What technologies enable project management activities? Here are a few thoughts on the subject for your consideration.

What makes a gifted project manager? 1) Relationship Skills:  The best project managers (in my experience) are able to motivate the project team to meet goals, objectives, deliverables and timelines naturally and in a collaborative way.  The best project managers are also able to effectively manage project / program sponsors productively and ensure they stay informed on project status, issues and decision requirements. 2) Scope Creep Management:  The best project managers are able to effectively define the scope of a project and manage the project work to that scope.  Most projects are regularly threatened with "scope creep" from the business and the project manager must quickly and efficiently be able to define pros/cons/costs/timeline impact of the additional scope to business stakeholders. 3) Financial Management:  The best project managers are able to manage to a set project budget, report out status of progress vs. budget and effectively provide an early heads-up to the business if the budget is threatened. 4) Process-Oriented:  The best project managers are process oriented.  They typically stick to the standard Business Case-Setup-Define-Design-Build-Test-Pilot-Deploy-Measure project milestones and communicate progress against project activities within each of these areas.  The best project managers are highly organized and have a strong sense of attention to detail.

What are the keys to effective portfolio management decisions? 1) Business Sponsorship:  What are the "business" priorities vs. "technology" priorities?  Many initiatives are not adopted or successfully deployed as they are IT-led vs. business-led.  In a tight capital environment, solutions must be developed and deployed to effectively generate business benefit and be "owned" by the business 2) CAPEX / OPEX:  What the current year / future year(s) CAPEX requirements for individual programs/projects?  How much OPEX is needed to support the solutions (e.g. people, software / hardware support, etc.)?  Is there a defined ROI for the initiative - is it measureable?  How? 3) Business Readiness:  Is the business prepared to change as planned per the program?  What change leadership and communication processes are in place to enable the deployment of new programs?  Business sponsorship must also be considered in this area for without it, projects typically fail. 4) Silo-Avoidance:  The portfolio management concept must be employed across BU's or lines of business to ensure the most effective utilization of available capital.  This is of particular concern for larger businesses that have independent operational business teams, etc.

How do I select a solid project management software technology? 1) The Basics:  Project Management (PM) software should absolutely include the ability to manage activities, tasks, resources, timelines and calendar / dates.  These are basic and foundational to any solid PM software solution.  In addition to the core "basics", PM solutions should also offer document management capability, a view into critical path activities and milestones and finally, enable the project manager to manage a budget / baseline. 2) Collaboration:  When working as part of a team lead by a project or program manager, the ability to share information, link multiple projects and track / manage issues is important to effectively keeping a project on-track and status updates to stakeholders accurate. 3) Resource Management:  While resource planning and ongoing management is often a "soft skill" frequently found in the best project managers, the PM software should enable this process by allowing the manager to allocate individuals and / or teams to a specific activity or task.  In addition, PM software should have the ability to enable entry of costs (e.g. hourly rates), specific skill sets and contact information. 4) Support:  A final key area that is often overlooked is technical and business support.  How accurate are the help files?  Is there a technical support phone line to call for help (and is there a cost for this service)?  What are the resources engaged with ongoing update and development of the solution?  What internal company resources are or will be my SME's on the solution?