CIO

Why Projects Fail, Part 12: Poor Portfolio Management

Deployment coordination across a portfolio of projects is just one of the portfolio management dimensions that seems to be missed more often than managed

Have you ever been in a department that is the subject of multiple independent projects' implementations simultaneously, or in quick succession? Believe me, it is chaos and all of the projects are discredited as being "totally uncoordinated and badly planned".

Deployment coordination across a portfolio of projects is just one of the portfolio management dimensions that seems to be missed more often than managed.

One measure of a PMO's success is that the individual project managers don't have to be concerned with the problems and needs of other projects but see this as actively managed by the PMO

Each project manager, rightly, is focused on the successful delivery of their project. While they monitor and manage inter-dependencies, other projects' problems and issues are not their concern.

Indeed, one measure of a PMO's success is that the individual project managers don't have to be concerned with the problems and needs of other projects but see this as actively managed by the PMO.

Poor portfolio management impacts on the individual projects in terms of:

  • Resources are not available when required or are transferred off a project before they're finished.

  • Projects use a variety of project management approaches and reporting techniques, making meaningful coordination and consolidation hard to impossible.

  • There's no "one way" to do anything — each project has to create their own or choose from a variety of partly defined options.

  • Deployment clashes either cause chaos or last minute project delivery delays (with consequential project and missed benefits costs).

  • Benefits are duplicated across projects causing double counting and a nett reduction in the value of benefits delivered.

  • Disparate or contradictory desired business outcomes are approved resulting in direct implementation clashes and business confusion.

Each of these and other factors directly reduces the value and business success of projects and increases their likelihood of failure — whether by extending the timeline, increasing the costs, reducing the outcomes or delaying the benefits.

Although a later insight, as PMOs were rare when we started our research, a key requirement of PMOs is to progressively increase the capability of the organization to delivery projects successfully. Most PMOs fail to do this effectively, if they consider it at all.

How capable your organization is, on both the business and IT sides, in delivering projects directly impacts the results exponentially. A very capable organization will generate three times the returns of average organizations for the same level of expenditure.

This area of "capability development" is more than an efficiency factor, it is a competitive factor.

The PMO exists to ensure the success of all projects — and to ensure too many projects are not undertaken simultaneously, that the projects are 'doable' and will deliver the results envisaged, and that the value proposed is tracked, managed and measured to delivery — both during and after the completion of the project.

Page Break

Project Manager Take Away

Assess your PMO to see what it sees its role as and how it will help (or hinder) you to succeed. (And, how capable it is to perform its adopted role.)

Establish a good working relationship with the PMO so you can rely on their efforts and outputs.

Know which areas you will need to continue manage yourself and plan accordingly. Saying, "They (the PMO) failed," doesn't count for much if the project has failed under your supervision.

To read Jed's last column, Why Projects Fail, Part 11: Poor Organizational Handover , click here

Jed Simms is CIO magazine's weekly project management columnist. Simms, founder of projects and benefits delivery research firm Capability Management, is also the developer of specialized project management and project governance Web site www.project-sponsor.com