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It is fair to say that 2020 has been a tumultuous year so far. Probably an understatement in fact. Here in Australia we saw the bush fire season cause havoc for many of us. No sooner were the fires out then we found ourselves hurtling headlong into a global pandemic. The consequences of these major, once in a lifetime (hopefully!) disruptions have been hard on many organisations. Ultimately, they have had to press pause on projects or look to rationalise the portfolio to only deliver what is really important.

Portfolio Management

One of the issues we have been seeing in organisations is that it is not always easy to pick out what is really important. Everything is important to someone or you wouldn’t be doing it in the first place. While many organisations try to do portfolio prioritisation in some way, often it is no more than a spreadsheet with prioritisation criteria that has not been universally agreed, certainly not by the Exec team. Tools can be helpful in this space. We work with UK based company, who’s prioritisation tool uses Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) to help you make solid and universally agreed prioritisation decisions. In our view it is the best around, which is why they are the only software vendor we officially partner with. The AHP process has been proven in studies to be one of the best ways to prioritise projects. It really works well.

Regardless of the mechanics of the decision making, the key to success is to have a process which solicits agreement from the executive team on what they see as their priorities. Ideally in alignment with organisational strategy. Only then can you make sound prioritisation decisions. While reducing the number of projects you deliver is one way of saving costs and reducing risk. There is another way.

Project Controls

Through the application of good practice project controls, it is possible to deliver projects while having a firm control on cost, time, scope and risk. We see many clients who are struggling to consistently predict cost and time outcomes, this variability is unwelcome. Particularity in these economic conditions. Projects that are not ‘in control’ make leadership teams (rightly) jittery about committing to more work, particularly during tough times. Now is an excellent time to double down on making sure cost and time outcomes are on target through health checks, assurance gates or to do diagnostic exercises like Post Implementation Reviews.

Many organisations in the IT space have moved to more of an Agile approach in recent years and some of the disciplines around project planning and cost management have fallen to the side. We advocate for a delivery approach that takes agile principles and underpins them with solid project estimating, planning, cost control and risk management. It is absolutely possible to have a delivery model that encompasses some of both!