Resource Portfolio Management: Managing your project portfolio for predictable and consistent results
by Brandon Maraglia
Starting is easy, finishing is hard. Is your organization experiencing a clogged project pipeline that is consistently unable to deliver projects on schedule? Do some of the following symptoms resonate with you?
- A proliferation of new projects that start but rarely finish on time
- Project timelines that continuously slide to the right
- Resources that are “committed” to projects but are too busy to participate
- Project plans that overcommit the same key people across a range of projects
- Functional leaders unsure which project(s) their team is supporting (and not supporting)
- Projects that were never funded or approved but continue to pull resources away
Resource Portfolio Management is an organizational capability needed to help solve these problems. Projects must be coordinated and managed as a portfolio, ensuring that interconnected resources are allocated to the highest priority efforts and not overburdened by lazy management practices.
Guiding principles of Resource Portfolio Management:
- Resources are finite and known – Each person at your company has specific skills and a fixed amount of time to contribute to projects.
- Project demand is deterministic – Successful project completion will require a finite amount of time from a specific set of resources / skills. Prior to detailed project planning by a Core Team, leadership can use their experience to develop a rough-cut resource demand against a timeline.
- Leadership has decision rights… and responsibilities – Leaders must prioritize the company’s most important opportunities and eliminate or postpone the rest.
Institutionalizing these principles will translate to maximizing on-time project execution and eliminating unnecessary costs that reduce project ROI. To achieve predictable project completion an organization must regularly conduct a quantitative Resource Portfolio Management analysis. This process identifies staffing over-subscription and enables data-driven decision making to manage projects successfully.
Basic Mechanics and Critical Challenges of the Resource Portfolio Management process:
- Take a complete inventory of projects: All current and future projects’ resource needs should be mapped against time to produce a comprehensive understanding of resource constraints. Depending on the organization’s structure / size it may be difficult to aggregate a truly comprehensive list and supporting plans. Any effort left uncaptured will create a resource drain impacting other projects that utilize similar resources.
- Estimate project resource demand: Resource needs should be compiled for projects based on skillsets needed against a timeline. If a detailed plan does not exist, then resources can be estimated based on experience. When estimating resources ensure there is balance between having enough granularity to differentiate critical skills but coarse enough to drive practical project planning. Project evaluators should have domain expertise and cross-functional knowledge to properly assess the resource skills needed.
- Assess resource supply / capacity: Examine capacity for each functional organization contributing critical project resources. For each skillset detail the Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) headcount capacity available for project work. Account for available time shrinkage for each person to conduct non-project activities (meetings, admin, vacation, etc.). The aggregate skill-set buckets should not exceed roughly a dozen categories and should be mappable to the project demand skillset buckets used during project demand estimation.
- Complete project supply & demand analysis: Combining the supply and demand data will produce a visualization map that highlights where the project portfolio has over-subscribed resources (example shown in Figure 1).Figure 1: Project Portfolio Resource & Demand
- Conduct critical decision making and manage the cut-line: The resource supply and demand data will identify project conflicts that require decision-making to balance the portfolio. Table 1 illustrates common portfolio insights and analysis.
Table 1: Portfolio Management & Analysis
Summary of Resource Portfolio Management Benefits:
- Company-wide project prioritization – Single source of truth characterizing company’s project priorities
- Cross-functional planning and enhanced team communication
- Reduced resource collisions – Project resource risks are mitigated before projects are compromised
- Enhanced leadership visibility translates into increased accountability with project executors
IT Software Solutions
After key people are trained on a well-functioning process then software solutions can be leveraged to further institutionalize Resource Portfolio Management. There are many off-the-shelf software packages available, each designed to facilitate centralized data inputs, aggregation, and analysis. This capability is even more valuable for geographically distributed organizations. All software tools should be carefully evaluated against business and user requirements to ensure integration and adoption within a given organizational ecosystem.
The process of combining and analyzing project supply and demand is an iterative one. The project portfolio will continue to evolve. After negotiation of priorities and resources, what remains is a sound project and resource plan. It enables the company’s leaders to quantitatively evaluate what the company can commit too and how to best utilize finite resources to maximize project output (productivity) and throughput (speed to market). Resource Portfolio Management is a critical organizational capability, without it your company’s execution will be inconsistent, with it you will have a distinct competitive advantage.
About the Author
Brandon Maraglia has more than 10 years of experience in Product and Operations Management across Life Science and Medical Device Industries. Mr. Maraglia has earned his BS from UC Santa Barbara, MS from UC Riverside, and MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management.
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