The final step in the annual planning process is to select the right projects.
Part three of a series.
By this point in the project prioritization process, project ideas have been collected, evaluated and analyzed against qualitative and quantitative criteria.
These analyses have yielded a concise list of projects, informed by facts, supported by a collaborative environment leveraging impartial tools and consistent ratings.
Now, it is decision time, which is easier said than done. Below are some critical items to consider.
The Power of Unbiased Facilitation
As much as we try, selecting the right projects is not achieved by numerical analysis alone. It is an art and a science.
Let’s face it: Decision makers have preferences and personal agendas despite repeated encouragement to “think enterprise.”
The Enterprise PMO must demonstrate neutrality and unbiased facilitation throughout the process. The emotions and natural bias of decision-makers can be managed by defining the process upfront, communicating consistently, and sharing feedback.
Furthermore, good stewards of this process know how to anticipate sources of contention and drama. Engaging decision-makers who express discontent early, especially highly influential ones, is critical to obtaining buy-in and avoiding last-minute derailment of the process.
In summary, the final decision process requires sensitivity and patience with these individuals, carefully balancing it with the goal to achieve the optimal portfolio for the organization.
Tell the Story – Bundling and Sequencing
The power of a strong program office lies in the ability to communicate. Take the extra time to “tell the story” by creating optional points of view. For example:
- Would the organization be best served to take on a riskier portfolio heavily weighted with revenue-generating projects that leverage new, unfamiliar technologies?
- Or, what if the organization has just endured a serious regulatory or ethics breach? What would the portfolio look like with this condition in mind?
This approach provides decision makers the ability to examine different scenarios and determine which combination of projects create the most favorable outcome. When looking holistically across the scenarios, consider the following questions:
- What is the level of disruption across the organization?
- Which options maximize business benefit and impact in general?
- What is the threshold for the amount of change introduced?
- What is the level of risk tolerance?
- Is the option selected a match for your technology infrastructure?
Take the time to tell the full story, looking at the portfolio options through a different lens. This will serve as a sanity check and lead to a final decision with the confidence that every combination has been considered.
Ongoing Portfolio Monitoring and Governance
While the goal is to lead the organization through a structured process ultimately ending in a final decision, the process is not quite finished. It would be a disservice to the organization to stop there without addressing the elephant in the room: What happens when something changes?
A strong process should be defined and widely socialized, applying the same criteria used to select the projects in the first place. Some other recommendations include proactively establishing quarterly communications and using portfolio dashboards to showcase the overall portfolio health and alignment.
Ultimately, this will add to the credibility of the EPMO, mitigating communication gaps or perceptions that the process is just a paper exercise.
The objective of the EPMO during project selection is to identify the optimal portfolio through strong, transparent facilitation that is sensitive to all the decision makers.
In the end, the EPMO will be well-positioned to monitor the health of the portfolio and revisit selected projects in the context of changing priorities and external forces.