When well planned and executed, you can perform project reviews to achieve valuable outcomes. In this blog, we explain how to create and run a successful quarterly review.
In any business, the transition from one quarter to another is the time to make sure you’re still on track to meet the goals you set at the beginning of the year. Setting a meeting, like a quarterly project portfolio review, is essential to gain insight into the progress of your programs and projects while also letting you pivot when needed.
Even though this review is standard practice, we often hear from leaders that the project reviews are painful and ineffective.
We understand why: these reviews can be a heavy lift for your team with seemingly minimal results. You must collect data, often from multiple sources, and sometimes that data is outdated or inaccurate. Once you have the data, you must figure out what to do with it. The typical status-driven approach to your portfolio review meeting doesn’t lend itself to delivering strategy insights. You’ve tried your best, but your review meeting leaves your team feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next.
You need a sure-fire approach to your meeting that actually delivers actionable insights to make well-informed decisions. In this blog, we’ll walk you through how to create and run an effective quarterly project portfolio review.
Know Why You’re Meeting
A quarterly project portfolio review is a data-driven decision-making meeting. It’s not a simple status review, nor should you lead by gut feeling. A quarterly project portfolio review helps you change tactics when needed, so you can quickly adapt, realign and deliver to meet your yearly and long-term goals.
In this review meeting, you need to present the best insights to make informed decisions. You also want to feel armed with clear, relevant data to consider alternative approaches to your processes or goals – should you need or want to make changes to the plan.
This is your chance to adjust your current direction based on active projects and programs within the project portfolio. By the end of the meeting, you should have a future view of your business regarding goals, opportunities and tradeoffs. Additionally, you should discuss critical risks, including resource capacity constraints, system availability and the impact of a newly identified critical project on other projects within the portfolio, to name a few. By being transparent on risks, whether internal, external or execution related, you can identify and discuss impacts on prioritization, timelines and resource allocation.
Know What to Do
When deciding the meeting cadence, less is more. If you overwhelm yourself and your team with data and opportunities to pivot, you probably won’t see consistent results in the data or be able to pinpoint what caused the changes, positive or negative. You should do some portfolio preparation in advance. Establishing cadence and good data execution is key to understanding overall portfolio health. Data you want to gather and have ready includes project or program status (time, scope, budget), critical risks, delivered value and any newly identified projects or programs.
We recommend aligning your project portfolio review with your operational review, as the project portfolio review can provide direct input for your operational review.
Know How to Prepare for the Review
Proper planning and preparation will provide flexibility to your review meeting and allow for any necessary adjustments to the prioritization of projects within the portfolio. Focus on getting customer feedback, recording market and demand changes, and showing the previous quarter’s results. Also, include a review of financials to assess actual costs incurred for each project compared to what you originally budgeted. When developing the project portfolio review agenda, apply a time-boxed approach for each element to allow for time to assess and discuss the data.
Next, translate your key data inputs into the insights that will enable meeting attendees to determine:
- If the prioritization of the projects within the portfolio is still accurate.
- If they need to add any new project (which would cause a shift to the priority of other projects).
- If they need to put a project on hold.
- Which projects teams have completed.
This time is where you can identify opportunities to advance business goals further. Leverage the roadmap you outlined at the top of the year to talk through goals for the next quarter, adjustments, reallocations and dependencies.
If you recommend a change, consider the impacts of that change on your investments, budget, timelines and capacity. Remember, you don’t have to make changes just to make changes. Recommending no change can be equally strategic.
Know When to Ask for Help
Consider training or bringing on a qualified portfolio owner to facilitate your review. You can think of them as business advisors. They can help set a productive tone and give context to the data points and to the meeting itself. They’ll have a big picture view with clear eyes on the finish line.
A great project portfolio owner will avoid micromanagement, but rather they will demonstrate strong listening skills, strong critical thinking, open mindedness to changes, and good influence. They’ll facilitate and steer the conversation, so you can focus on leading your team toward a successful quarter.
A focused and well-prepared quarterly review lets you and your team see progress, align capacity, and determine the right set of projects to execute in the next quarter. A smooth review will also set you up for future success and less headache for your next meeting.