Doing the Right Project vs. Doing the Project Right

Managing your portfolio of projects in these challenging times isn’t easy. Turbulent economic factors, increased competition and limited resources have stressed the importance of effective, efficient project management.

What does that mean exactly?  It means that how you judge the effectiveness of your projects needs to shift.  It also means that completing a project within its scope of objectives may not quite cut it anymore.  Successfully accomplishing a project can no longer be the benchmark for your portfolio.  It needs to be more specific than that.  Focusing on the right project needs to be the new focus.

The Risk of Wasting Project Time and Resources

Resources are too scarce, and the risks are also too great to squander time and money on projects that don’t or won’t deliver a significant benefit to your organizational goals.  “When economic conditions become more challenging, uncertainty increases and organizations have fewer resources to invest in new business projects and programs,” said Prof. John Ward of the Cranfield School of Management.  So those peripheral projects need to be reeled in, allowing your resources to more directly impact your organization’s strategy. 

Think of a project as the quarterback on a football team.  Based on your team’s opportunities and existing infrastructure or marketplace position, each project will have distinct implications.  Similarly, a football team will already have players, coaches, schemes and styles in place.  For example, a team looking forward to drafting a highly touted quarterback (new project) will have to consider what his impact will be on their goals.  A pocket passing, stationary quarterback isn’t going to fit in an rush oriented offensive scheme with young receivers.  However, history has shown that many teams will draft the best player available without factoring in whether the player’s strengths line-up with the team’s overall system.  Unfortunately, when this happens, the risk involved and resources required to make this a successful endeavor are very steep.  Most importantly, making these unaligned decisions does not support the core strategy the team has previously established.  The same philosophy is true for your projects. As you implement new objectives, they need to support what you already have in place and must have a positive impact on your organization’s future progression.

Transitioning Strategies When Managing Project Planning

This strategy isn’t the easiest transition to make in your project planning.  It requires much tougher decision making on the front end, when timely, relevant information is at its scarcest.  However, by doing your due diligence upfront, there is a greater chance the organization will see a positive return.  An Aberdeen Group study shows that with project portfolio management leveraged in the front end decision process, projects are 52% more likely to hit their expected ROI.  This of course is an ever evolving process.  Establishing a variety of criteria by which to prioritize these decisions is vital.  And, the decisions need to be fluid as to move with changing business conditions. 

Back to the gridiron, as variables within a team change, (i.e. head coach, general manager, coordinators) so do the team’s opportunities.  When a change in the offensive coordinator occurs, the quarterback that was not such a good fit to the team two years ago may be a more attractive fit to the offensive system today.  If the organization would have drafted the quarterback two years ago, it would not have the right “project”.  However, trading or picking him today would be the right choice, because it is aligned with the new offensive strategy. In Project Portfolio Management, your organization cannot settle for just doing projects right. Rather, it needs to focus on doing the right projects.

Using your organizational strategy to drive project investments is going to protect your resources, mitigate risk and pay bigger dividends.  The focus of all members of the organization should be driven by the need to achieve common organizational goals. Identifying what projects to pursue through a tactical approach can harmonize your entire portfolio and directly impact enterprise objectives of the entire organization. 

IMS, a project management firm based in Dallas, understands that managing your portfolio of projects in these challenging times isn’t easy.  Simply managing a project to completion is not a viable route to take these days.  Organizations must choose the right projects.