During the implementation of a portfolio management approach for information technology projects at Equant (a few years ago), I noticed that the most important benefits for us were the following ones:
1. The inventory of projects shed light on the number of projects that were asked from IT. Prior to this, the view was fragmented, by business unit or by process. With the inventory, the entire management of the company gained a common visibility of the total picture. This visibility allowed us to force choices amongst the many projects or at least to align and time these based on understood strategic directions.
2. The involvement of the senior management (executive committee) was absolutely key. I think moreover that it is necessary to involve them from the very beginning in the definition of the selection criteria for projects. In my experience, they were: business impact, return on investment, costs, technical and business risks.
3. The evaluation criteria, limited to five, were absolutely essential. These criteria must be simple, non ambiguous, approved by all, presented in a synthetic way, and it is necessary to keep in mind at all times that they are ONLY INDICATORS. The management uses them to decide, with its understanding of the business and strategic stakes, about the opportunity to launch new projects and programs and arbitrations among these.
4. The tools to manage the projects portfolio have some importance but simple Excel files were enough at first. This choice of simplicity saved me from being side tracked by the rich features of this type of software (PPM: Project Portfolio Management).
5. Nothing is won for ever! Changes within the executive committee members, in the business environment, competition, financial situation are as many risks of questioning the selection criteria and the overall portfolio management. Indeed, in times of crisis, the old habbits easily come back and an approach where the loudest (or whomever is in a dominant position) obtains the priority for his/her projects is likely to resurface.
What is your own experience?
I've been leading IT projects for more than 20 years at telecom and computer manufacturers: Thomson Sintra, Digital Equipment, NCR, Nortel Networks, Orange Business Services. My passion is Project Management and leadership and I run a blog on the PM best practices at http://dantotsupm.com/