Once the management team have committed resources to the portfolio of changes that will configure the enterprise to realise its strategic intent, they need to ensure that, as these changes are implemented in projects, the portfolio continues to be optimally configured to realise the strategic intent. This demands:
Careful design to translate strategic objectives into project level actions;
Coordinated management at portfolio, programme, and project levels that stay in lane; and
Management information that enables each management lane to be effective in (1) mandating the lane below; (2) managing its own lane; and (3) reporting to the lane above.
Many enterprises face four distinct challenges:
Introducing portfolio management where only change projects exist;
Developing a strategy that articulates SMART strategic objectives;
Aligning the strategy and the portfolio of change projects; and
Managing the portfolio of change against the strategic objectives and the change projects advance and the future towards which the objectives point deviates from what was planned for.
Whilst the client had embraced Portfolio, Programme and Project Management (P3M), it had had mixed success in brigading myriad projects into programmes and thence into a portfolio. Whilst the client had several experienced Senior Responsible Owners (SROs), they were committed to the highest profile programmes, and were insufficient to cover the full breadth of projects. Furthermore, reporting was largely bespoke to each programme, and holding to account was variable across the enterprise.
Whilst configuring the entire multibillion pound portfolio for P3M would in time be necessary, the intervention had to establish a sound foundation of exemplars, mentoring and guidance.
The objective of the intervention was to tighten the client’s portfolio management in terms of:
Alignment – flowing strategic objectives through programme benefits and outcomes to project outputs;
Diagnosis – discerning the impact on strategic objectives of Threats, Opportunities, Assumptions and Dependences (TOADs) throughout the portfolio;
Optimisation – redirecting resources to better realign the portfolio to the strategic objectives; and
Hold to Account – holding focused "deep dives" into programmes to complement regular reporting.
The intervention applied the design approach of classic P3M to one business unit’s programmes to establish a taut flow of requirement from:
Strategic objectives to the benefits that had to be realised in “Business as usual” for the objectives to be achieved;
Benefits to the outcomes that must first be established for the benefits to be realised; and
Outcomes to the outputs that must first be delivered for the outcomes to be established.
This left an exemplar of the flow from strategic objectives to the projects where change actions are executed. Furthermore, it provided a governance structure that allowed project executives to be held to account for the outputs that would be delivered, SROs for the benefits their programmes were intended to realised, and the Portfolio Director for the achievement of the strategic objectives explicit in the enterprise strategy.
The client was better able to:
Focus on the threats to the strategic intent without the blizzard of project detail;
Keep portfolio, programme, and project management “in lane” with improving efficiency;
Hold the Portfolio Director, SROs and Project Executives to account against their mandates; and
Plot a course of continuous improvement, starting from the exemplars left behind.
With a tight grip on the portfolio, the client was better able to trim the portfolio "in flight", diverting resources from one programme to another and readjusting mandates to optimise the realisation of the strategic intent. Also, as objectives changed, as they inevitably would as the future against which they were set began to emerge differently, the client was better able to advise on further investment or disinvestment in areas of change.