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Planning the portfolio of activities for 2016

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Planning the portfolio of activities for 2016

The Northern hemisphere experiences fall right now, a nice time of the year, with bright colours and a lot of work to do, e.g. preparing the garden for winter. As the year turns to its end, we try to finish our activities, which often causes “year-end stress”. But we also start thinking – or even planning – ahead. What are the activities in 2016, which projects and programmes do we want to perform. We tend to have a high level of aspiration. Later, during the year we then realize the resource constraints and postpone, re-prioritize or even stop some of the activities. Why not using a method that is well developed? Project portfolio management should be your approach, it is explained in many books and standards, e.g. the ISO 21504 “Project, programme and portfolio management – Guidance on portfolio management” or in Version 4 of the IPMA Individual Competence Baseline.

I would suggest to start with your vision, mission and strategy, ensuring that you align your portfolio of activities with your strategic intent. Are the projects and programmes planned paying into the strategy? If the answer is “No”, it´s time to stop planning and reconsidering EITHER the strategy OR the activities. Furthermore, you should think of your resources. That could be time, funds, know-how, material, people etc. You should also understand, what the critical resources are, we call them “bottlenecks”. For these bottleneck resources you should know when they are planned to be used by the activities and identify potential conflicts. Having this in mind, you could start selecting and prioritising the activities for next year. Besides the strategic fit and the resource availability, also other criteria could be used for selecting and prioritising the activities, such as innovation, fun, risks and many others. It does not mean, that you cannot change the portfolio throughout the year. Developments during the year may cause you to change the portfolio from time to time, at least you know how you composed it and can follow this line later applying the same principles for change.

Finally, the portfolio with its components should be displayed in a roadmap, showing all activities, interdependencies, important milestones as well as start and end. I strongly recommend a visualisation, that could be displayed at your desk or where all people can see it. It helps to focus. Throughout the year you can display the progress, deviations and the results in the roadmap. At the end of the year, you could use the portfolio visualisation for a review, analysing and appreciating the achievements, learning for the next year how to align better your ambitions to reality.

Happy portfolio planning!

- Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.

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