Visualizing All the Work in Your Project Portfolio

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Summary:

Regarding project portfolios, it can be a big problem for clients to see all the work. Some clients have multiple kinds of projects, so they want to show their work in a variety of ways. Johanna Rothman describes some helpful ways to display the work being done.

I’ve been talking to a variety of potential clients about their project portfolios. One of the big problems is how to see all the work. Some of these folks have multiple kinds of projects, so they want to show their work in a variety of ways.

What do you do when you have a few big projects and a ton of small projects, such as several clients of mine have? I have an IT client and a couple of R&D clients with this problem. I’ll take an R&D client as an example.

They have big projects that they want to show in a calendar-like fashion so their management can see how the majority of their time is spent, just as in the image to the left. In this case, the project rank is implicit. And, they have many small projects that come into their group by email, by conversation, by randomness.

I suggested they need to visualize the work, so someone can rank the work. One of these clients is an engineering firm, who has a electrical engineering group, a software group, and a mechanical engineering group. We think a kanban board is a good first step, so this is what we set up.

This board would be great if they had someone to rank the backlog. They don’t right now. The people who keep asking R&D to do these small projects are all over the organization: sales, marketing, support, senior management, training. There is no one person who is willing to take on the role of ranking the backlog.

These folks are not alone. The good news is that more and more people are coming to me, wanting help with their project portfolios. The bad news is that their organizations are not yet willing to make the strategic decisions about which projects to do and not do.

Visualizing the work is a necessary first step. Once you see that there is more work than an engineering or R&D group can do, you see the need to make the decisions. Then you can ask the zeroth question, “Should we do this project all?” If the answer is yes, go ask the qualitative questions and quantitative questions.

If you don’t collect the work, you can’t see the work. If you can’t see the work, you can’t rank the work. You can’t make good project portfolio decisions if you don’t collect the work.

By the way, my participants at the workshop in Sao Paulo will be the first to hear everything about how to integrate the two kinds of boards, calendar and kanban in their organizations. I bet you wish you would be there.

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