Practical Software Measurement

Three Strategies for Successful 2017 Project Portfolio Planning

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As we move closer to the end of the year, many of us are in planning mode. We’re working hard to determine which development projects are going to get done next year, and which ones may have to wait their turn until 2018.

No one should go it alone, though. Business executives need input from IT managers to truly gauge the feasibility of developing the projects that are on their list. Likewise, IT managers need insight into the expectations of business executives so they can produce the products they need.

That’s what makes project portfolio planning so essential. It brings business stakeholders and IT managers together by allowing them to communicate with each other about needs and expectations, and to find common ground that leads to realistic project estimates that help shape the course of successful development for the next 12 months.

It also helps establish a clear product roadmap. It’s not uncommon for organizations to start out with a long list of “to-do’s” every year, but doing everything is simply unrealistic. Therefore, it’s important to identify and prioritize projects that will bring your company the best ROI and help it meet overall strategic goals over the course of the next year.

Let’s take a look some strategies that you can adopt into your own portfolio planning to help you get your 2017 project planning off to a great start.

Develop detailed scopes for all potential projects.

Having a clear perspective of the scope of every project will help determine the feasibility of those projects for 2017. This includes garnering as much information as possible about the expectations of business stakeholders and the functionality that will be necessary to realize those expectations.

Too often organizations miss the mark on this all-important step. Sometimes they’ll throw out numbers that may not have any real basis in reality, or claim it’s too early in the process to be able to develop a detailed scope. Some may even maintain that estimating is not necessary because they practice agile or lean development methods. These organizations will inevitably struggle to meet their product development goals.

Don’t let your organization fall into this trap. Even if you’re committed to agile practices, scope out projects to the best of your ability. Ballpark project size in small, medium, large, and extra large increments, and measure the data against historical projects to come to a realistic estimated scope.

Prioritize your projects to see what stays – and what goes.

Scoping projects will help you gain a better idea of what’s feasible and what is not given other factors, such as budget, resource considerations, or even historical comparisons to the cost and work associated with previous projects. Use the information you gleaned from the scoping exercise to prioritize your upcoming projects.

Also, consider asking a few questions. Which projects are the most important to our company? Which ones need to be done this year? Are there any that can be pushed off until next year? The answers to each of these will help you determine which projects will be undertaken in 2017.

Make sure you have enough capacity – or make some decisions.

Once you’ve scoped and prioritized, it’s important to make sure the IT demand compares favorably with available IT resources. In some cases, you may find that demand for a particular project is greater than the number of staff actually available to work on that project.

If that’s the case, you’ll need to make some decisions. You may need to move the project to the following year, or stretch out its timeline for completion. Or you may opt to add more resources to the project – bearing in mind that this may require either hiring or taking resources away from a different project.

As you can see, the portfolio planning process requires careful consideration. It’s not as simple as “getting a feel for things” or “developing as we go.” There’s some delicate strategy involved, but it’s an incredibly worthwhile process that can truly help business executives and project managers work together to create successful projects.