How to Recognize a Troubled Portfolio

Project portfolios are important tools, but they can be hidden sources of trouble and can even doom new projects before they even get off the ground. Developing an accurate, positive project portfolio is important, but it can be harder to do than many might think.
Signs of Portfolio Trouble
There are many different signs of a failing portfolio. For one, if your organization sees more than a 30% failure rate in new projects, chances are good that your portfolio is actually responsible. If the portfolio isn’t supported by upper management, there’s a reason for this (trouble). If there are resource allocation problems, blame your portfolio troubles. Low KPIs can also be signs of trouble in your portfolio. Where do these problems come from, though?
Incorrect Portfolio Management
When an artist builds his or her portfolio, they don’t shove every single piece of art they’ve ever created into the bag and hope against hope that their failures will outweigh their successes. That’s not what a portfolio is for. Artists cherry pick the pieces in their portfolio, showcasing a variety of styles and techniques, media, subject matter and more. Your project portfolio management needs to take a similar tack.
You might think that a troubled portfolio is the result of already troubled projects (and it can be). However, it’s just as likely that your projects are troubled because of problems within the portfolio that gives birth to them. They’re doomed from the outset, so to speak.
Steps of the Portfolio Manager
Your portfolio should have a manager whose responsibility it is to ensure that everything’s managed and organized properly. If this isn’t the case, there’s the majority of your problem right there. What else should a portfolio manager do, though?
First, they should ensure portfolio control and monitoring by providing clear KPIs and outline measurements. They should also determine steps required to approve project investments and define the process and guidelines that directly affect management of the portfolio. Finally, they need to communicate with senior management and get approval for managing the project portfolio. That’s quite a bit of responsibility, but it’s essential.
Building Better Portfolios
There are things that project managers can do to help improve the project portfolio within their organization. One of these is to ensure that all takeaways are clearly outlined and detailed. This applies to all projects, whether they were successful or not. Takeaways embody important knowledge that should be added to the growing pool within the organization to be accessed by other PMs, as well as stakeholders and senior management.
Portfolio managers can also take steps to ensure they build the ideal portfolio. Part of this is identifying and selecting the right projects. As mentioned, not all projects should be included, just as not all works of art are included in an artist’s portfolio. Objective selection and prioritization norms must be chosen to ensure the best possible portfolio for the organization.
With these tips, you should be able to better manage and organize any project portfolio.

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