Project portfolio delivery – a contrast in effectiveness

In previous articles, we have explored the real drivers of overall delivery effectiveness based on analysis of over 100 responses to our Project Portfolio Delivery Effectiveness diagnostic survey, deployed across a range of sectors in the US and Europe.

Here we look at common characteristics in terms of capability maturity within and between each performance quartile of our respondent base.

The analysis of performance quartiles was based on the aggregate score across outcomes. The highest overall effectiveness scores required high scores against each outcome, the lowest scored poorly across the board, while the 2nd and 3rd quartiles exhibited variability – depending on where they have focused their efforts for improvement

When examining the maturity profiles of the respondent base within each quartile of effectiveness, some stark differences emerge (see figure below).

As expected, the least effective (4th quartile) firms did most things poorly, although the design authority domain was a relative strength. This suggests that even these organizations have recognized the importance of enterprise architecture and the process of design & development and have made in-roads in these areas.

The most significant differences between 3rd and 4th quartile firms were in governance, portfolio and project management. This indicates a focus on conventional areas of improvement.

The essential differences between 2nd and 3rd quartile firms were in workforce, resource and financial management, i.e. the practices concerned with adequate staffing and funding of the portfolio.

The best (1st quartile) performers did everything appreciably better. This suggests that these respondents recognize the inter-relationship of the various practice domains and have focused on getting their organizations to work as a coherent system.

This analysis (highlighting those things that the lower half of the respondents base do not do well), coupled with the findings on the most significant determinants of overall effectiveness (covered in a separate article), enabled us to conclude that two practice domains virtually dictate best-in-class delivery, namely resource and financial management.

Why then, if these two factors are so significant in delivery success, don’t more companies invest more time and effort in improving them?

The answer is likely to be different from company to company, but they are both dependent on the existence of good, up-to-date project information, which highlights the importance of estimating and regular forecasting.

In addition, resources are likely to be distributed across each organization, posing likely organization challenges for a more integrated management approach.

One aspect of this is the clarification of delivery accountabilities between project and resource managers. Too often, project managers have little or no authority and serve as little more than project coordinators. Functional (resource) managers make virtually all the project related decisions and are clearly the power base for project delivery. Changing to a position where project managers have clear and full authority to resolve all the issues they need to in order to deliver their projects, and resource managers actively supply the required resource to, and work in partnership with, project managers, may represent a considerable hurdle to overcome. – Our research indicates it is well worth the effort.

Tim Pare

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