Key stages in the project portfolio delivery performance improvement journey

Our experience of working with organizations to improve overall delivery suggests that rapid improvements are possible along a path to sustained high performance. 

A typical improvement path often involves four stages, illustrated in the figure below.

The path to delivery excellence

The stages have distinctive characteristics.

  • Gaining control – of the workload, stop work that doesn’t need to be done, set clear accountabilities and implement basic project disciplines – these are first priority for organizations with little structure or consistent poor delivery effectiveness.
  • Improving reliability – target resource bottlenecks, improve project planning and estimating, improve governance, enhance reporting and decision-making – all these with the aim of developing a more cohesive program/portfolio based approach with a track record  and confidence in delivery that in turn lead to more open communications.
  • Improving effectiveness – build capability across all aspects  but with specific focus on resource and financial management – this provides the biggest improvement opportunity as the organization embraces the holistic and interconnected nature of successful delivery.
  • Improving efficiency through continuous improvement – progressively integrate and improve the various practice domains, supporting systems, capabilities and especially open behaviors – these ensure that performance can be optimized and improvements sustained.

To embark on an improvement journey, there are a number of pragmatic considerations to take into account.

In the first instance, gaining an understanding of current performance across each domain will enable a determination of whether improvements in a particular area might make a real difference.  Some elements of relatively immature practice might only need a bit of tweaking to work substantially better and alleviate a major delivery bottleneck. 

In determining the next wave of improvements, consideration of the particular outcomes that are important to the business, such as raising delivery reliability, doing work more cost effectively, or growing internal capability, will focus effort.

It is probably necessary to balance bigger solutions with those that deliver quick results and generate momentum and confidence in delivery. Identifying business opportunities on the horizon – notably large programs and the business planning cycle – can be useful as vehicles for creating improved new ways of working.

The potential benefits achieved through an end-to-end approach that is transparent, objective and credible are substantial, with real improvements apparent in aggregate portfolio value, delivery reliability and utilization of resources.

Tim Pare

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