Improving the portfolio of a global insurance company

Continuing with our series of real life track record articles illustrating how delivery reliability is built on a systematic improvement of the basic project management processes, I elaborate this week on portfolio management.

 With its IT shop facing declining customer satisfaction, the client needed to refocus its efforts to align with the changing needs of the business.  PA worked with the client to increase the alignment between selected projects and customer needs, and to standardize/improve its delivery of projects.

 Portfolio management is the definition of ‘what’ the organization should do to deliver strategy and policy through project investments – balancing risk, return and resource constraints. This requires focusing on the portfolio by:

  • ensuring strategic alignment – the clear articulation of business objectives with quantified targets – both financial and operational – against which candidate projects are appraised.
  • prioritizing and selection – the definition of the project portfolio – as part of the strategic planning process – to meet business improvement targets within applicable constraints.
  • portfolio monitoring and refinement – the on-going adaptation of the project portfolio – in light of progress, changes and new opportunities – to optimize projected outcomes and maintain strategic relevance

 Portfolio management as our research (see our article at Project portfolio delivery – a contrast in effectiveness) has shown, is an integrating practice which if addressed together with the design authority, governance and workforce management practices, will add demonstrable value to the delivery reliability of the portfolio.

What we found

  • Changing customer needs were poorly understood and services were not actively aligned to business requirements
  • Transformation projects were implemented without an understanding of their relationship to business priorities or their impact on other change projects
  • Business cases were not required or developed on a project basis and there existed no process for approval/sign-off
  • Processes for controlling project scope, budget and benefits were developed only on a project-by-project, ad hoc basis
  • Relationship with external partners was ineffective, lacked meaningful and/or dynamic SLA’s to incentivize meeting customer needs

What we did

  • Developed and deployed a survey-based diagnostic to understand customer needs, expectations and overall satisfaction
  • Employed a one page strategic review to articulate strategic goals and understand how initiative contributed thereto (as an aid in initiative prioritization)
  • Formalized requirements and sign-off processes for key documents, including business case and project definition
  • Implemented revised processes for project assurance including reporting, change control, and budget reviews
  • Identified a revised management framework to ensure satisfactory service provision through the outsourcing contract

What was achieved?

  • A dynamic understanding of customer needs now drives the selection and prioritization of transformation initiatives
  • Standardized business cases are developed, approved and revised for each potential initiative
  • Project spend and benefits are tracked through periodic reviews, which constitute key milestones in the project process
  • Project personnel are trained in standardized processes that incorporate best practice, specific needs and lessons learned
  • Management of external partners through dynamic SLA’s aimed at encouraging meeting of customer needs

 Paying attention to these practices really does improve delivery reliability.

 What experiences have you had where improving the portfolio improved overall delivery reliability?

 John Hall

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