Project portfolio management is no doubt important, but equally important are good planning and estimating prior to launching each project, says Joe Zucchero, executive vice president of The Casey Group, a consulting firm that has built a specific practice around project management called "Project Turnaround." Because so many companies don't manage individual projects properly, which are part of their entire portfolios, Zucchero often is called in to rescue firms as their initiatives spiral out of control.
He notes that there are several tools on the market that can help institutions estimate the cost of a project and the time it will take to complete it. However, more important than the tools are the data that is input into them. Zucchero advises all project managers to start capturing actual information on current projects - such as how long certain tasks have taken and how much they cost. This historical data will become key to estimating the cost and length of future projects more accurately.
"And you can't just use 'best case scenario,'" Zucchero warns. "That's equivalent to saying you're going to drive across the country on Route 66 and hit every green light. It doesn't happen." He adds that firms need to assess their risks as part of the preparation for each project and create a best case, worst case and most likely case. If there is a large gap between each, that means there are a lot of unknowns or risks that need to be assessed, he notes. At that point, values have to be assigned to the risks to determine how they might affect the overall plan.
Zucchero emphasizes that project portfolio management is a step in the right direction, but before a firm can manage the entire portfolio, it has to make sure each individual project is managed efficiently.