Whiteboard: How to Manage a Portfolio of Projects

Imagine this: as you wait for your flight at an airport lounge you hear an announcement, “Attention passengers, all flights are delayed today, and some will be canceled. We are experiencing management difficulties—running an airline is more complicated than we thought! We cannot give you any gate, arrival or departure information. We aren’t sure our pilots are qualified, or if our airplanes can actually fly. In fact, we don’t know if it’s worth our while to fly to your final destination. We apologize for any inconvenience our inability to run an airline may cause.” it sounds like a monty python skit, but in fact, many IT professionals and users play a similar scene daily. IT executives manage a multitude of projects, but all too often they don’t know how many projects are in progress, their true status, whether they fit their company’s current strategy, and if their organization has the resources to support them—let alone any new projects. Companies are adopting the concept of “Project portfolio management”—grouping and managing projects as a portfolio of investments—to track and organize their it initiatives. The following whiteboard by project management expert Gopal K. Kapur presents such a framework. It lets CIOs see both the trees and the forest: on one hand, it shows CIOs how to evaluate, select and track individual projects as they move from initial idea through planning, development and rollout; on the other, it offers a bird’s-eye view of all current projects and their status in an enterprise. The whiteboard organizes projects into portfolios by their complexity—a good way to visualize risk—and provides a tool for assessing a project’s business and technical complexity. In addition, the whiteboard sets forth the work that should be done at each stage of a project’s life cycle, and indicates the key questions that should be asked as projects move from one stage to another. While this whiteboard does not provide decision-making mechanisms for each stage in a project’s journey to completion, CIOs can use it to establish their own process and guidelines for managing a portfolio of projects.

The whiteboard comprises four PDF pages that can be printed out on standard 8.5″ X 11″ paper. Download now. After printing the pages, arrange the segments to fashion the whiteboard. You can also download a single-page whiteboard, suitable for screen viewing, or printing on poster board.

Gopal K. Kapur is the president and founder of the Center for Project Management in San Ramon, Calif. (www.center4pm.com).

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