Portfolio Administration Assembly Cadence – A Dialog with Ken Dobie – PDWare

I first met Ken Dobie on the Useful resource Planning Summit in Austin, Texas a number of years again. Ken is the CEO of Skyemar Consulting, a technique and undertaking portfolio administration consulting agency, and was one of many presenters.

On the occasion, Ken spoke eloquently and clearly, providing a sensible blueprint for a advisable cadence for strategic and portfolio planning conferences, a subject typically elusive to firms making an attempt to mature in portfolio administration.

Ken and I had an opportunity to speak briefly and he was gracious sufficient to supply an interview on the topic.

Ken Dobie Project Portfolio Management via pdware resource management software company

(Be aware: I initially revealed this interview a number of years in the past but it surely was archived, so I’m posting it once more. Moreover, the knowledge is simply as legitimate immediately, and something value posting is value reposting!)

JM: Ken, your presentation on the Useful resource Planning Summit, sponsored by PDWare, supplied a sensible blueprint for company planning and portfolio administration conferences, and I assumed our readers may benefit from a number of the insights.

First, as we all know, firms have historically held annual strategic and working planning conferences, and maybe quarterly evaluations, however the pattern appears to be towards a extra frequent, cascading set of conferences overlaying technique, operations, useful resource planning, and prioritization. I do know you spoke about this on the occasion. Might you provide a excessive degree view of what assortment of conferences you are feeling is the “candy spot” and what the cadence must be?

KD: Sure, I consider an optimum company planning course of ought to embody three distinct but linked goals.

The primary is an annual strategic planning course of involving senior administration to develop high-level priorities, all issues thought-about, articulated in a strategic plan doc.

Second, tactical priorities from the strategic plan are translated into company objectives aligned with the highest objectives of senior administration and cascaded all through the group. These objectives are ready on an annual foundation and reviewed quarterly at an applicable high-level enterprise evaluation discussion board.

Third, new product improvement roadmaps must be drafted on an annual foundation aligned to general company technique, whereas prioritization and allocation of sources must be managed quarterly in a devoted high-level discussion board. Relying on the dimensions and complexity of the product improvement pipeline, month-to-month portfolio evaluations present the chance for extra granular administration of points that inevitably come up.

The capabilities outlined above is loads, however it may be developed and applied in a modular trend, assuming before everything that senior administration is purchased into the worth and able to make investments the mandatory time and sources.

JM: So we’re speaking annual strategic and product roadmap planning; tactical operational planning tied to the general objectives; quarterly prioritization and useful resource allocation; and month-to-month portfolio evaluations. I’ve even seen firms maintain granular evaluations bi-weekly to handle exceptions. In fact, folks generally complain that the portfolio evaluation conferences really feel like “groundhog day,” the place they revisit the identical checklist of tasks and points at each assembly, however that’s one other story we are able to discuss later. First, do you have got any suggestions as to probably the most environment friendly option to run the quarterly portfolio evaluation conferences?

KD: Quarterly portfolio evaluations must be restricted to presentation of ongoing tasks that warrant dialogue and new tasks awaiting prioritization within the coming quarter. Keep away from any common updates on tasks which can be operating fantastic and don’t warrant dialogue – this simply wastes time and dilutes the main focus. This manner every little thing is recent and pertinent.

JM: It takes fairly bit simply to maintain that target prioritization and sources. Persons are tempted to throw every little thing however the kitchen sink into these conferences.

KD: They should keep away from that. A quarterly portfolio administration assembly tasked with prioritization and useful resource allocation is difficult sufficient, typically involving in depth (and generally passionate) debate and requires appreciable pre-work to arrange. These quarterly conferences can take 2-plus hours as it’s, involving heavy hitters all through the group, dependent after all on the corporate and portfolio measurement. I all the time suggest that these quarterly conferences be restricted to the subject of prioritization and useful resource allocation – that in itself is large.

JM: Completely. What concerning the move of the assembly? Do you see any greatest practices?

KD: The quarterly conferences ought to ideally start with an summary of the full portfolio standing from a centralized operate, with an emphasis on the full useful resource provide/demand mannequin. This may be adopted by every enterprise space presenting:

  1. a abstract of their present undertaking priorities primarily based on a set of metrics, and
  2. their subset of the tasks [ongoing and new] warranting dialogue.

The final a part of the assembly ought to contain some type of dynamic portfolio modelling primarily based on undertaking priorities and useful resource allocation to reach at a balanced useful resource provide/demand state of affairs. It will contain some tasks being prioritized, with others receiving much less sources or deferred till sources turn into obtainable. A profitable end result of those quarterly evaluations is settlement on priorities with sustainable useful resource allocation.

JM: This makes good sense, particularly limiting dialogue to objects needing choices and new tasks awaiting prioritization within the context of the general portfolio. And except you have got the massive image of the entire provide/demand mannequin, it’s arduous to make on-the-spot choices. I’m glad you talked about together with all companies areas, so tradeoffs will be mentioned proper there as wanted.

KD: Completely. That’s precisely the aim of the quarterly evaluations, together with useful resource allocation. Normally, a company’s improvement pipeline contains tasks from a couple of enterprise space. It’s as much as every enterprise space to prioritize their very own tasks which is coordinated through an annual portfolio road-map planning course of. And often a company has some or principally shared sources throughout enterprise areas. Therefore, a quarterly portfolio prioritization and useful resource allocation discussion board is important to prioritize tasks inside and throughout enterprise areas and to handle the allocation of sources.

JM: These conferences can get fairly contentious.

KD: Sure they will. In terms of the quarterly conferences the place useful resource constraints often should be managed throughout enterprise areas, every GM could make their case for his or her respective tasks and priorities. However this discussion board is the place company priorities are set, so enterprise areas might need their priorities adjusted (although it’s not all that frequent). Extra doubtless, they gained’t get as many tasks into the pipeline as they’d want as a consequence of competing forces.

JM: I believe organizations have to comprehend that capability is all the time finite, apart from minor workers augmentation, so what they actually should concentrate on is demand prioritization, which is commonly a tough capsule to swallow.

Okay, so we talked concerning the quarterly conferences. The place do you discover the month-to-month evaluations most helpful? How would you say they differ from the quarterly conferences, as an example?

KD: Month-to-month portfolio evaluation conferences are helpful for organizations with a big and sophisticated improvement pipeline. Whereas the aim of the quarterly evaluations is targeted on undertaking prioritization [within and across business areas] and useful resource allocation, month-to-month evaluations present a discussion board for extra granular administration of project-specific points like:

  • Is the undertaking getting adequate sources to satisfy specs or timeline?
  • Are there technical challenges warranting dialogue?
  • Is the schedule on observe?
  • Is this system inside funds or has the income forecast modified?
  • Is the business group prepared for launch?

The month-to-month portfolio conferences are additionally helpful for sure housekeeping actions, like making enterprise space leads converse to any new tasks that will have been created, figuring out tasks overdue for a section exit evaluation, tasks which can be overdue to exit the event pipeline, and evaluation of motion objects from the earlier month-to-month assembly.

Whereas the month-to-month evaluations assist handle the portfolio, this course of is separate from core project-specific deep dive phase-gate evaluations that may happen weekly for tasks within the pipeline prepared for section exit evaluation. So, quarterly, month-to-month and weekly boards have completely different functions.

JM: So that you’re saying they’re extra tactical and exception-based, zeroing in on undertaking points for essential tasks, which can additionally embody useful resource points. That jives with what I’ve seen as effectively, although I do see a pattern towards doing interim prioritization and useful resource allocation changes on the month-to-month conferences as effectively, and even biweekly as I discussed, but it surely relies on the dimensions and complexity of the group. I believe the important thing right here in any case is to not get slowed down in undertaking particulars. For that, there are the undertaking and program steering conferences and gate evaluations, such as you point out, which can floor useful resource problems with their very own.

KD: Sure, and in lots of instances it could actually take as much as an hour simply to run a stage gate or steering assembly effectively and entails a deep dive into the core staff’s diligence and plenty of facets of undertaking (and even product) administration. Typically useful resource and different points do come up, and these will be both dealt with or represented as wanted within the subsequent portfolio evaluation.

JM: So both manner, there’s a component of stage gate assembly choices that will get deferred to the portfolio evaluation conferences, but it surely’s exception-based. A criticism I typically hear is that ready for the following evaluation causes delays.

KD: A counter argument is that it might certainly trigger delays, however in actuality the folks sitting on the desk for a undertaking section exit evaluation are sometimes the identical folks on the quarterly portfolio evaluation. So, some choices will be made on the stage gate assembly, however others would wish to attend for the portfolio evaluation.

JM: That appears like a sensible strategy. Okay, so we’ve talked concerning the annual, quarterly, and month-to-month conferences and the way they differ. Now let’s discuss ways for a minute relating to the quarterly prioritization evaluations, realizing that there might also be mid-cycle precedence changes as wanted. In any case, with regards to prioritizing tasks, do you suggest rating 1-n each undertaking within the portfolio, or do you are feeling it’s higher to have banded priorities and solely go to the sequential 1-n degree for a focused group (perhaps the highest ten or the place there are conflicts)? I’ve seen instances made for each, however the latter has all the time appeared extra environment friendly in most cases.

KD: It relies on the variety of tasks. For instance, if there have been simply 5 – 10 tasks then I believe a bunch of executives would have an affordable probability at agreeing on a granular prioritized checklist. Nevertheless, if there are greater than 10 tasks, granular prioritization will turn into tougher. As a substitute, I’ve discovered it extraordinarily helpful to divide the event pipeline into 4 ranges of precedence.

The primary are the highest tasks that everybody agrees should get performed and warrant allocation of the sources they should meet undertaking specs and the event timeline. These are tasks with important forecasted income and/or influence on execution of the group’s mission.

The second group are tasks which can be thought-about essential, however, in a crunch, they could expertise some useful resource tradeoffs in favor of tasks within the high tier.

The third tier are decrease precedence tasks wherein any delay is not going to have as a lot of an impact on the execution of the general company technique and due to this fact there’s extra flexibility within the improvement timeline.

The fourth tier are tasks that will get deferred or delayed if sources are restricted.

The 4 definitions above are illustrative and will be tailor-made to a company’s choice – the primary level is that some type of bucketing into undertaking precedence teams may be very helpful for practical managers to prioritize their sources appropriately.

In abstract, for a enterprise space with a number of tasks, granular prioritization is suitable to justify sources. On the portfolio degree, the place a number of enterprise areas and shared sources are concerned, a tiered strategy works effectively.

JM: Ken, thanks. That’s a practical mannequin to observe and permits specializing in teams of priorities strategically, and extra granular prioritization the place wanted. Any final phrases of recommendation?

KD: For these new to this, they need to remember the fact that it might appear overwhelming with respect to layers and nuance, however Rome wasn’t inbuilt a day, and what I’m describing are processes developed and refined over years that may scale to assist a multi-billion greenback group comprising a number of enterprise areas. For anybody taking this on I like to recommend a modular strategy addressing the low hanging fruit first.

When performed effectively, these processes add great worth to a company’s capability to execute and generally is a aggressive benefit. Given the funding of time wanted to design and implement the above, and the worth of getting an efficient portfolio administration course of in place, I additionally suggest using some skilled outdoors council to assist catalyze and implement any essential evolution.

JM: That’s sound recommendation for positive, retaining issues easy and maturing from there, and naturally having skilled steerage. I believe a key takeaway right here is that steady planning, whereas essential, isn’t about repeating the identical course of extra regularly. It’s about adopting a correct cadence, with every tier having an outlined function, and having every tier work in an built-in trend.

KD: Sure, that’s precisely the purpose.

JM: Ken, this has been extraordinarily enlightening, as I knew it could be. I recognize your time. I believe this may deliver nice worth to our readers, because it’s a perennial subject of curiosity.

KD: You’re fairly welcome.

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