With the COVID-19 global pandemic upending life as we know it, organizations face a landscape and a future that is drastically different from what they perceived at the start of 2020. Altered priorities of customers, disruptions throughout the supply chain and new emerging opportunities are causing significant shifts in the corporate strategies in boardrooms across the globe. The goals and objectives of yesterday may no longer be relevant moving forward. This means that the strategic technology portfolio must be evaluated through the lens of the new economy and, where necessary, adjusted to meet the future needs of the organization.
It is the role of the program management office, or PMO, to serve as both a leader and a change champion for the organization as company leaders attempt to navigate the storm of uncertainty and begin reemergence planning. This should include, but not be limited to, facilitating a reset of the corporate strategy, reviewing the existing portfolio against the new baseline and providing a framework for evaluating new opportunities. The PMO should be a trusted partner that works with executives to effectively translate the strategy into a streamlined portfolio focused on digital transformation, core modernization and other strategic technology investments that will prepare the organization for a new future where certainty is anything but guaranteed.
Resetting the Corporate Strategy – Define the Outcomes Needed to Achieve the New Strategy
Analysis and definition of the outcomes expected from the technology portfolio is a foundational step in aligning the technology investments with the revised business strategy. The PMO needs to play an active role in the definition and prioritization of the business imperatives required to address the challenges of the new economy. By utilizing the four steps outlined below, the PMO can guide the organization through this process:
- Define and document the business imperatives that must be addressed to meet the needs of the new economy
- Document the tangible outcomes expected of each business imperative
- Review the imperatives and outcomes with senior leadership
- Formalize and promote the revised business strategy.
It is important to remember the human side when revising the strategic vision of the organization. Establishing and communicating a new common vision that has the support of executive leadership allows all stakeholders to visualize the same future and sets up the PMO for successful execution of projects.
Evaluating the Existing Portfolio – Align the Benefits to the New Strategic Vision
The next step in the process is to assess the current programs and projects in the portfolio to understand whether they align to the updated business imperatives. While the main strategic drivers may not change, the updated outcomes may alter the benefits and value for some of the supporting initiatives. For example, a company may see greater near-term benefits from a digital transformation aimed at improving the customer mobile experience than from an upgrade of the existing accounting system. Due to this, it is a good idea to assess the entire portfolio for alignment.
Below are the steps to take to evaluate the portfolio:
- Portfolio Value Analysis – The first step in evaluating the existing portfolio is to redefine the value proposition for each major initiative. In many cases, this can be a difficult task, as standard, quantitative KPIs may not exist. Utilizing an objective, data-driven framework, the PMO can calm the waters and help the organization recalibrate the stated benefits to align with the new normal. In conversations with stakeholders, the PMO should serve as an unbiased voice providing an objective viewpoint on whether the data supports continuing each initiative.
- Project Health Check/Reexamining the Business Case – Once the organization has a preliminary list of projects with a confirmed value proposition, the PMO should perform a detailed review of each initiative. This review should look at the cost, scope, resource allocation and schedule against the restated value to determine whether the benefits are achievable based on the current health of the project and current level of investment.
- Finalize the Path Forward – Based on the value analysis and the project health check, the PMO should identify the projects that can proceed as originally planned, those that would need to change and those that are no longer aligned to the strategy. It is important to note that this path may not be as linear as it sounds, as we explain below.
Transforming the Portfolio – Execute the Strategy
The nature of the current environment is such that the outcomes of various initiatives may continue to evolve after they have been defined, which means the planning process will be iterative rather than linear and will require continuous evaluation of the portfolio to ensure ongoing alignment with strategic objectives.
To accommodate this uncertainty companies need flexibility and a willingness to embrace change. In a previous blog that presented the U.N.I.T.E. checklist, we introduced the concept of narrowing the planning window. This is an important concept as organizations begin to reemerge and redefine their corporate strategies even as their future state remains in flux. Keeping this flux in mind, PMOs should establish a framework and serve as a change enabler by utilizing agile techniques to expand and contract the portfolio, both now and in the future. Some of those agile techniques include:
- Breaking up larger efforts into smaller projects to realize value sooner and more often
- Narrowing the planning window, leaving room for iterative planning to be responsive to changing priorities and needs
- Embracing a culture of continuous change as strategies and priorities continue to evolve
- Utilizing collaboration technology to build a culture of collaboration through expanded communication and engagement
Even the best-planned projects are executed in an imperfect world. In-flight projects may get reprioritized as the goals of the organization change, resource constraints can limit the project throughput and managing project dependencies will become more complex as the portfolio becomes more dynamic. An effective PMO can help the organization keep focus on the benefits and desired outcomes when constructing the portfolio and serve as an unbiased advisor when revisiting the plan.
Uncertainty and changing requirements have been the hallmark of technology project management since its inception as a discipline. As organizations adapt to the current landscape, the PMO is well positioned to lead the vanguard of strategic change. By utilizing a flexible, disciplined and collaborative approach, the PMO can keep the organization focus on the here and now while establishing a strong foundation for future success.
Protiviti will hold a webinar, How to Reset the Project Portfolio for Reemergence, on May 19. During the webinar, we will share a framework to reset the portfolio, including practical advice and real-world examples that can be readily applied to your own business environment. Register to attend here.