The major work of the portfolio Steering Committee is in selecting, prioritizing and authorizing the portfolio components. However, their job does not end there. They should meet regularly to review the status and progress of the various component categories, assess whether any changes in the mix is warranted and, most importantly, review feedback on the benefits being returned to the organization. They must then decide what to do about those areas of the portfolio that are not meeting expectations.
In other words, they must address the issues associated with verifying the extent to which previous portfolio work is producing the expected benefits - and what to do about them if they don't.
Measuring Business Value of Completed Projects
In most departments, tracking completed work to determine if the business value is being achieved is a missing step. The client department that sponsored the original project should take the lead in capturing the follow-up benefits metrics. However, the Steering Committee may also need to follow-up to make sure that the right metrics are being captured in the right way. Ideally, the specific metrics to capture are those used to justify the project as stated in its Business Case. For example, if the initiative's Business Case projected a business benefit of increased revenue from the product enabler, the revenue derived from that product should be tracked and reported. Alternatively, if the business value was related to decreased costs, then the relative cost reductions should be tracked and reported.
However, the reality is that you cannot always easily segregate the benefits derived from the products produced from individual projects, because they represent enhancements to existing processes. Or they may be a part of a package of projects (a program) that together produce a set of benefits. In these cases it may be necessary to resort to sampling techniques, and/or conduct "Before and After" surveys.
Start Small if Necessary, but Start Somewhere
Gathering metrics is not always easy. Some metrics can be automated, but for many data must be gathered and analyzed manually. Consequently, it is not surprising that many departments skip this area. Alternatively, they make take the easy route and gather numbers that look good but are virtually valueless for purposes of portfolio management. The key is to start small and get better with experience.
Here are some tips for gathering metrics:
- Start by determining the key management aspects of portfolio management that you would like to understand. Of these factors, focus first on the larger ones that provide a sense of how well the production side of portfolio management is being managed. These include measures reflecting how well projects are completing against expectations, how close you are to achieving your portfolio Balance Points and how well you are managing staff capacity.
- When the ideal metrics really are too difficult to collect, find a surrogate measure that will give an approximation. For example, if you cannot directly measure the business value delivered from a particular product, you can at least survey the customers for their perceptions of the product.
- Only gather metrics that cause minimal disruption. Avoid excessive frequency.