This series of papers has been developed from our work in upgrading TenStep's PortfolioStep™. For more information on TenStep's internal consulting methodology, please visit http://

Published here December, 2007.

PART 3 | Tips on Step 1 - Portfolio Setup (Categorization)
Tips on Step 2 - Identify Needs and Opportunities (Identification) 
Tips on Step 3 - Evaluate Options (Evaluation) | Investment Science
Tips on Step 4 - Select the Work (Selection) | Secondary Selection Criteria for Screening | PART 5

Tips on Step 2 - Identify Needs and Opportunities (Identification)

Differentiating Between Needs and Opportunities

"Other Work", as we have already described, encompasses operations and support work necessary to keep things working in the future pretty much the same as they are working today. Projects, on the other hand, have a start and finish and are generally designed to take advantage of opportunities and represent the way an organization builds new capabilities or responds to events in the marketplace.

But projects come in different sizes and, in fact, could be as little as one hour. However, from a practical standpoint, organizations should establish thresholds so that different levels of "ceremony" can be applied, and those "projects" that are so small that they do not warrant any ceremony will be classified as "Other Work". For example, you may decide that any request for a specific piece of work that will take less than 25 hours will definitely be treated as Other Work. If your department is a larger one, that number of hours may be higher. What is "small" to one company may be quite "large" to another.

Of course, if the volume of Other Work such as this is significant and fairly steady, it may be possible to dedicate a group of people to this work. In this case, this group's work would not be included in the portfolio in the first place. Even so, including the group as part of the available resources has its advantages. It provides greater flexibility in the allocation of skills, and more opportunities for the people involved.

The following demonstrates the concept of "project sizing".

  • Support work - Short-run, project-like non-discretionary Other Work necessary to keep normal operational work going, e.g. a discrete task of, say, less than 25 man-hours
  • Small project - A non-complex project involving a relatively small number of man-hours that has some discretion for prioritization, say, 25 to 250 man-hours
  • Medium project - Probably where most projects fit, needs managing but not necessarily full-scale ceremony, say, 250 to 2,500 man-hours
  • Large project - Projects requiring full-scale treatment on account of size and complexity, say, over 2,500 man-hours

Programs can be similarly scaled to suit organizational requirements.

Regulatory and Legal Requirements

From time to time you may encounter projects that are mandatory on regulatory or legal grounds. In this case you will be obligated to assign the necessary resources and schedule the projects during the year. But if any are not urgent, you may not necessarily assign them immediate priority. For example, you may have to modify accounting systems and processes to comply with new standards or guidelines issued by accounting standards groups. Or, you may have to make payroll changes to account for new tax laws changes, or new Human Resource system changes to comply with new collective bargaining terms. None of these are necessarily providing a competitive advantage or building new capability, so perhaps they can be slotted in later in the year's portfolio program.

Tips on Step 1 - Portfolio Setup (Categorization)  Tips on Step 1 - Portfolio Setup (Categorization)

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