After convincing the “powers that be” at your company to change the way in which projects get selected and prioritized, there may be a strong desire to try to immediately introduce a world class set of practices and tools. This temptation may be fueled by the impatience of your leadership team, the utopian desires of project managers and project teams, or some seductive snake oil sold by a particularly persuasive salesperson. Unfortunately, the likelihood of this tactic working is roughly the same as the odds of a toddler being able to successfully drive a car to their daycare.
A common practice in organizations which have achieved a high level of project portfolio management maturity is the use of an objective project scoring model to facilitate project selection and prioritization. Most project portfolio management tools support the ability to capture and report scoring data, and there are myriads of sources (online and hardcopy) of recommendations for the criteria to incorporate into a project scoring model.
Unfortunately, developing a scoring model and having it perceived to be of value and used to facilitate decision-making are two very different things. At best, the prematurely delivered scoring model may be ignored while at worst it may undermine the credibility of the very capabilities which you are trying to introduce.
So what are some of the prerequisites for the successful development and usage of an objective project scoring model?
- An effective governance committee – like any team, a governance committee takes time to get to a performing stage. If you introduce advanced practices such as the use of objective scoring models while the committee is in the norming or storming phases, individual members are likely to pervert the models to fit their own political agendas.
- Engagement of the governance committee in developing the scoring model – like any change, active involvement of those being impacted by the change is critical. The governance committee will be a lot more inclined to champion the usage of a scoring model if they have been heavily involved in its development.
- A consistent, unbiased role to perform project scoring – unless your company has staffed a role to score individual portfolio components, even the most objective scoring model can be gamed by someone (e.g. the executive sponsor) who has an interest in seeing their project get a higher ranking.
- A consistently followed project intake process with almost no incidences of “stealth” projects – objective project prioritization is meaningless if projects are still being initiated and worked on without having gone through the right work authorization steps.
Project portfolio management is more about behavioral change than it is about implementing some processes or tools. It is important to take small steps towards higher levels of maturity balancing the risks of introducing too much change against the seductive lure of inertia.