In the background of these steps looms the role of the decision maker, a role that no software can perform. At each phase in a project's life cycle, a reasoned go/no-go decision needs to be made based on the merits of the project as it stands. Money spent is never a reason to continue a project that no longer will add value to the company.
In fact, business-technology executives should consider creating a group with overall portfolio-level responsibility, maybe a program-management office. Such a group should comprise members of IT who interact with each of the business units, as well as representatives from the business units themselves (optimally, people who have decision-making authority).
Furthermore, project managers need to provide project data on an ongoing basis, say, monthly. The nature and timing of the data should be established before turning to elaborate software to manage that data.
Portfolio-management software, then, is like any other app: It can be a powerful tool to organize data for analysis, but it has limitations. Tools deal in quantifiable information; they don't possess the human virtues of discipline, creative thinking, or, most important, decision-making. These are hallmarks of good management and of strategic thinking, and are the essentials of successful portfolio management.
Peter High is president of Metis Strategy LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based boutique consulting firm focused on business and IT strategy. He can be reached at [email protected].
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