Stephen O’Connor, an Associate Director within Paragon's Corporate & Enterprise domain, leads the company’s Enterprise Portfolio Management (EPM) Practice, including Microsoft Project Server offerings. Stephen shares his thoughts, expertise and applied knowledge on optimizing Project Server.
In my previous installment of this blog series, we focused on how to prioritize business drivers within Project Server in support of the portfolio analysis module. We discussed why business drivers require thresholds in order to rate your proposed projects and how these drivers can be compared against one another to determine which drivers are more important to the organization.
In this, final post, we will cover how to run a portfolio cost analysis to determine the optimal mix of projects to be executed within the portfolio. In order to do so we will review the following steps:
- Capturing your ideas or proposals in the platform
- Establishing Project Dependencies for the analysis
- Portfolio Analysis Configuration
Keeping Track of Incoming Demand
Project Server 2013 and later enables your organization to capture demand as potential projects directly into Project Server or via a SharePoint list that is connected to Project Server.
Start by creating a SharePoint list within your Project Server environment with criteria that matches your Project Server Custom fields. Ensure that this list captures the minimal information you require to manage demands. You will want to capture information such as department, owner, strategic value and proposed cost of the proposal.
List items, or ideas, can then be “promoted” to Projects in Project Server. This promotion will create a project, or proposal, for you to perform the analysis on.
Custom fields in your SharePoint list can be mapped to Enterprise Custom fields in Project Server providing you with consistent information from ideation to project completion.
Project Server also gives you the ability to select which Enterprise Project Type (EPT) you are using to create these projects. Different EPTs can serve different purposes in your organization separating information between departments for instance.Alternatively, projects or proposals can be added directly to Project Server using Project Professional or the Project Web App (PWA) interface.
Linking Projects Together for Analysis
Portfolio Analysis within Project Server allows you to add some additional logic into the calculation linking projects together using four criteria:
- Dependency – Ensures that if the first project is selected all other projects in the grouping must be selected also; useful for managing programs.
- Mutual Inclusion – Similar to dependency this groups projects so that if one of the projects in the group is selected all other projects would be selected; the difference between this and dependency is that any project can be selected to bring in the group.
- Mutual Exclusion – The opposite of Mutual Inclusion ensuring that if you pick one of the projects within the group no other project is selected; useful for evaluating competing projects.
- Finish to Start – Sets up the projects in chronological order so that the first project must complete before the second; useful in resource analysis for spreading the work out over time.
Setting up the Analysis
Performing the Analysis requires a few configuration steps that can vary each time you want to review the portfolio. This flexibility enables you to look at things from different perspectives in order to make the best decision.
- Analysis can be performed against a specific project department or the entire organization
- A prioritization must be associated with the analysis or you can use a priority custom field; the custom field approach may be a quick an easy way to run an analysis but it is less arcuate.
- Each analysis can select up to 800 projects but usually you want to keep this to a lower number of 200 or less
- A cost field is required to do a cost analysis and alternatively a resource field must be used for a resource analysis
These properties provide your organization with the flexibility to analyze your portfolio in a manner that works for you instead of you trying to conform to the tool.
Next the projects must be evaluated against the business drivers. This work may already be done if you are populating this information as ideas flow into the system. A Project Details Page (PDP) may be setup to capture the strategic value of a project. This screen however provides you with an override method or alternate means of capturing this information. It can be done via a workshop or handled offline and input on this screen. The data here is only saved with the current Analysis.
Once the Projects or proposals are mapped to the business drivers their weighting is calculated. The percentages on this screen are calculated using the business driver weightings and the weighting of how that project maps to the driver. These percentages represent the strategic value your organization receives by executing this project.
The cost analyzation screen is the part of the process everyone has been waiting for. Here Project Server is showing us that if we executed all of our projects it would cost us $3.99M and we would get 100% of our strategic value.
The problem is real life gets in the way. We may only have a budget of $2.5M, so which projects do we select?
When we change our cost constraint to $2.5M Project Server recalculates the optimal mix of our projects producing a new scenario where two projects are moved out to meet the new budget. These projects reduce our strategic value by ~11% and we now see that by executing the remaining 7 projects we get almost 89% of our strategic value.
This powerful tool provides you with objective reasoning as to how to select projects for your portfolio based on the data you input into the system. You can also override the tool by forcing projects in or out of the analysis based upon outside forces (e.g., Executive Pet Project, Regulatory project, etc.)
After all of the anslysis is complete the system allows you to committ the portfolio to link this to the execution of your projects. Committing to a Portfolio scenario modifies up to six specific fields and starts the organization’s project management processes. These values are now present in the database to perform variance reporting and benefits realization activities later in the project lifecycle.
- Committed Planned End Date
- Committed Planned Start Date
- Committed Portfolio Selection Decision (Cost)
- Committed Portfolio Selection Decision (Schedule)
- Committed Portfolio Selection Decision Date (Cost)
- Committed Portfolio Selection Decision Date (Schedule)
This process takes subjective data and provides you with an objective analysis of your optimal portfolio mix. As with any tool out there it is a guide and should be reviewed, critiqued and adjusted as your organization changes and matures.