Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Success secrets of Portfolio Management

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to talk with divisional CIOs of a large consulting firm about my experiences of implementing portfolio management and CIO dashboards. One question from them kind of intrigued me – What it the success secret of portfolio management? Is it a process, tool or people?
I reflected on my previous experiences and stories that I have heard from my colleagues. Many large organizations put in millions of dollars in setting up Portfolio management tool, only to abandon it later for want of value. Almost in every case, the root cause is – lack of quality data and inability to keep up with changes in the data. Garbage in, Garbage out !
So what could be secret for the success? I think, it is simplicity of the solution. Strive for it without compromising the analysis value. More often, the portfolio management exercise often starts with selection of a tool and implementation of that tool. The tool is often comprehensive and offers to capture a whole lot of data and provides numerous reports. The question one should ask – is it worth the value? The first time, you can capture the data, but can you keep with the changes in the data? IMHO, the first step should be to decide what you must see every day, every quarter and during your annual budget exercise. Keep it as simple as possible. Develop a data capture process, simpler tools and governance process around it. Try to integrate tools to your operational systems so as to keep the data entry minimum. For example, get the operational FTE cost by integrating your tools with timesheet systems. Enhance your process and tools over the period in agile way as you start using it.
After a year or so, once you are confident of the captured data and the process, you may want to look at professional portfolio management tools that can act as your repository. That is solely to keep your future maintenance costs minimum and get in-built integration capabilities. It may appear reversed approach as you will need to migrate data to the tools, but trust me, if you know what you want from tools, often it will be simpler exercise to select, setup and maintain tools. Otherwise, tools are sure to overwhelm you and set you in undesired direction.