Startups: Managing the Project Portfolio
Updated: Oct 17, 2018
By Joe Rife
Your team is exceptional and creative but it cannot do everything. Make sure your goals can be achieved with available resources. Think broadly and create purpose for accelerating revenue and reducing costs.
Build your startup culture on shared business goals. Extend your efforts beyond the pool table, beer frig and pizza parties by focusing on consistent business practices that can be easily understood.
Create Consistent Processes
Start by building a procedure to focus on the portfolio of opportunities. Create four or five tests to establish priority. Typical examples are clarity of task and intended results, resource requirements, time frame, revenue/cost implications, impact on other projects… you may have several of your own but keep the list short.
Meet regularly with team members and establish a process that brings activities to the table for discussion. Set an agenda, start on time, lock the door to late comers, focus on goals and control schedule. (30 minutes means 30 minutes)
Create lists of projects and goals. Follow up by allocating a portion of every meeting to testing existing activities. Ensure projects are on track to build the business and create positive results, watch for scope creep and identify unexpected impacts on the project portfolio. When new projects are added, other activities must be reduced or cut entirely.
Run with the Winners
Progress and performance will always be uneven. When winners emerge, review your project portfolio and rebalance as required to accelerate revenue and reduce costs. These choices may never be easy.
Dangerous times arrive when several “winners” emerge at the same time. This happens frequently with startups when a single product concept spawns a whole class of product ideas. Don’t stray from your primary market. Be tough on yourself, pick the leader(s) and focus! Put the others on the shelf.
Cut Losses Quickly
Too often, projects take on momentum without achieving anticipated results. As a startup, you do not have time or resources to nurse activities that appear promising but drift. Set short term objectives, review and act decisively. Stop work on activities that do not show real progress toward their goals.
Learn from Experience
Startup teams build history together and learn to move through these processes quickly. Building and managing a project portfolio is dynamic and there will be many small and large decision points. Allocate time for lessons learned, strive for generality and applicability to future goals.
You may discover times you should invite advisors to join your meetings. Their experience and skills will complement the team in ways that stimulate discussion and resolution. Make this decision based on the situation at hand.
Let it Go!
The world constantly changes and decisions your team makes will always be shaped by events within and outside your organization. Manage your project portfolio prospectively. The future is ahead, don’t look back.