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A project portfolio can only succeed when it’s tied to a defined strategic plan.
BY ROBERTO TOLEDO, MBA, PMP, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
Projects are a means to a strategic end: Every one should support and be aligned with an organization’s strategic intent. Project managers must understand this simple, yet
powerful idea to ensure they go beyond their project’s
goal to achieve strategic objectives.
Best practices suggest that the strategic plan must
detail the objectives that will help the organization
achieve its mission and vision. Those might include
developing new products, expanding markets, reducing
operating costs, improving customer care or automating
processes, to name a few.
Each strategic plan is as unique as the organization
that creates it, but all should include standard elements
such as the company’s mission, vision and values. There
should also be a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.
specific operational goals—translating the strategy into
a portfolio of projects.
Unfortunately, organizations tend to fill their high-level strategic plans with rhetoric and empty words—
without a lot of substance. That makes the task of
defining the project portfolio a guessing game. Even
using the well-defined processes outlined in The Standard for Portfolio Management—Second Edition isn’t
enough if the company’s goals aren’t clear.
Over the years, I’ve found that a well-structured approach
Roberto Toledo, MBA, PMP, is manag-
for strategic planning means project portfolio processes are
more easily defined, and the portfolio alignment and moni-
toring run much more smoothly. One useful
technique is the balanced scorecard. For every
objective, a measure and a target are established,
paving the road for clearer project definition.
Establishing a strong foundation in the
strategic plan allows senior management to
expedite the process of defining, balancing
and funding projects that meet the company’s
objectives. A strategic dashboard—with a road
map of the organization’s direction and mea-
surements of whether it’s on target or not—also
allows for continuous review and improvement.
Amidst ever-changing market conditions
and economic environments, organizations
need processes in which new conditions
can quickly be taken into account so proj-
ect portfolio elements can be efficiently
redefined or redirected. In the end, which
method or tool you use is not as important
as actually using one. PM
ing partner of Alpha PM Consulting,
and a trainer and consultant who works
across The Americas. He can be reached at