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Deciding how to deliver your prioritised project portfolio

Richard Stobart, Feb. 11, 2015

Once you’ve prioritised your project portfolio using the t-shirt sizing matrix, you’ll need to take some strategic decisions to unstick progress...

Making decisions about Work In Progress (WIP)

The theory says you should limit your work in progress, which brings mean delivery time down and allows you to finish off something of value before working on the next feature or project. You may need to deliver several of these in parallel; be honest with yourself and try and deliver as few projects in parallel as you can. Try to get each finished and out into production. It takes discipline and nerves of steel but stopping work on all but a handful of projects (and potentially having some people idle) is more efficient.


Scaling back what you build to get SOMETHING into production

You only meet business demand once the digital product is in production, so you’ve really got to scale back get something into production that can start delivering value which is one of the following:

• Reducing risk
• Generating hard cash
• Gaining market share
• Putting blue water between you and the competition
• Building up a customer-base

If you are struggling to get things live, maybe you need to make your projects smaller and make your teams smaller? Smaller teams are more efficient.

Make it transparent

Be totally transparent in what you do and how you’re doing it. Create a portfolio board of the somewhere in the organisation that everyone can see. Put all your project epics on it so everyone can see what is and isn’t being delivered. Make it clear that there are only a few slots available in the WIP columns. Everything else needs to wait.


Take a risk-based approach to unlock progress

Based on your prioritisation matrix, look at your first project and ask:

“What is the riskiest thing about this project?”
“Is there a technical risk?”
“Is there a business risk?”
“Is there something about our internal organisation that might not be able to stomach this change?”
“Is there something external that might come and scupper the project?”

Now do the simplest thing you can to eliminate or reduce that risk. And keep doing that until you’re at that point that all your risks under control and there is a diminishing return in reducing a risk.

Once you have started the first project (highest value, smallest cost) risk-reduced then you’ll start looking at the second project in the pipeline and try reduce the risk of that while the first project moves into delivery.

Rinse and repeat.