Creates a consistent approach for driving awareness around the portfolio, goals, status, and what needs to change. This awareness needs to be driven by a communication plan that tailors messages to specific audiences and makes sure these messages are received and acted upon. Communication is of such critical importance to portfolio management that it must be considered at the onset. People, communication, and collaboration form the most seminal aspects of portfolio management.
If you wait until the portfolio has been optimized to communicate, you will fail. Online-PMO has tried to make this message loud and clear. We have tried to incorporate communication tasks in each stage. There is, however, a structured approach to communication.
The communication stage is not part of a sequential stage in portfolio building. Communicating happens throughout all stages of the portfolio management process. As previously mentioned, technology does not make decisions; people do! This includes identifying key audiences and key messages and measuring communications success. Mapping communication content to each audience is based on the results of stakeholder analysis and assessment. It involves understanding the best way to communicate to each audience, how often, and how to address people’s needs and concerns, the medium that should be used, and knowing who should do the communicating. Above all else, IT portfolio management is about:
The communication stage should be treated much the way project management is treated. The traditional phases of project management are start-up, managing, and closure. You do not simply wait until the system is complete to start project management. Conversely, you cannot do all project management at the first stage. You must intersperse project management and communication tasks throughout the portfolio management plan.
The very first step in any initiative should be stakeholder analysis. This is certainly true of portfolio management. Yet all types of initiatives devoid of stakeholder analysis are common. This is simply wrong and must be corrected. Many
excuses exist (e.g., I did it in my head, we don’t need that at our company, it’s so easy). They are unacceptable. Stakeholder analysis will help frame the issues and communication styles of those who can make or break portfolio management.
Another common mistake is to fixate on one type of communication. Many portfolio management initiatives have fixated on bubble charts. Clearly bubble charts enable understanding of the portfolio view, but they do not serve as very good invitations to key meetings. In general, a communication plan must exist and must be refined throughout the evolution and maturation of portfolio
management. The plan must be acted upon and must at least contain these core components:
Early in the portfolio management process, the communication focuses more on communicating the value of portfolio management to solicit support. As portfolio management understanding and adoption increase, communication focuses on sustaining support, eliciting participation, minimizing criticism, setting expectations, and demonstrating progress. Further along, communication tends to shift to support management of change and expectations.
For example, the changes and results of the balancing stage are communicated to all stakeholders of that stage. These stakeholders include representatives from the business, the executive steering committee, and possibly a program or project office. The key messages are identified, as well as a mechanism for measuring
communications success. For the balancing stage, the communication tasks added to the overall communication plan might include:
For many organizations, implementing portfolio management is a large change from the current status quo. Changes must be communicated in a consistent manner. The rationale for how objectives are defined, metrics existence and purpose, and the scoring approach must be clearly communicated and agreed to by personnel responsible for feeding and managing the portfolio management process. Relating these areas to employees asking, “What is in it for me?” conveys the need for information to be transparent. Training also plays a significant role, especially during times of massive changes. In addition, accountability, authority, responsibility, and related incentives and rewards must be in place and supported by employees.
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