Optimice and UTS unlock the complex web of an interdependent project portfolio
The interdependencies between projects create complexities for the management of project portfolios within organisations. In times of uncertainty this challenge is even greater due to the difficulties in predicting the flow-on effects from changes to projects in the portfolio. Hence, in times of disruptive change a good understanding of project interdependencies is particularly important.
Optimice and University of Technology Sydney (UTS)have conducting research which aim to improve the understanding and management of interdependencies within project portfolios.
Our 'Managing project interdependencies: exploring new approaches' paper won the 2010 Australian Institute of Project Management Award for 'Best Technical Paper. The 'Understanding project interdependencies' paper is published in the May 2012 edition of the International Journal of Project Managment.
In the paper we introduce network analysis and mapping tools and suggest these as a novel method for improving understanding and managing project interdependencies. We also provide an overview of project portfolio complexity and interdependencies between projects in a portfolio and highlight the challenges that these interdependencies create for effective PPM. You can also read about methods used for understanding and managing these interdependencies including the dependency matrix and the related design structure matrix.
So what are the research subjects saying?
A high-ranking decision-maker
exclaimed that the map provided the ability to “see the connections and where the
work needs to be done … it is like moving from a 2D to a 3D picture!” and
commented further that “it does add value to me and I can see (the relationships)
which I had not seen before. You can see the connections, that is excellent”.
Visualising project interdependencies
In a one dimensional world all projects in a portfolio are equally important. However, Portfolio Managers know that there are often numerous critical linkages, or interdependencies, between projects which means that some projects have have bigger potential to cause wider disruption than others.
Traditional 'traffic light' reporting provides a one dimensional view:
Now compare the table above with the map of project interdependencies on the right. The maps show how projects in a portfolio are linked through interdependencies. The bigger the circle is the more projects are relying on it. A big red circle has the potential to create significantly more disruption in the portfolio because of its position in the network. The 'domino effect' means that delays quickly spread throughout the portfolio.
The data behind the map is collected using Optimice's ONA Surveys tool, but could also be based on an interface into a project portfolio management system. The map dynamically generated and presented in an format which allows users to analyse the portfolio and make management decisions based on facts.
Contact us if you are interested in mapping the interdependencies in your organisation's project portfolio.