Mastering project portfolio management, or project prioritisation, in any organisation can be difficult. This is particularly apparent within charities, where resources are often stretched and it is difficult to dedicate teams to project delivery as day to day operations can’t stop.
Why should charities prioritise their projects?
Charities are commonly under-resourced and underfunded, hence why it’s important to ensure the scarce resources they do have, are generating the most value possible. Without effective project portfolio management, resources are stretched thinly across many projects, resulting in poor delivery, lack of return on investment and a higher probability of team burnout. On the other hand, if a charity dedicates time to prioritise, projects receive the adequate resources required for successful delivery, individuals have a clearer focus on their work, and energy is directed towards meaningful results.
Additionally, charities commonly experience high levels of passion within the workforce, leading to high rates of idea generation. And while this is a positive, there should still be a clear project portfolio management process to ensure that the benefits, costs and risks are understood before embarking on new projects.
How can charities prioritise their projects?
1. Define the Process
The first stage is to define and develop the project portfolio management process. This includes mapping out each step that will need to be taken, deciding who is involved and establishing clear prioritisation criteria.
2. Prioritise against your strategy
For charities, incorporating strategic alignment into their criteria is highly beneficial.
It ensures prioritisation is not based solely on financial grounds, instead, it is based on all the factors that underpin the organisation’s strategy, which directs value generation towards the mission. Through this approach, as well as highlighting which projects are most aligned with the charity’s strategy, it can also indicate those that are draining resources without adding any value.
3. Capture Benefits
Ensuring benefits, whether financial or non-financial, are accurately captured in business cases aids the project portfolio management process by indicating what value the project could provide the charity. This value can then be reviewed from a strategic lens, following the approach mentioned above. However, to ensure these benefits are realised, it is crucial to implement a benefits management approach spanning the entire lifecycle of the project, keeping benefits at the forefront of peoples’ minds. This includes putting a process in place to review these benefits at specified intervals as well as checking if they are still achievable following any scope changes.
4. Cultural Change
The organisational culture within the charity must be conducive to prioritisation. Because of the passion individuals within a charity tend to possess, there is often a ‘yes’ culture, where every project proposed gets given the green light. So, for prioritisation to become embedded within the charity, a cultural change may be required, ensuring individuals understand that effective project portfolio management is a necessity for achieving the mission, not a barrier. That also means stopping or not proceeding with certain projects and being able to explain the reasons why.
5. Engage stakeholders
Engaging with stakeholders and bringing them along the journey, ensures they understand, adopt and feel part of the project portfolio management process. For example, communicating any updates to the process provides stakeholders with a live picture of the work being carried out.
6. Establish a PMO
Whether it’s a fully-fledged team or a few individuals dedicated to the role, a PMO can manage and drive the prioritisation of projects, ensuring the charity is held accountable for implementing and maintaining this process. On top of this, a PMO can provide structured governance, improved resource allocation and create consistency across project delivery. This doesn’t need to be overly bureaucratic, but having a consistent approach to project management, approvals and escalations, report and tracking benefits will help with visibility and accountability. For more information on the advantages of a PMO, check this blog out.
Nine Feet Tall have worked with charities across the UK to help them focus on projects which will have the greatest impact to delivering their strategy. If you’d like a no strings chat about prioritisation or how to set up a PMO then get in touch with us today.