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August 04, 2021

From flawed issue tracking to poor communication. Main mistakes in Project and Product Portfolio Management

Portfolio-level Management Project Management
BigPicture Team

Nobody’s perfect, and making mistakes is a human thing. However, some mistakes cost more than others – especially in management. So let’s take a look at the most common and preventable mistakes in PPM.

The PPM abbreviation can refer to both Product Portfolio Management and Project Portfolio Management. Both roles have different responsibilities, tasks, and goals. Interestingly enough, the challenges and mistakes remain pretty similar. From poor communication to overlooking the budget, the list can go on, but for the sake of brevity, let’s focus on the most important ones.

The Main Mistakes in PPM

Lack of top-down communication…

Strategic goals are usually reserved for the top management. Managers are supposed to break high-level goals into smaller chunks of work and distribute them within the teams they supervise. Intuitive and straightforward, right? Sure, unless the teams work apart from each other, without proper cross-communication and knowledge transfer.

As a result, a high-level goal turns into a pile of puzzle pieces from different sets – nothing fits, and everything is in a different shape and size. Whether they have a whole portfolio or just one product, managers must keep everyone up-to-date with goals, progress, and stakeholders’ expectations.

…and lack of knowledge about goals  

Another similar lousy thing, that can happen to a project, is clueless team members. Managers can neglect even this essential element, as they don’t explain to their teams the purpose of their job. All employees engaged in the ongoing and planned initiatives must understand their strategic goals, and managers must present them with those in a simple and accessible manner.

Moreover, the information must be kept up-to-date – reminding teams on what, and why they are working on it.  Muddled or unknown endgame is a symptom of bad communication and poor soft skills. This results in lower morale, lack of achieving any milestones, and overall chaos. Addressing these goals is crucial for effective workflow.

No defined value 

To end this “communication trinity” on a high note, let’s mention “value” – one of the central terms in the Agile approach dictionary. To reach a strategic goal, every action, project, and initiative must serve as a foundation to the overall value. That is unless the value is too vague, ill-defined, or inadequately explained to the people.

Essentially, managers must be sure that supervised teams and individuals have an overall knowledge of work progress, and understand the upper-level management strategic goals and vision, with the aim to add to the common value. 

Intuitive-driven tracking, not data-driven tracking 

Tracking progress, deadlines, and risks are strictly connected to good management. In the contemporary world, where more and more companies are looking forward to Agile transformation, tracking progress and work is changing. Instead of following solely by instinct, people’s opinions, and recommendations, managers must start referring to more data-driven decisions. Properly used tools allow tracking of most vital indicators so that managers can easily collect and select the data crucial for a specific project or product.

Gathering wrong data 

Speaking of collecting data, a good manager must choose their software wisely. That means selecting the right tool to automatize, standardize, and visualize collected information. There is a fair share of software, available on the market, that helps keep the portfolio or the project on track. In addition, it automates most of the time-consuming, mundane tasks, leaving managers to focus more on people. 

This list does not present the whole spectrum of potential failures in PPM but narrows it down to crucial issues: lack of overall communication, and opinion-driven, instead of data-driven mindset. Also, worth noting is the fact that failure isn’t often a result of just one cardinal mistake. More commonly, it’s a sum of a minor mistake that, like pebbles, can turn into an avalanche and bury any chance to reach the goals set by stakeholders.