Whether it is Stage-Gate, Prince II, or basically every alternative method, every project should have a business case to justify how it is expected to create value. It is my experience that too many Project Portfolio Management processes focus on project selection, not on selecting business cases. By not putting the business case front and center during portfolio composition, it is hard to answer questions such as:
- are we getting value for money from our portfolio proposal?
- do we reach our business objectives with this proposal?
- can we afford to take the inherent risks at the portfolio level?
In an earlier post on project selection, I already described how a process based on first rank-ordering projects and then allocating according to this sort-order is sub-optimal. An important reason is that the benefits side of the business cases gets unlinked from the project. This is not just bad for the portfolio decision-making:
A good business case stimulates the team
When a project team gets the challenge to deliver on a business case instead of (just) the project deliverables, I have seen magical things happening. Team members start to be creative about how to improve the benefits from the project. They bother about the implementation of their work products by their end-users and the clients. They better their requirements elicitation by asking for the underlying impact. They get a better grip of the requirements so they can make sure they are implemented. During design discussions, it is no longer just about traceability, it is also about value creation. I have also seen more design alternatives generated, in a wider range: such as options about what must be automated and what can be manual, and options involving standard components versus custom ones.
All this makes the project team more committed, and hence much more likely to succeed. In my opinion, this is also one of the driving forces behind the Agile Framework. The team understands and aligns with the Product Owner that represents the business case drivers in the team. In other words, this Product Owner can effectively communicate the benefits of requested work packages (User Stories in Agile terminology).
With the business case so crucial to both succesful portfolio composition and delivery, we have put it as a pivotal concept in the FLIGHTMAP software platform. Do you agree with this key role?