Projects have become the main vehicle for pursuing corporate change. Each day, dozens, even hundreds, of internal change projects are running at any large or medium-sized company or public organization. In a tight economy management teams are facing a problem. On one hand they have to be parsimonious in the short term, on the other hand they have to invest in the future. The key question is: which development projects or programs will take the organization in the right direction? Thinking Portfolio is the tool for making the right decisions.
Spreadsheets are one-user solutions
Many organizations rely on spreadsheets for managing their project portfolio. A spreadsheet is a flexible solution, but it has some shortcomings. First of all, it is typically a one-user solution. Sharing and simultaneously updating a spreadsheet can be difficult and prone to errors. Furthermore, a spreadsheet offers limited possibilities to build a good user interface. Finally, there is the question of support and development of a spreadsheet application. It is often a result of the work of one person and others find it difficult to make alterations without breaking the application.
Project management software lack strategic views
There are alternatives to spreadsheets for project portfolio management. Leading project management systems offer a portfolio view. The problem is that they are more administratively than strategically oriented. They build the portfolio from the operational level up and are designed for project professionals, which makes them too complicated for business users. Implementing these solutions takes time and money and success is not self-evident.
Thinking Portfolio is a strategic management tool
We offer an alternative to spreadsheets and complicated project management systems. Thinking Portfolio is a strategic project management tool that is made for business people. It is an online service which runs on all modern browsers, including Safari for iPad. It is simple enough to learn without extensive courses or thick manuals and is cost-effective to run.
Thinking Portfolio is a strategic management tool. It allows the management of the whole project portfolio from project inception to follow-up.
Ease of use
Thinking Portfolio offers a simple interface to view, manage and report the entirety of an organization’s projects. It allows different units and departments use the same database. In this way, everyone gets their own portfolio but, at the same time, the information is reportable at the enterprise level. Individuals can even have a portfolio of the projects that they are personally involved in.
Support for programs and projects
Thinking Portfolio allows the use of programs and projects. Programs can consist of several projects. Program and project information is managed on project pages and can be presented in the form of tables and reports.
Program and project related documents can be linked or stored in the application.
Simple user management
The user management of the application is simple. Administrative users can add users and give them access rights based on their organization and role. We are able to integrate Thinking Portfolio with Active Directory through our Think Link service. This makes the use of Thinking Portfolio more comfortable, as users don’t have to enter a username and password while logging into the application.
Thinking Portfolio’s technical solution makes it easily customizable. A selection of ready-made modules and widgets allows quick customization without extensive coding.
Thinking Portfolio is available in multiple languages: English, Dutch, Swedish, and Finnish. Adding a new one is straightforward. The user can select the language of preference.
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Our customers have reported the following benefits of using Thinking Portfolio:
- Projects become aligned with the company’s strategy
- Project benefits and risks are considered in every proposal
- Program management becomes transparent
- Decision-makers can focus on the important issues
- Management groups are able to follow up active projects and their results
- The portfolio fosters systematic innovation and decision-making processes and a professional project culture
These are spreadsheet-like tables that allow the user to get a view of the whole portfolio. The user can customize the view by filtering out projects based on their key information. Typical filters include status, project owner, project manager, project type, and so on.
There are also portfolio views for the timeline and information quality – completeness and timeliness of the information.
By clicking on the project or program name the user opens the individual project’s information.
Every program or project in the portfolio is presented on one to five pages. The pages consist of so-called ‘widgets’. A widget can consist of text fields or interactive graphs. Our goal has been to minimize manual typing while creating a project description.
We parameterize page layouts and widget contents according to the client’s needs. We have an extensive library of widgets to choose from.
A typical selection of widgets contains the following information:
- Basic program/project facts
- Strategic focus
- Risk analysis
- Measurable benefits and concrete results
- Degree of development
- Organizations/processes targeted
- Strategic goals
- Project budget
- Cash flow projections (business case)
- Project schedule
- Project health report
- Project organization
- Project diary and documents
Thinking Portfolio offers a large selection of graphic and textual reports. The information presented in these reports comes from the projects that the user has selected or filtered out in the portfolio view.
Link to project management
Thinking Portfolio creates a link between project and portfolio management. Project managers are able to give status reports (Project Health Check) using the application. Part of the information can be retrieved from external systems, like SAP.
Since Thinking Portfolio is software as a service (SaaS), it requires no investments from the customer. We have made the deployment of the application as straightforward as possible. The application runs on any modern web browser, including iPad Safari.
Proof of Concept
The process starts with a Proof of Concept (PoC). It consists of two half-day workshops with the client. During the workshops we plan together the contents of the project pages and use a visual prototyping tool to make a look-alike version of the application.
Once the client has approved the design, we parameterize the application and make it available for test use on our server. We can import the client’s existing project database or Excel spreadsheet into Thinking Portfolio.
During the second workshop we present the version and provide training on how to use it. We can also make minor adjustments at this stage if the client so requires.
The Proof of Concept period is one month during which the client gets to use and become familiar with the application. After this, the client is able to make the decision whether to take the system into use.
If the client decides to go on with the implementation, we finalize the application using feedback from the PoC. We also configure reports which the clients will use. We train the administrative user and customize the help texts of the application.
After the deployment, we offer email support to the administrative user. The need for user support is minimal since the application is easy to use and intuitive.
Portfolio management consulting and training
Portfolio management consulting and training are an essential part of our offering. Tools are valuable only if they are used beneficially, in real business processes.
Our consulting covers portfolio management strategies and the operational setup of portfolio management in the organization.
We train management teams, experts and project managers. Our training teaches portfolio management principles, processes and methods. It is a great starting point for organizations that want to consider implementing portfolio management. We offer both online courses and on-site training for small groups.
This post is also available in: Finnish