Employee Buy-in Challenges

At its best, project portfolio management boosts efficiency, increases returns and helps companies home in on their core strategies.

At its worst, it just adds a lot of busywork.

A key element of portfolio management is reporting. That means that employees need to fill out forms or produce reports that detail their work. Many see it as an unnecessary burden, while others resent being micromanaged.

"Remember what you're trying to do," says Howard Rubin, executive vice president at Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group Inc. "You're not trying to create a bureaucracy. You're trying to create the leanest way of tracking projects and value."

Rubin advises companies to keep reports simple -- no more complex than a one-page financial portfolio.

Kim Gibbs, who manages the IT portfolios for the California Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers), suggests taking baby steps. For instance, Calpers required managers to enter only one of their projects into the portfolio the first year. The second year, they entered all of their projects, and the third year, time-sheet tools were built into portfolios so that every employee could input the number of hours spent on each activity.

Gibbs also suggests putting someone in charge of portfolios, at least in the beginning, to make sure that everyone is completing the necessary reports and that the data is consistent.

Like it or not, project portfolios wind up becoming "tattletale reports," says Gibbs. Managers can say that everything is running smoothly, but portfolio reports tell the real story, she says.

New York-based Verizon Communications has been using portfolio management for years. But after a long series of mergers, many of the company's employees are new to the process, so it has been a challenge to get everyone on board, says Skip Patterson, executive director of business planning and development.

"We refer to it as 'herding the cats,'" he says.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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