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Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects (Pragmatic Programmers) [Paperback]

Johanna Rothman
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Aug 2009 Pragmatic Programmers

All of your projects and programs make up your portfolio. But how much time do you actually spend on your projects, and how much time do you spend responding to emergencies?

This book will introduce you to different ways of ordering all of the projects you are working on now, and help you figure out how to staff those projects—-even when you’ve run out of project teams to do the work.

Once you learn to manage your portfolio better, you’ll avoid emergency “firedrills”. The trick is adopting lean and agile approaches to projects, whether they are software projects, projects that include hardware, or projects that depend on chunks of functionality from other suppliers.

You may be accustomed to spending time in meetings where you still don’t have the data you need to evaluate your projects. Here, with a few measures, you’ll be able to quickly evaluate each project and come to a decision quickly.

You’ll learn how to define your team’s, group’s, or department’s mission with none of the buzzwords that normally accompany a mission statement. Armed with the work and the mission, you can make those decisions that define the true leaders in the organization.

Frequently Bought Together

Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects (Pragmatic Programmers) + The Wiley Guide to Project, Program, and Portfolio Management (The Wiley Guides to the Management of Projects) + Project Management: Best Practices: Achieving Global Excellence (The Iil/Wiley Series in Project Management)
Price For All Three: £105.05

Some of these items are dispatched sooner than the others.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Pragmatic Bookshelf; 1 edition (29 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934356298
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934356296
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 19 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 409,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


""[This book is] a strong pick for any business interested in organizing and prioritizing projects. It shows how to tie work to an organization's mission, get a better view of workflow options and priority scheduling, and make decisions based on better portfolio management. Any business library needs this.""- Midwest Book Review

About the Author

Johanna Rothman helps leaders solve problems and seize opportunities. She consults, speaks, and writes on managing high-technology product development. She enables managers, teams, and organizations to become more effective by applying her pragmatic approaches to the issues of project management, risk management, and people management. Johanna publishes The Pragmatic Manager, a monthly email newsletter and podcast, and writes two blogs: Managing Product Development and Hiring Technical People. She is the author of several books: - Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management - Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management (with Esther Derby) - Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People - Corrective Action for the Software Industry (with Denise Robitaille).

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing intra-project view 30 Mar 2011
This slim volume is a refreshing look at something that I am not used to seeing. I am involved in one project at a time, occasionally more. A project overseer has to have a different view.

If there are several projects, these could potentially have demands on the same (limited) resources. Johanna Rothman has an aversion to context switching, and rightly so, as this produces unproductive time as a change between what was current and what is now current occurs. She makes a forceful argument in favour of allocating resources (machine, people, budget, etc.) to the highest priority item that is to be worked on without distraction, working down a list. It is therefore necessary to rank projects. It is only when ranking has been undertaken that it is known which is the highest priority item. The aim has to be to create release-able running tested features.

Of course, any ranking is not permanent. Rankings change over time, and a high priority item that is not completed may subsequently take a very low priority as the reason for its (early) completion has now disappeared. Rankings have to be reviewed, and Rothman uses the three-fold categorisation of projects, to decide what should be worked on. For each item under consideration, a decision needs to be made; commit, kill or transfer. She strongly advises against any other decision; never say maybe to a portfolio request. When you say maybe, your manager hears `yes'. Your peers and staff hear `no'. You are then placed in a no-win situation.

Part of the commit, kill transform decision can involve recognising projects that can and will not succeed - doomed projects. Killing your own (doomed) project is very different from killing a senior manager's pet project.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Manage Your Project Portfolio 22 Dec 2011
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
Aiden, a woebegone software developer, sits forlornly at his desk, wondering how to complete three recently assigned, top priority projects. Yesterday morning, the boss told him that the first project was due soon. At noon, the boss popped in to insist that the second one had to be completed immediately. At 5 p.m., the boss announced that Aiden should finish the third piece of work right away. Faced with these mutually exclusive, idiotic demands, Aiden stopped working, updated his résumé, surfed the Internet and played a little solitaire. In the software development world, this sad story is all too typical. The answer, according to software management consultant Johanna Rothman, is project portfolio management. Her book details the numerous benefits of this proven approach to project management. Although Rothman wrote this slightly repetitive guide specifically for the IT world - hence the jargon - anyone who regularly juggles an array of tasks with burning deadlines can pick up some useful fundamentals from her solid report. getAbstract recommends this savvy manual to software development managers, software engineers and related IT professionals, as well as project managers in other fields.
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5.0 out of 5 stars finish projects faster 7 Dec 2011
By Ronald
The premise of the book; the fewer number of active projects you have, the less competition the projects have for the same people. That lack allows them to finish projects faster. Sounds great doesn't it? It does! JR explains how to manage your project portfolio. That's not an easy task, but you have to do it. No worries, the book helps you step by step; drafting, prioritizing, and reviewing.

I like the concept in chapter 6: funding projects incrementally. Very interesting point!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Project Portfolio Management goes Agile 4 Sep 2009
By Claude Emond - Published on
Part of my work involves coaching organisations in implementing and improving their portfolio management processes. I religiously buy and read most of what is published on the subject in English or French. More than often, I had to conclude that this book or article I just read, I could have written myself... and done then only a half-job doing so. Most of the literature on the subject, I have seen up to now, talked a lot about mathematical scoring models, tools and techniques, addressing mostly the mechanics of the process. It never addressed the soul of the process, the Humans, and how to deal with the main challenge of portfolio management in this area, namely: "How do we get a whole organisation to live a common vision and be truly aligned and willing to make it happen through project work". Most of the books, that have been published, focus on best practices and techniques and do not discuss behavioural aspects as a key issue.....up to now!

"Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects" is Johanna Rothman's third book. Her first two, "Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management" and "Manage It: Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management" are real gems and won prices for their quality and usefulness. I do not hesitate to say that "Manage It" is one of the best books around for giving practical advice to project managers. Her last book, as her two others, is full of real life examples and little case studies that supports the principles, concepts and techniques offered. "Manage Your Project Portfolio" is really a very complete "How-to" book on how to set up and manage your project portfolio. This book addresses human aspects very well, including a very nice chapter dedicated to collaboration work in a portfolio management context (chapter 6). The chapter on metrics and measurement is also straight to the point (Chapter 10). Ms Rothman's top-notch practical advices and examples are found all over the place up to the last page, with a great last chapter titled "Start Somewhere...But Start", one of the best things to do when it is time to go forward with taking charge of your portfolio of projects.

I do believe this book gives a more complete view of what is at stake when dealing with project portfolio management and will really help organisations to move forward faster with implementing and improving this key business issue of the 21st century, the Project Age. A very inspiring book!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A welcome addition to the agile body of knowledge 6 Dec 2010
By J. Rasmusson - Published on
Managing a single project is easy.
Managing multiple projects is hard.

Yet this is the state most companies find them in. They've had success with agile at the individual project level, and now they are looking guidance on how to manage and track multiple agile projects in one complete portfolio.

Fortunately for us, Johanna Rothman gives us some valuable advice on exactly how to do that in Manage Your Project Portfolio - Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects.

Chalked full of great war stories and advice, Manage Your Project Portfolio shows you how to:

* Create a portfolio for your projects.
* How to rank, prioritize, and evaluate which ones you should be doing.
* How to socialize and collaborate on what you are delivering.
* As well has how to iterate and make decisions at the portfolio level (instead of always down at the project level).

I really like some of the sidebars and stories Johanna has collected. Johanna reminds us that:

Two part time people do not make one full-time equivalent.
Sometimes killing a project is the best thing you can do.
And my personal favorite - fund projects incrementally instead of all at once.

If you are looking for advice around what to measure when tracking your projects, how to come up with an actionable mission statement, or just how to effectively communicate the state of your portfolio ask Santa for a copy of Manage Your Project Portfolio. It could be exactly what your company is looking for going into the New Year.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Creating and using a project portfolio effectively 7 Feb 2010
By Erik Gfesser - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Rothman's latest effort is all about how to create and use a project portfolio effectively. Note that while the author discusses how a collection of projects might together form real value, a program, this is not the focus of this book. After discussing project portfolio basics, the author discusses project evaluation, portfolio ranking, portfolio collaboration, portfolio iterations, portfolio decisions, portfolio evolution, and ends by addressing mission. This book was composed very well, and this reviewer especially found valuable the manner in which the author points to prerequisite areas of the book by page throughout in case the reader does not read sequentially. As Rothman indicates, a project portfolio is simply the organization of projects, by date and value, to which the associated organization commits or is planning to commit. A project portfolio helps the practitioner decide when to commit to a project so that a product development team can start or continue a project, understand when it is time to terminate a project so that a team might be freed for other work, determine when to transform a project and commit to the resultant project, and serve as a visual tool to help enable negotiation on how to tackle projects when it is difficult to decide what to do next.

The author points out that "if everyone in your organization (senior managers, middle managers, technical leads, functional managers, and project managers) is wedded to a serial life cycle and no one is willing to consider finishing valuable chunks of work frequently, you can't use a pragmatic approach to managing the project portfolio". In addition, "when your organization's management refuses to make a project portfolio, that lack of decision making is guaranteeing at least one or more schedule games. Or, people will decide which project to work on first, and that decision may not agree with yours. Without project portfolio management, you have more projects competing for the same - and limited - number of people. You find you can't commit to which people work on projects when, you're awash in emergency projects, and you and your staff are running yourselves ragged multitasking" which research has consistently shown to be unproductive. While "Manage Your Project Portfolio" is not a technical text by any means and is expected to be an easy read for most audiences, the author did decide to include a couple of very effective diagrams in the second chapter that if understood by the reader will help navigate the rest of the text by understanding what a project portfolio does for the organization, and what happens when no one manages the project portfolio.

In addition to providing new material, Rothman effectively ties in the insights of a number of other authors in this space, and this reviewer especially enjoyed seeing multiple references to Frederick P. Brooks and Gerald M. Weinberg. The manner in which the author incorporates agile philosophies is especially well done. Her discussion on velocity, both individual and team, for example, is quite effective. "Since I've been working in the field, my managers and clients have been trying to measure productivity. What a waste. Individual productivity means nothing. What does mean something is a team's throughput." While many readers might have already come to the same conclusion, Rothman really drives home this point. "If you try to measure individual productivity, you will get some data. And, the people whom you are measuring will game the data, have no fear. If you measure code, they'll write a ton. If you measure tests, they'll write a bazillion. If you measure files, they will have many more than the project needs. No matter what you measure, if it's not running, tested features, then they will game the system. Don't do it. But you say, I have several single-person projects. Surely I can measure that person's productivity. Um, no, you can't. First, I doubt that those people resist talking to each other. Second, how will you compare productivity? If Davey gets the easy projects and Sally gets the hard ones, who is more productive? I can't tell, and neither can you. Stop trying."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book the industry needs 16 Nov 2009
By George Dinwiddie - Published on
In my consulting work, I'm constantly finding development organizations trying to do more work at one time than they can reasonably accomplish. This book will help me explain to them how that actually reduces their productivity, and give them some tools to better manage the crush of work. Thank you, Johanna, for this book!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for agile adoption with multiple teams and products 9 Nov 2009
By Declan P. Whelan - Published on
There are a wealth of books and online resources for single project agile teams. I am working with an organization grappling with adopting agile across multiple teams and product lines. We found it challenging to extend and adapt agile principles and practices to our situation. Johanna's book provided us both a framework and mindset to tackle multi-team, multi-product agile adoption. If you are working with an organization that has more than one agile team or more than one product this book is an invaluable resource.

I can't recommend this book highly enough!
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