Project and Portfolio Management shouldn’t be a Gamble

I just returned from the HP Software Universe conference in Las Vegas, NV and I was thinkblackjack-cardsing about my trip. Looking back, I realize that I was as concerned about lining up my poker games and blackjack sessions as I was with finalizing my itinerary and registering for the appropriate workshop sessions. It was a perfect mix for me to collaborate on my two favorite strategic objectives: business and gambling!

As a Solution Delivery Manager at Acquity Group, I help clients define and execute their Project and Portfolio Management strategies and manage their overall implementation roadmap to introduce visibility, objective decision-making, and continuous performance measurement and improvement. But as a regular Joe, I’ll admit that I fancy myself as a seasoned card shark in the poker room or shuffling chips at the 21 tables. But what’s interesting is that on paper and from conversations at the old water cooler, the two worlds couldn’t be founded on theories that are more polar opposite. Portfolio Management, Program oversight, and Project delivery require extensive sources of accurate information, broad and rigorous calculations of business value, and long-term planning to ensure strategic goals are aligned properly to current initiatives. So what about poker and blackjack? It’s just a lottery ticket; a long-shot chance at riches. It’s just gambling, right? I’ll bet you it’s not!

An organization doesn’t establish proven Portfolio Management and Governance foundations overnight. Rather, it takes discipline and planning to define and execute on the core components of a portfolio, and investment opportunities to grow the business. Project identification, justification and selection process go through multiple reviews and business case presentations. Executive leadership needs to know all the potential risks and the estimated benefits before making a decision. It’s a calculated process that takes the “hunch factor” out of the equation and lays out a measured and actionable investment delivery model. Management strives to ensure that the right resources are working on the right projects at the right time so that the strategic goals can be realized.

Heading out to Vegas with a few dollars in your pocket shouldn’t be any different! In my years of grinding out the felt, I’ve learned that casinos don’t have to be a gamble – I see them as investment opportunities. I don’t just flip a coin and hope for the jackpot; instead, I treat Vegas like a Portfolio Manager. I examine my available finances that I’m willing to invest and I lay out a plan that examines the entire spectrum of risk vs. reward. I see the Keno room and there’s just no way for me to leverage my strengths of calculation or analysis, and I walk away. I recognize that the roulette wheel options measured against the payout ratios simply cannot give me enough value to outweigh the risks. I even smile at the magnificent buffet spread, but I think there’s no way that my love for chicken wings and ribs could ever justify the $21.99 price tag! In the end, I pull up my chair at the poker table and I examine my portfolio. I trust my abilities to calculate the odds of my personal cards with the shared community cards to make a strong hand. I analyze my opponents for minor tells and quirks that can open up a pool of information. And then I find a table that suits my bankroll with a perfect mix of low stakes, friendly faces, cool cocktails, and a fast-paced betting style. Once I find that kind of seat, I can calmly approve my business case, and the investment strategies can begin to take form.

HP Software Universe was another memorable event. And as I recollect on my PPM course curriculum, I’m reminded that even though we were in Las Vegas, running your business and choosing your poker tables should never be a gamble.

About Patrick Kovalik

Engagement Manager with the IT Planning & Transformation practice at Acquity Group

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