Sportsfolio Management: What Project Executives Can Learn From the Draft

Rich Hill is one of my favorite Twitter sports follows — @PP_Rich_Hill — though I only now realized I hadn’t been following via @crossderry until recently. He does a great job of melding a fan’s perspective with his analysis. The result is well-reasoned, yet approachable opinions and projections of football drafts, rosters, and of course, game performance. He’s also a Pats fan, so he must be a man of honor and distinction!

I like to use non-traditional examples to illuminate our more mundane dilemmas. Rich’s recent post on the allocation of NFL Draft capital got me thinking. Draft picks are indeed capital. They are assets that can be traded. Also, just like your production line, SAP ERP installation, or facility, the players selected provide capabilities to their organizations over time.

Value — expressed as capabilities over time — drives the worth of the assets or initiatives in a portfolio. And as you can imagine, the trick is to pick the most valuable asset available during your draft turn. How should you approach the problem? Rich breaks it down the essence of the choice:

The question with the draft is asking how a team can best game the talent in order to maximize the value of their draft picks, or draft capital. A simple breakdown is by position, where there are clear premiums for, say, a quarterback versus a punter. Taking the best quarterback in the league in the 1st round is way better value than taking the best punter in the 1st.

And of course, draft position by round, and within rounds, matters as well. You shouldn’t expect a 100th pick to be as valuable as a first pick. So position — both on the field and in the draft — drives relative value. Therefore, to value one’s options for a particular draft pick, one must, as Rich says: “look at a position’s expected value compared to others in the draft.”

He gives a couple of examples in his post — which has some clear graphs — so read the whole thing. Here’s one quick quote about how expected and relative value works. In this example, analysis uncovers interior offensive linemens’ expected value doesn’t decline evenly through the draft rounds.

What this means is that a player selected in the top 40 would have an expected value of an All Pro caliber player. Players selected 40th-90th have an expected value of a top tier starter. By the shape of the graph, interior offensive linemen selected from 90th through the end of the draft all have roughly the same expected value, that of a rotational depth player.

So if the Patriots are interested in an All Pro guard, they would likely have to use their first round pick to increase their odds. But if they would be fine with a top level guard, they could use their third round picks in the 90s to receive roughly the same expectation as if they took the player 50th overall.

This “lumpiness” allows for differentiated draft tactics. And differentiation is the heart of breakthrough strategy.

But this is just the foundation: choosing among alternatives of the same type of capability. We portfolio and initiative leaders must, of course, select alternatives across capability types. In my next post, I’ll leverage more of Rich’s work to illustrate how to approach that problem.

The Biotech IT PMO 2.0

As a CIO, you have either made – or heard – recommendations to create an IT project management office. Perhaps you have implemented one, and your department is reaping the benefits of project planning, monitoring, and controlling. IT delivers its projects on time, on budget, and to spec. Congratulations! You and your IT PMO have put the foundation of consistent innovation in place.

Nevertheless, it is no more than a foundation. A PMO must…

For more, see the full article at CIO Review.

Doubts about BYOD promotion schemes

[The proposal of a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) communications campaign] strikes me as a bit too “happy/clappy” about promoting BYOD adoption. Explaining the process won’t address deep-seated privacy concerns like Peter Nolan’s. If done the wrong way, such promotions smack of the old IT “if we explain it to you lunkheads one more time it will sink in” mentality.

I started as a BYOD advocate and I’m OK with it for myself, at least for certain devices (e.g.,work email on a personal tablet). However, if we in IT want to control devices, we should expect that some won’t want to hand over their personal property. Therefore, if we want to control them, we should be prepared to provision them.

Also, I’m just not sure that BYOD is a great lever for preventing shadow IT. My suggestion would be to start with a more open IT portfolio process, which would ensure that everyone buys into what’s proposed, being executed, and how approvals and controls work.

Adapted from a LinkedIn comment on this post re: shadow IT and trust as a strategy to prevent it.

When you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

That snippet of Rush’s “Freewill” ran through my head after I read Michael Krigsman’s post on developers’ perspectives on IT failure.  What caused my earworm?  It was this section, dealing with IT priorities:

The survey breaks out IT quality priorities by role in the organization, and yields an interesting gap between the project managers and business stakeholders. As the following table shows, project managers prioritize budget and schedule while people in the business seek the best solution. 

More interesting to me were the portfolio and strategy implications of the answers.

  1. It didn’t seem like the respondents understood that these options would require trade offs…every option received over 50 percent. 
  2. Where are the resource trade offs?  Resource constraints are much “harder” than cash budgets in my experience.
  3. I’m not sure how well thought through the survey was.  “Shipping when the system is ready is more important than shipping on schedule” and “Delivering high quality is more important than delivering on time and on budget”.  These are almost the same trade off, even if the “high quality” question slips in “budget.”
  4. Left unexplored are the tradeoffs within the portfolio at large.  It is great to say you’re willing to trade time and resources for quality or ROI.  However, that’s a point analysis that leaves out the opportunities foregone. 

One of the reasons IT projects are under such time and resource pressure is that there’s a domino effect.  In other words, if one project slips, the rest of the portfolio slips because you can’t simply plug in new resources, there are technical dependencies, etc.   And what else slips?  The benefits from these future projects.

Estimate rejection can be a good thing

Rui Silva has a short but sweet post on estimate rejection here.   I love his point that estimates must be “honest” because:

 When technical staff low-balls a project estimate, it denies the executives important information they need to make effective decisions, effectively undermining the executive’s decision-making authority. This results in diverting company resources from projects that are cost-justified to projects that aren’t cost-justified.

The unasked change control question

This change will be cool...it has fire.

This change will be cool...it has fire.

When evaluating change requests, I’ve seen many of the same questions asked:

Do we have the needed budget?
Do we have the right resources?
Have all the business partners signed off on this change?

More sophisticated approaches will also bring focus on the benefits, risks, and added complexities that the change will introduce.  However, I’ve only seen two change control boards ask this question:

What will we NOT do if we accept this change request?

In my experience, raising this topic clarifies much about the change.  First, it validates that the sign-offs referenced above weren’t simply a formality.  For example, I’m reassured when the requester can say that “we looked at these three options…” or “this scope change had a higher benefit than the other two proposals”.

This question also surfaces risks that the change will introduce.  In one case, I saw a very plausible change for a new entry screen proposed.  The costs, resources, and benefits were all in order.  However, the “what won’t you be doing” question produced blank stares.  A few probing questions surfaced what wouldn’t be done: the team has assumed away two weeks of testing effort to make room for the change. 

Request denied.

m = F/a

Finally broke the inertia and got the blog started.  I hope I can keep up the momentum!

My focus is on getting initiatives to produce something useful, so we’re going to chat a lot about strategy execution, knowledge management, and project, program, and portfolio management.  Also, since I lead an enterprise PMO of sorts, I’ll put out a bit of chaff on starting, growing, and succeeding with project management organizations.

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