Connecting the dots

As a senior manager you probably know how many projects you have in your portfolio, and how much money you have allocated to each one. You also likely know how or why the projects got started. But do you understand how your various projects fit together, and how well they have delivered on their


According to authors Cathleen Benko and F. Warren McFarlan, $2.3 trillion (US) is spent on business and IT initiatives in the U.S. each year — about a quarter of the country’s GDP. The vast majority of these projects are conceived and funded in an ad hoc manner, and have little in the way of an overall management strategy.

In their book Connecting the Dots: Aligning Projects with Objectives in Unpredictable Times, Benko and McFarlan try to show senior executives how they can save money and boost earnings by effectively managing their project portfolio.

Benko and McFarlan force readers to confront key issues relating to portfolio management, and provide senior managers with the tools and guidelines to start moving in the right direction, but their blueprint for effective alignment is a little muddled.

The premise is that companies must achieve as much overlap as possible between short-term and long-term objectives, and trait objectives — the company’s distinguishing qualities. But when the authors introduce their tool for evaluating a company’s core competencies, clumsy and arcane terms of reference like “”intermittent sense and respond”” make things confusing.

On the plus side, Benko and McFarlan correctly point out companies could save themselves a lot of time and money by finding commonalities between projects, then reusing, extending or leveraging those commonalities. The authors also advise senior managers to break projects up into manageable chunks that deliver tangible benefits.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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