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We are a technology organization supporting a line of businesses.

We are currently managing a large budget with a portfolio of over 100 applications and hundreds of projects that impact these applications (some projects affect a single application and some affect multiple applications). We are tracking lots of detail and high level information including:

  • List of all application with buy/sell/hold, future end state, etc.
  • list of all projects with RAG status, risks, dependencies, etc and change history around status (active, pipeline, etc), resourcing, etc.

So we have lots of data, but I am trying to figure out how we can use this data to help people understand what is really going on and to help people (both technology management and our business management) make strategic decisions.

What is the right "dashboard view" (or views) that are useful for management to look at? Are there standard reports or metrics / ratios, etc that should be included?

I see a lot of articles on this, but I can't find concrete specific on what people think are the key views to help drive a strategy.

As stated here, I am trying to figure out the best way to show how we are doing against our strategy and to help drive strategic decision making. Any suggestions?

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Just in reading your synopsis, it sounds like you're coming at this from the wrong end first.

The dashboard, reports, or metrics should be an outgrowth of your strategy. So rather than asking what's the best view or measurement - the questions would be "what's our strategy (why do we have so many projects), and what information do we need to see to ensure that we're going in the right direction?"

For example, you have buy/hold/sell apps. What decides if one of those should be changed? That's the information that needs to be on the dashboard. You have lots of projects that affect multiple apps. Presumably those apps are being modified with a goal in mind. So you need information that tells you whether those goals are going to be achieved, or if something (either project or goal) needs to be modified.

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Senior managers are interested in the bottom line. Most of them want the answer to a very simple strategic question: Are we in the black or are we in the red?

Therefore, the information that you provide these managers should be limited to the information that answers those questions over the course of the financial quarter. My suggestion is to average your increases in revenue over the course of 3 months and show this on a weekly basis in a spreadsheet. Then at a glance, managers will be able to tell what is holding steady profit, what areas are growing in terms of profit, and what areas are declining in terms of profit.

I want to point out that it's still possible for something that is not currently generating profit to show trends that the losses are decreasing at an increasing rate, which means they are approaching profitability. Likewise, it's also possible to show that something that is generating profit is actually decreasing the amount of profit each month.

From a strategic management perspective, just because something shows profit one month does not mean strategic managers will want to invest in it moving forward. For instance, a profitable project that is decreasing it's profit may be nearing the end of the product lifecycle. Maybe strategic managers may want to maintain it until it's in the red, but they likely won't want to bet the entire business on that one area.

In summary, what's important to strategic managers is seeing how things are changing over a period of time so that they can use that information as a crystal ball to help them better prepare for the future.

  • in my case, there are technology projects so there is not always a direct ROI that you can quantify so its hard to just make the conversations around financials. any thoughts? – leora May 1 '11 at 3:38
  • @ooo - Without knowing the specific details about what your technology project entails, the best I can do to measure the success/failure of the project is to look at it's financial impact on the bottom line. Since the purpose of any business is to make a profit, every project in one way or another should have some form of impact on the bottom line. – jmort253 May 1 '11 at 8:21
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You appear to have a roadmap for the various applications (as per your comment on buy/sell/hold, etc), so one simple metric would be to categorise the projects in your portfolio and map them against the different classes of application. That way you could see whether you are investing time and effort on developing and improving applications that don't have a future (as opposed to doing the minimum to keep them running until they are retired / replaced).

So, draw up a matrix of application classes on one axis (buy / sell / hold / develop / strategic development, etc), and project types on the other axis (maintenance / development / cosmetic / bug fix / legislative change / etc). You can list the projects in the cells, or just count them, or put in some anticipated resource, investment or ROI figures.

If you do this you should see whether your effort and your strategy are aligned, and where they are not, you can make informed decisions to re-align them.

Even as a one-off snapshot in time, this can help to clarify where you are, and give you a clearer insight into what you should be doing.

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You should try Programeter. It is exactly the product to build reports and metrics out of projects data.

disclaimer: I am the co-founder of Programeter

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