As utilities continue to operate within increasingly competitive environments, using a project portfolio management tool to identify project value, leverage resources and evaluate project risk may offer the winning move.

Planning to Win

In a robust project management office (PMO), utilities strive to deploy the right personnel and processes to enhance capital project planning, execution and delivery. The goal is to complete high-quality projects while realizing efficiencies that will help reduce cost and optimize schedules. In short, an empowered PMO helps utilities get individual projects done right.

While active management of discrete projects is essential to success, project portfolio management offers broader visibility, assessment and prioritization of all active and potential projects to identify how operational and business goals can be met. Project management focuses on individual project success, while a project portfolio management tool can help determine which projects are right for the utility.

Securing a Strategic Advantage

Utility leaders evaluate project decisions within an environment of changing variables, including limited capital, aging infrastructure, changing electricity demands, new energy sources and a retiring knowledge base. These decisions are also undertaken within shifting policy and regulatory environments.

A project portfolio management tool offers an opportunity for objective analysis and assessment needed to help utilities identify projects of greatest value and balanced risk. Through comprehensive evaluation of each project and need, portfolio management works to complement project management to deliver these benefits to utilities:

  • Identify project value and return on investment potential through structured data collection, analysis and management.
  • Clarify project prioritization, development timelines and necessary contingencies.
  • Improve accountability and drive process requirements through integrated workflows across the enterprise.
  • Increase visibility and project transparency through the tracking of performance, costs, risks and resources.
  • Encourage cross-team participation and access to data and decisions to drive productivity, safety and control.
  • Enhance alignment among stakeholders, proven processes and best practices to leverage long-term project planning and consistent project development.

With the ability to categorize projects, predict problems, track progress, evaluate costs and add depth to schedules, portfolio management can transform a utility’s potential. As an essential tool, project portfolio management may be the most valuable strategic asset available.

Best Practice Moves

Realizing the value of a utility project can be tricky. In addition to project management maturity and a project portfolio management tool, utilities must also see that other in-house capabilities exist to achieve ideal project results. When optimally configured, a project portfolio management tool will support:

  • Data management. Utilities should examine ways that the quality and accessibility of data can be improved for the highest-value outputs. As the foundational driver for decision-making, data inputs must be evaluated, potential improvements identified and action taken to see that the data is in a digitized and query-capable format.
  • Business intelligence. Effective decision-making comes from the right collection, integration and presentation of available operating, business and project data. Utilities need business intelligence platforms that provide useful project dashboards for quick and comprehensible visibility, tracking and execution of current and upcoming projects.
  • Process and methodology. It is essential to have defined and followed processes to help stakeholders understand how actions and methods drive project success. From project approval to escalation, and from resource allocation to change management, processes need to be defined and respected to support success.

While utilities are operating in ever-increasing market complexity, strategies exist to stay ahead of the game. Portfolio management, coupled with the right people, tools and processes, can help operators achieve a checkmate and manage projects to success.


Learn how a utility is establishing consistency and increasing efficiencies with its first PMO.

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Charles Johnson guides Burns & McDonnell clients through the implementation of portfolio management tools and processes to support their long-term objectives. His experience includes setting up portfolio management strategy and practice for a diverse set of clients ranging from large electric utilities to rural cooperatives nationwide.