That big project portfolio of yours is your biggest headache. It’s true. If you are like most companies, your portfolio has grown to an unwieldy size, which means you have way too many projects competing for the same resources. Here’s what to do.

First, inventory ALL projects and activities that require any kind of IT resources, making sure to include non-obvious ones like SMEs and user training time. According to Gartner, 60% of IT’s budget is spent on operational, “keep the light on” activities, so it is important that these are included to ensure correct allocation of project resources. Projects that pull resources from core operations can create business risk.

Second, decide who will comprise a governance committee, i.e., who will make decisions concerning the portfolio. This should be a mix of IT and business leaders with the authority to make decisions for the organization. The governance committee will determine which projects should continue, which should be delayed, and which should be terminated. These decisions will be made based on determining which projects have the potential to create the most value for the company. Each project in the portfolio should align with business goals and be ranked on the strength of its business case outlining benefits, costs and risk. Keep this simple, but also be on the lookout for project interdependencies. You certainly don’t want a critical project bungled because it relied on deliverables from another project that was killed or delayed.

The importance of strong governance in the portfolio process cannot be overstated. Projects that are nice but not essential drain away resources that could be used more productively. Focus on cutting unnecessary demand and don’t start new projects until you know for certain that existing projects can be completed and meet expected deliverables. This won’t be easy. Every project is “owned” by someone who thinks it is the most important project in the portfolio, so it is essential to let the business case data drive the decision, and not emotions or politics. We can all relate. This time of year I can see myself riding around on a John Deere with 4-wheel steering, a zero turn radius, and a 48-inch mowing deck. Grass cutting would be so much easier (okay, and a little fun). But, with financial resources being what they are, I can’t make the case for its purchase because it will not really provide any material benefit. It’s just a “nice to have.” So, back to my 21” push mower. Sorry, John Deere dealer.

Half the year is gone. As you look at how you will finish out the year and also prepare for next year’s portfolio of projects, the summer months are a great time to review your project portfolio and get the pruning shears out. Since 80% of the benefit usually comes from 20% of the projects, in portfolio management, less is always more.