The CIO's Guide to Breakthrough Project Portfolio Performance - Deepstash
The CIO's Guide to Breakthrough Project Portfolio Performance

The CIO's Guide to Breakthrough Project Portfolio Performance

Michael Hannan, Wolfram Muller, Hilbert Robinson


Keep reading for FREE

The Premise: Breakthrough Portfolio-Wide Improvements

The Premise: Breakthrough Portfolio-Wide Improvements

When we talk about breakthrough portfolio-wide improvements, we mean selecting much higher-impact projects, at least doubling the number of them that your organization can complete, and being able to deliver over 90 percent of them within plan—all within existing resource constraints.


99 reads

The Project Portfolio

The three most important objectives for any project portfolio are:

  • Selecting the right projects.
  • Maximizing the portfolio’s throughput of project completions.
  • Optimizing the portfolio’s reliability of project completions.


65 reads


  • CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) focuses on improving the underlying processes required for successful IT project delivery.
  • PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) provides a set of foundational and “generally recognized good practices” that it reinforces via its certifications.

There is significant emphasis on what we would consider “input metrics”—such as repeatable processes and practices—without corresponding outcome metrics to assess whether this repeatability actually helps improve throughput or reliability.


52 reads

The Theory Of Constraints

The Theory Of Constraints (TOC) says that in any system, there is one function, resource, process area, or process step that constrains the entire system’s ability to deliver on its mission.

Once an organization has identified its system constraint, it knows that any improvement anywhere other than at the constraint will have little or no impact on overall organizational effectiveness. Putting this concept into practice helps provide much-needed clarity on where to focus improvement efforts.


18 reads

Effective Throughput

One way to think of Throughput per Constraint Unit (T/CU) is in terms of “effective throughput,” as it represents what is actually expected to achieve, given what is known about how the system constraint limits throughput.

One simply needs to get defensible estimates of T/CU for each project candidate and fund the highest-scoring ones for which one has a budget and available CUs to support.


17 reads

Effective ROI

A somewhat improved project-selection metric is called “Effective ROI,” as it calculates the actual ROI expected when taking into account the system constraint: Throughput per Constraint Unit, per Investment (T/CU/I).

At some point, however, most or all of this hidden capacity will get used up, such that any further projects delivering new capabilities into operation will only serve to overload the constraint, degrading throughput. As a result, the only projects that make sense at that point are those that can actually expand capacity at the constraint.


14 reads

More Projects With Minimum Resources

If you can find a way to get more projects done without adding resources, you will have a greater ability both to expand capacity at the constraint, and to use that additional capacity to drive up throughput.


14 reads

Managing Traffic

We can boost highway throughput in a number of ways—here are some common ones:

  • We can keep the road free of impediments and in good working order.
  • We can increase traffic density (e.g., carpooling).
  • We can meter the on-ramps whenever their inflow slows the main flow of traffic.
  • We can recruit underutilized resources elsewhere.
  • We can try and make the cars go faster.
  • We can build an additional lane or two.

PPM works in the same way, but we tend to be concerned only with the speed.


20 reads

Project Management As Traffic Management

In PPM, we tend to focus mostly on trying to make the cars go faster—even when the highway is all jammed up, sometimes causing accidents, and usually frustrating everyone on the highway who can’t get where they want to go. We also tend to jump right to trying to add a lane or two—which is rarely quick, easy, or inexpensive, if it’s a feasible option at all.

While speed is important and adding capacity may well be in order, let’s start by getting traffic to flow.


12 reads

Project Staggering

For CIOs, IT Project Portfolio Managers, and other senior executives looking for a more practical, hybrid approach for improving the throughput of project completions, project staggering is the first step.

It is important to note that task switching is slowing us down a lot—by a whopping 40 percent, according to many studies. If all we do is stagger our projects and execute them with a single-task focus, we can more than double portfolio throughput.


11 reads

Too Much Bloat

It turns out that this is higher than normal, but not by much—seasoned process engineers will tell you that the typical business process contains 70-90 percent bloat. The challenge is to devote time, energy, and the right talent into improving processes before software-enabling them.

By combining project staggering, single-task execution, and elimination of task/sprint-level commitments, we see that we can now more than triple portfolio throughput—and none of these techniques is complex or difficult to learn and apply.


21 reads

The Three Conditions

Assuming that most or all of our projects suffer from pervasive task-switching, we would expect an average productivity benefit of 40 percent from focused, single-task execution, with results satisfying three conditions:

  • Change the object being moved through the process.
  • Deliver a result that’s done right the first time.
  • Deliver value—as defined by the customer of that process.


9 reads

Top Productivity: Project Buffering

The goal here is to make sure that the developers always have something to work on. Everything is steered by the volume of planned tasks in the task buffer. So if there are just two tasks left, then one of the developers takes the next story from the product backlog and breaks it into tasks.

If buffer holes persist, then keep increasing the buffer size by one, until no buffer holes occur anymore. If your buffer rises to the point at which you have more than one task in the buffer for every two developers, the problem most likely lies in how long it takes you to break stories into tasks.


10 reads

Focussed Work

Ask all team members to block six hours every day on their calendars for focused task work, leaving the rest of the time to respond to messages etc.

Effective ROI is essential for selecting high-impact projects.

  • At the task level, Single Tasking and Elimination of Task-level Commitments are essential for maximizing improvements in speed and reliability.
  • At the project level, Project Staggering is indispensable for maximizing the throughput of project completions.
  • At the portfolio level, Buffer Balancing using the Buffer Protection Index (BPI) is required for optimizing reliability.


9 reads

Task-Execution Environment

If we can set up our task-execution environments to more closely resemble a relay race, the behaviours will follow—as will the speed and reliability benefits.

The logical progression can be:

  • Project Staggering
  • Project Buffering
  • Portfolio Buffer Balancing
  • Project Selection Using Effective ROI
  • Eliminating Task-level Commitments
  • Single-Tasking
  • Ultimate Scrum
  • Showing all Buffers as Time-Based
  • Lean Process VSAs.


7 reads



A fantastic productivity resource on how to get more done when you’re managing multiple projects

View all The CIO's Guide to Breakthrough Project Portfolio Performance Book Summaries

Ready for the next level?

Read Like a Pro


Explore the World’s

Best Ideas

200,000+ ideas on pretty much any topic. Created by the smartest people around & well-organized so you can explore at will.

An Idea for Everything

Explore the biggest library of insights. And we've infused it with powerful filtering tools so you can easily find what you need.

Knowledge Library

Powerful Saving & Organizational Tools

Save ideas for later reading, for personalized stashes, or for remembering it later.

# Personal Growth

Take Your Ideas


Organize your ideas & listen on the go. And with Pro, there are no limits.

Listen on the go

Just press play and we take care of the words.

Never worry about spotty connections

No Internet access? No problem. Within the mobile app, all your ideas are available, even when offline.

Get Organized with Stashes

Ideas for your next work project? Quotes that inspire you? Put them in the right place so you never lose them.


2 Million Stashers


5,740 Reviews

App Store


72,690 Reviews

Google Play

Sean Green

Great interesting short snippets of informative articles. Highly recommended to anyone who loves information and lacks patience.

Ashley Anthony

This app is LOADED with RELEVANT, HELPFUL, AND EDUCATIONAL material. It is creatively intellectual, yet minimal enough to not overstimulate and create a learning block. I am exceptionally impressed with this app!

Shankul Varada

Best app ever! You heard it right. This app has helped me get back on my quest to get things done while equipping myself with knowledge everyday.


Don’t look further if you love learning new things. A refreshing concept that provides quick ideas for busy thought leaders.

Jamyson Haug

Great for quick bits of information and interesting ideas around whatever topics you are interested in. Visually, it looks great as well.

Laetitia Berton

I have only been using it for a few days now, but I have found answers to questions I had never consciously formulated, or to problems I face everyday at work or at home. I wish I had found this earlier, highly recommended!

Giovanna Scalzone

Brilliant. It feels fresh and encouraging. So many interesting pieces of information that are just enough to absorb and apply. So happy I found this.

Ghazala Begum

Even five minutes a day will improve your thinking. I've come across new ideas and learnt to improve existing ways to become more motivated, confident and happier.

Read & Learn

20x Faster





Access to 200,000+ ideas

Access to the mobile app

Unlimited idea saving & library

Unlimited history

Unlimited listening to ideas

Downloading & offline access

Personalized recommendations


Claim Your Limited Offer

Get Deepstash Pro

Supercharge your mind with one idea per day

Enter your email and spend 1 minute every day to learn something new.


I agree to receive email updates