Using Standalone Microsoft Project as a Portfolio Tool

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Portfolio Plan with Standalone Microsoft Project

Microsoft project is one of the most popular project planning tools available. Usually used for planning a single project at a time, Microsoft also have Project Server that allows consolidate and coordination of data across project delivery teams and portfolios of projects. MS Project can also be used with other PPM tools too. But you can also get a lot from it in the portfolio space if you do not have a PPM solution.


Assembling the portfolio View

Getting data from your projects for your portfolio plan can be done several different ways. You can in small portfolios data can be collected manually. The manual approach is time consuming and prone to error, but with a small number of projects a possible solution. Microsoft Project allows you to link projects together as subprojects. The resulting master project would need to link to all your active projects for this to work. In practice linking many projects can result in some issues in handling your master plan. If you set up dependencies, then this can also affect your individual project manager’s schedules. Subprojects will allow you to link to the schedule data but you still need to manually set up projects. A third alternative is to create a simple Visual Basic Macro to call in data from each project

MS Project Portfolio Plan

When assembling the portfolio view you need to consider what elements to include. In the example above we have project department and a selection of status traffic lights. But with some careful planning the range of data displayed can vary to suit the use for the portfolio plan.

Use of the Portfolio View

What data is displayed and how many views on the data you create depends on what you need from the portfolio plan you want. Our experience show portfolio plans of this nature fall into the following categories:

  • The strategic project selection tool use to select the best cut of projects to achieve corporate goals. This is constrained by Resources, money, timescales and alignment to organisational objectives.
  • The operational plan used for monitoring progress and tuning budget and resource planning. Allowing focus on performance.
  • A hybrid of strategic and operational. This approach needs careful tuning of views in order to achieve both goals.

MS Project Filter Portfolio Plan

Once the core data is assembled into your portfolio plan from the individual projects, the way you use and display the data can flex with the specific need and objectives. The view above represents a filter on all non “Green” projects in the portfolio.

To use a view of your portfolio as an operational tool you need to arrange regular updates to keep project data current. Routine updates are a lot simpler with an automated process, or constant connection between your projects.

A range of project related areas can also be captured to help with resource forecasting and deliverables recording. Microsoft project stand alone, can provide a useful alternative to some of the core elements that a PPM tool can provide. It will not provide the same controls and range of functions a PPM tool should give you.

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