What Project Interdependencies Span Your Portfolio?

September 21, 2018 By

Projects by their very essence, involve a great deal of coordination. Given the dexterity required to juggle their interdependencies, particularly within an enterprise-wide portfolio, project managers often refer to them a necessary evil. As contributions pouring in from different quarters, be it in the form of manpower, equipment and interlinked tasks, knowing your project interdependencies and how they affect your portfolio is regarded as a key element in ensuring that the domino effect doesn’t happen to your portfolio, i.e, no single project is responsible for derailing the others in queue.

A project manager would find that they need something or someone from a different department to the one that they’re in. Which is why the ultimate test of your portfolio’s health rests on identifying these project interdependencies early on.There’s no other way around it. After all, the portfolio would make sense to your teams only when they have an overview of when and where they’ll be needed and what tasks they’ll be working on based on their complexity, skills and time for completion. They’d consequently help each other out to speed things up in time for the originally estimated project delivery deadline.

Besides connecting people, tasks and equipment, project interdependencies carry a shared goal through the multi-channel interactions between two or more projects. This means you’d save both time and costs by scattering the right quantity of resources around multiple projects while facilitating seamless knowledge transfers. The more closely tied two projects are even with their separate constraints, the more their economic and strategic benefits. So,

Relationships Between Projects in a Portfolio worth knowing about

Project Interdependency Management is the practice of managing project relationships in a portfolio. It is an important facet of the project portfolio management scope that lets you position your resources strategically to realize your project’s intended benefits.

It lowers your resourcing overhead by releasing the right resources for multiple projects running in parallel such that their ability to produce value is not compromised by being over or under allocated. This way, you’re not left in the lurch finding people on time to take up work. Once you know schedule your resources you’ll glimpse their availability in a snapshot, 6-12 months ahead, which lets you staff your projects with the exact quantity of tangible resources needed.

Managers analyzing the project dependencies in a portfolio of projects.

A synergistic portfolio, after all, is one that benefits from sharing resources and their capabilities. For example, an in-house development project would require hyper-specialized skills as well as equipment sufficiency so that everyone has what they need to get things running off the ground..Moreover, it standardizes data usage internally so that information is shared with precision across the enterprise in real-time. After all, given that which not only resolves delays but prevents anyone’s work from being obstructed on account of the right people absent at a critical time or having incomplete briefs. The 4 inter-project dependencies you can expect to encounter are:

1. Mandatory dependencies

While dependencies by their very definition mutually rely on each other, a mandatory dependency refers to an activity that doesn’t start until the first one finishes. These are further subdivided into:

a. Resource dependency: This is where a project is constrained by the time taken to onboard resources who’re deployed onto parallel work. The project therefore would depend on these resources being released in time to extract potential by balancing agility with the right mix of technical know-how, corporate clout and staffing sufficiency.

b. Outcome dependency: An outcome dependency exists if the outcome produced in one project can be used on another only if it can be fed into the secondary project in a manner benefitting it.

2. Internal Dependencies

Primarily found very much within the folds of the enterprise, the perimeters of your internal dependencies are marked by your existing capabilities, which are divided into

a. Technology interdependencies: This is where you decide on the standards for the actual technology in play and leverage it across multiple projects in different proportions. In other words, project A may require diverse technical tools in comparison to project B.

b. Technical interdependencies: This dependency occurs when the technical success in one activity affects the probability of business success in another activity.

c. Learning-based interdependencies: This dependency is the outcome of knowledge transfers from the lessons learned on previous projects.

3. External Dependencies

a. Market interdependencies: knowing what to build that is of value to your target audience is half the road taken. Market interdependencies lets you combine the functionalities of two or more products and release them into an existing market. Alternately, it lets you innovate with a new design from recycled information such that you can inject the product into a new line altogether to see if the consumer demographic is maximizing its usage.
Now that we’ve covered a fair bit of ground on the types of interdependencies, the next step is to measure them qualitatively as well as quantitatively.

Methods to Capture and Measure Project Interdependencies

Experiential judgement is a must-have for any project, given that some learnings are best derived from decisions taken at the time of encountering a challenging situation. The biggest challenge in managing project interdependencies is that you risk overlooking the cumulative dependencies within the portfolio. The two methods below let you analyze your dependencies scientifically-

1. Dependency Matrices: This method uses a two dimensional grid to display and analyze bi-directional dependencies between paired projects in a portfolio. The rows and columns are each labelled with the set of projects in the portfolio which groups known dependencies(discussed above) into the grid.

2. Network Mapping and Analysis: This approach is more mathematical in nature and has its roots in graph theory. It uses graphical models to map the entire project network. Since a network contains interconnected elements, analyzing individual nodes and how and where they’re injected in the network serves as a more precise instrument for measuring interdependencies in a portfolio. This saves you a step by analyzing everything at once. Network mapping works best with a computerised tool that can handle volumes of data and illustrates both actual and proposed changes in the network. One way of doing this is via the Social network analysis (SNA) which investigates the relationships between people and processes within the organization.

Since every project starts and ends at definitive dates governed by the urgency of the deliverables in question, it follows logically that the activities within project interdependencies affect milestone tracking post the planning stage. All through the 5 stages of initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and closing, different bodies of work are involved, which translates to tasks spilling over one another with one activity consuming more time or using up more resources than the other. With this in mind enter 4 logical relationships between two dependent activities/milestones, these being:

a. Finish-to-Start Relationship – where the start event of the next activity relies on the predecessor activity finishing on target

b. Start-to-Start Relationship – where the start event of the next activity depends on the estimated start of a preceding activity.

c. Finish-to-Finish Relationship – This relationship is entirely reliant on finish dates of two mutually dependent activities.

d. Start-to-Finish Relationship – while it’s easy to mistake this relationship to mean the same as a F-S relationship, this relationship exists when you can estimate the finish of the next activity in line only based on when the first activity will start.

What’s next?

Now that you’ve a comprehensive overview of project interdependencies within a portfolio, let us know how the two methods helped you curate and run your portfolio effortlessly!

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Namratha Mohan

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