Our project portfolio management tool Optsee® was recently used in a graduate IT Strategy Course in the Executive Management of Technology Masters program (EMTM) program at the University of Pennsylvania, co-sponsored by Penn College of Engineering and the Wharton School of Business.

For some background information on this project, I blogged about it here when it was getting started.

Five teams of students were each given an IT project portfolio management business case study and were asked to prioritize all the projects based on the strategic goals of the company. Next, they were asked to develop a three-year plan that maximized portfolio value to the firm while also meeting budget and resource constraints. They first created and presented their initial portfolio “manually” using spreadsheets and then by using Optsee®.

Each student downloaded free fully-functional version of of Optsee® desktop pre-loaded with the projects, a full-tutorial, and a detailed step-by-step guide to completing the assignment. Optsee is compatiable with both Windows and Mac computers, and requires no speadsheets or programing to run Monte Carlo simulations and portfolio optimizations.

The learning goals of the assignment included:

  • Understanding the challenges of building a 3-year IT portfolio to support business objectives under fluctuating money, resource, and time constraints
  • Learning how to translate business strategy into a portfolio model, including evaluating and ranking the attributes to match business strategy
  • Understanding how uncertainty in business data and the decision model can effect portfolio outcomes
  • Having an experience of modeling a project portfolio using both Monte Carlo simulations and optimizations

All of these objectives were met. Each team’s presentation and portfolio were different, and yet each team did an excellent job of developing and defending their ultimate project portfolio management decisions.

Some of the key process learnings expressed by the students after completing the assignment:

  • The framework provided by Optsee® made it much easier and faster for the teams to compare different portfolios and constraints than doing it with spreadsheets
  • In the spreadsheet approach, the focus was on individual projects whereas with Optsee® the focus was on the relative importance of the project attributes and constraints in relationship to business strategy
  • Each team found the software-assisted project portfolio easier to explain and justify than the spreadsheet project portfolio

Some keys to success of the module:

  • Having a “with software” and “without software” experience for each team showed them the benefits of using a project portfolio management tool
  • Providing a clear, visual, step-by-step software guide for each team to use (so the software learning curve was short)
  • Using a single application that was designed for PPM with built-in prioritizers and optimizers so they did not have to learn or use multiple tools
  • Providing an interesting business case study that required strategic thinking to meet the assignment requirements

If you’re a professor who might be interested in using this in your class, please e-mail or call me. I’d be happy to discuss it with you.