The Active Project

The Active Project

In a previous post, it covered the birth of a project; this article covers the project life cycle from activation to completion. This is known as the maturation process of an active project.

Project Active

Once funding has been approved, and the finances released then the selected project is active. It is at this stage the project manager is open to commence recruitment and assigning team members. This is a good time to also commence the work schedule and other activities associated with launching the project.

When delivering a complex project, management would need to maintain control while still being flexible and adaptive at the same time. The following should be considered;

An understanding of the deliverable schedule and possibly exception reports, this can include.

  • The plan is being followed and going well.
  • Minor variances from the original plan which includes steps “back to” compliance within the next reporting period, and details attached for reference.
  • Major variances from plan are required and assistance is needed to complete a corrective action plan. Details of which are attached for action.
  • The prospect of the project failing and not having the authority or knowledge to restore the project to plan. The details are attached for intervention.

Evaluation Phase

Consists of determining which portfolio or portfolios the project is most closely aligned with. Three outcomes are possible from this evaluation:

  • The project is not aligned and is rejected out of hand.
  • The project is not aligned but revision and re-submission recommended.
  • The project is aligned.

Once it is determined that the project is aligned, proposing parties should begin preparing a detailed plan. Information such as, time, cost, and resource requirements will help the portfolio manager make a final determination regarding the project support that will be needed from the portfolio.

Alignment can be a complex task, in respect to defining the process, which metric will be used, quantitative or qualitative? The next decision is aligning the specific portfolio with several portfolios, one or more strategic objectives.

Prioritised Project

All proposed projects for the portfolio will be ranked along with other proposed projects within the same portfolio. This is the final stage before the project is selected for the portfolio. Once ranked and priority provided, it will be funded and included in the portfolio.

Forcing one measurement on all project proposals might be too restrictive and force invalid conversions of success measures to a single metric, like bottom line dollars. So allowing any one of the three metrics defined in IRACIS to be used, the problem reduces to comparing projects across all three measures of business value.

The rules for the qualitative measures a stated below;
M = must do
S = should do
C = could do
W = will not do now

Variations of A, B, and C or 1, 2, and 3 are also common. This is just a metric which can be used, there are others, and use one that is best understood to get the desired results.

Selected Project

This is a temporary classification and assuming approval of the portfolio, this project will be supported. That support may come in the form of less time, money, and resources than were requested. In such cases a revised project plan and expected business value will be prepared.

As a portfolio manager there are some traps to avoid. A PM can be forced into a no-win situation by maintaining the originally proposed deliverables but in less time, for less money or with fewer resources. Many PMs prefer their projects supported and will often agree to compromises that cannot be realistically attained. The Project manager should not be force into such positions. Once the level of support has been awarded require the PM to finalize the project plan and deliverables in line with the support provided and then negotiate from that position to a realistic closure. Now the project team can be held accountable for the results they agreed to deliver.

The Death of a Project

There are three ways that the project can move through the death process. It can be postponed, cancelled or completed.

Postponed Project

An active project is postponed if its staff resources have been temporarily removed. Such projects must return to the pool of prioritized projects and be selected and its staff resources restored. The resources allocated to a postponed project are returned to the staffing category from which they originated to be reallocated to the next project in the queue of that project category.

Postponed indefinitely

The problem situation or business opportunity is no longer what it was when the project was first proposed.


A project can be paused for some number of cycles due to a temporary condition and then resumed when the condition is no longer in play. These conditions include:

  • Higher priority projects require team resources for a few cycles for completion.
  • There is a temporary loss of resources to the portfolio.

Project Cancelled

An active project is cancelled if it has failed to demonstrate planned progress toward its successful completion. Depending on the stage in which the project was cancelled, there may be unspent resources. If so, they are returned to the resource pool from which they originated. Those resources then become available for the next project in the prioritized queue of projects being held pending funding for that portfolio.

Project Completed

A project is completed if it has met all of its objectives and delivered acceptable business value. Even if it hasn’t met all of its objectives the decision may be to call the current solution acceptable and hence the project complete. Recall that the complex project environment is one where the completed solution is not known at project launch and the solution attained may compromise some of the deliverables and hence delivered business value may be less than planned business value but yet acceptable.

Piecing it together

Every organisation needs to define its own version of this birth and death process. Once done that the organisation can track the number of projects in each category. This is especially important in establishing the contents of each portfolio. Of specific interest will be the Project Prioritisation category and the staffing of selected projects. Prioritisation includes new projects, continuing projects, and postponed projects. Defining the rules for prioritisation is not as easy as might be perceived. The three categories of projects are to be prioritised in a single list and they are very different types of projects.

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