What To Expect From A Great Dashboard For Project Portfolio Management


Key Takeaways:

  • Project portfolio dashboards are used by PMOs and other project or business decision makers to get actionable information about the health and performance of their project portfolios.
  • Most digital portfolio dashboards are built around a set of core features, such as portfolio health scores and timelines.
  • The list of needed functionality may vary from one organization to the other, but it is always recommended to opt for a flexible, customizable, dynamic and easy-to-use solution.

Project Management Offices are often in charge of the centralized management of groupings of related projects and programs — in other words, portfolios. These portfolios may include a number of complex, high-stakes projects. Accordingly, it often proves challenging to get and maintain a clear and up-to-date view of activity at the portfolio level. That’s where project portfolio dashboards come into play. PPM dashboards are tools designed to shed light on the status and health of the projects in a portfolio, while also supporting planning and roadmapping activities. Here’s what PPM professionals need to know about portfolio dashboards.

Project Portfolio Dashboards: What Are They For?

The purpose of a portfolio dashboard is to provide all the concerned stakeholders with a high-level, one-page view of the status and health indicators of all the projects across the portfolio.

Project portfolio dashboards are typically used by project or business leaders — portfolio managers, IT directors, CxOs, PMOs, or other managers that oversee multiple projects and need to understand how they are faring from a high-level perspective. Portfolio dashboards may also be used by Project or Program Managers when reporting to project owners and sponsors or to business stakeholders.

A portfolio dashboard consolidates various graphical reports, charts and views as well as a range of key performance indicators to help track and measure project health, project progress, and budget information. It provides an at-a-glance view of the portfolio, helping you to understand whether the projects are on track to timely and successful completion, whether the actual performance matches the plans and expectations, how the money is spent, and what problems or issues the portfolio might be facing. The goal is to facilitate and accelerate decisions regarding the portfolio and to enable managers to anticipate possible hurdles ahead of time in order to maximize the overall value of project-related activities for the organization.

A good project portfolio dashboard should make it possible to drill down into the details of specific projects, but it is essentially designed to communicate higher-level insights about the portfolio as a whole. 

Key Ingredients Of A Great Project Portfolio Dashboard

In the past, Project Portfolio Management professionals have used various methods to build portfolio dashboards — from pen-and-paper dashboards to specific developments based on Excel or other desktop tools. However, these days, a Project Portfolio Dashboard usually takes the form of a dedicated module in a professional Project Portfolio Management platform.

There is no absolute, one-size-fits-all standard when it comes to portfolio dashboards, but here are some of the features, capabilities and views that most PPM software vendors provide:

  • A portfolio timeline graph that displays the planned schedules of the projects and materializes connections, dependencies and progress (with visual emphasis on the projects that are falling behind schedule)
  • Health indicators and graphs reflecting the operational and financial health of the portfolio and of the different projects it encompasses. These are often formatted as RAG (Red Amber Green) color indicators or heat maps.
  • An overview of projects, budgets, and teams, with a summary of all projects
  • Budget-specific indicators (e.g. budget vs. actual spend)
  • Insights into present and planned utilization of resources
  • Functionality offering the ability to assess the alignment of the portfolio with the strategic drivers and priorities of the organization
  • An overview of outstanding issues, risks and tasks by project and of unaddressed risks at the level of the portfolio
  • Functionality offering the ability to share comments and notes, send notifications, and drill down into views of individual projects
What To Keep In Mind When Selecting Or Building A Portfolio Dashboard

As mentioned earlier, portfolio dashboards may come in different shapes and forms and include different sets of functionality. The portfolio dashboard that your organization needs really depends on your strategic and operational priorities, on the type and size of your projects and portfolios, and on your PPM process.

However, when assessing various software offerings, it is recommended to make sure that the project portfolio dashboards they provide meet certain key conditions:

  • Usability: Your project portfolio dashboard will consolidate large masses of data, which various users (including non-operational and non-technical roles) will need to access and leverage. Hence the need to make sure that your dashboard is as intuitive and easy to use as possible.
  • Customizability: According to your organization’s culture and process and to the information consumption habits of your staff and leadership, you may want to customize the views, navigation, and behavior of your dashboard to improve the overall user experience. Having a customizable, flexible and scalable portfolio dashboard will also enable you to add extra features and reports should the need arise in the future.
  • Dynamism: Change is inherent in Project Management. See to it that the project portfolio dashboard of your choosing has the capability to update the data in real time.

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