Project Cycles, Business Cycles, Planning Cycles

I've been thinking about how to manage the project portfolio, and I just realized why so many project portfolio efforts fail.

There are three kinds of cycles the project portfolio managers need to manage:

  • Project cycles: when the project could release something
  • Planning cycles: how often the management team assesses the project portfolio
  • Business cycles: when customers want something new

To actually manage the portfolio, the project cycles have to be less than (or equal to) the planning cycles. The planning cycles have to be less than (or equal to) the business cycles (unless you don't care if you only react to customer requests instead of planning for them). Sometimes, you do want to react to customer requests (have a customer request trigger a planning cycle), but once you have a relatively mature product, the customer requests don't always align with your product roadmap.

To be most flexible, the Agile lifecycles shine for managing the project portfolio. If you can't manage an Agile lifecycle, use an incremental lifecycle. You'll have more flexibility on when to end the project–which means you can actually manage the project portfolio.

3 thoughts on “Project Cycles, Business Cycles, Planning Cycles”

  1. Johanna,
    These cycles may be quite different in the technology-driven industry. There, it is more often more a matter of “what can you do for the money” (or the timeframe) than “make what I want”.

    Technology is not only derived from universities or “MIT-like institutions. Often, competitors are a far more reliable source of the state-of-the-art in technology. For industry, technology should be past the lab-study phase: they must make working and safe products from it.

    The technology cycle (what is possible) and the competitor cycle (what is happening) are important strategic cycles too.

  2. Another comment… Cycles give the impression that there is rhythm, that it is possible to make a calender of repeating events or activities.

    Indeed, I think this is possible for projects, planning and business “cycles”, since they are purely internal business processes.

    Technology, competition, marketing usually follow a roadmap – as far as they are predictable. In some cases there are regularities (e.g. Moore’s law in semiconductor technology, or Xmas shopping), but usually they are not so cyclic.

    To manage a portfolio, we have to take into account our project portfolio as well as our product portfolio, taking into account the non-cyclic, external parameters.

    What do you think?

  3. Don’t you think you are stating the obvious? (Business is bigger than the Project)

    A Project is a change-request on a Product (portfolio). A Product change is caused by a change request from a business.

    Different “cycles” have to accommodate this ground reality.


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