Image: Chainarong Prasertthai, Getty Images/iStockPhoto

Reducing the impact of a crisis, such as a pandemic, can create significant stress for business leaders and teams. It can also generate much uncertainty after the event. Project portfolio managers are uniquely positioned to help executive teams identify new opportunities, address potential risks, and develop strategic plans, resource projects, and measure progress that supports a new direction. Here’s how.

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

1. Identifying emerging opportunities

As the proverb says, necessity is the mother of invention. Out of a crisis, opportunities are often born. But these opportunities aren’t always easy to recognize or pursue—especially as companies are reeling after a crisis. Portfolio managers are experienced at seeing the forest through the trees. They can work alongside executives to identify the opportunities and investments that align with a company’s current or new direction. They play a crucial role in determining feasibility, optimal timing, and how each project will fit into a company’s overall direction.

SEE: Tableau business analytics: Tips and tricks (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Working with CIOs, CTOs, and other executives, portfolio managers can provide guidance about not only which portfolios, programs, or projects should be included, but more importantly, why and how. This is key to shifting focus and seizing opportunities following a crisis.

2. Addressing new and existing risks

Following a crisis, risks can be increased, or new risks can surface. Portfolio managers and their teams are well equipped to help executive teams prepare and identify post-crisis risks and risk management strategies. Conducting a post-crisis evaluation is the first step. Risks that may not have previously been a factor, should be identified as quickly as possible. Equally important are lower-rated risks that have become more of an immediate issue. Security is an example of an area where there may be newly created opportunities for hackers to access sensitive information. Portfolio managers can work with the CIO and other operational executives to identify projects that address emerging or increased internal and external threats.

SEE: Top 5 project portfolio management tools (TechRepublic)

3. Developing strategic plans

Identifying opportunities and challenges following a crisis is only the start. Developing concrete strategies to move companies forward is vital to being able to not only survive a crisis but also come out of it stronger. It’s not enough to develop strategies to get out of a crisis; plans need to be made to address what’s next as uncertainty will continue to impact a company’s existing plans. Most companies following COVID-19 will continue to grapple with operational challenges and the business recovery in general. Portfolio managers and their teams can help executives develop short- and long-term plans for recovery and rebuild toward a better future. This includes laying out capacity plans and resourcing for new projects that will meet all required initiatives’ future needs.

4. Capacity planning and resourcing initiatives

Capacity planning and adequate resourcing during and after a crisis can be a tremendous undertaking if the crisis involves being short-staffed, such as with the COVID-19 pandemic. With many employees being mandated to stay at home to reduce the spread of the virus, companies, and institutions are overburdened. This has impacted supply chains around the world. Being better prepared for the future requires refocusing resources, especially with supply chains. Portfolio managers are experts at helping large organizations and institutions plan for capacity and resource mission-critical initiatives such as surgeries, food delivery, essential equipment, and supplies.

SEE: Inside UPS: The logistics company’s never-ending digital transformation (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

It’s not enough to identify and plan for emerging opportunities and risks or develop, implement, and execute plans. Progress must be realistically and accurately measured. In a manufacturing environment, for instance, portfolio managers can help executives gain more visibility. This includes having a full understanding of how vendors and manufacturing teams are performing using key performance indicators (KPIs) such as production yield rates, order tracking, return material authorizations, or other KPIs.