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Optimizing Your Portfolios in Bubble Chart Pro™ OPTIMAL

Bubble Chart Pro™ OPTIMAL allows you to study the behavior of portfolios under multiple parameters, and displays charts and lists of projects ranked in order of Overall Value. This information alone is often not adequate to easily select an optimized set of projects based on business constraints such as budget dollars, available human resources, acceptable risk, timing, etc. For example, you may have 20 potential projects that would cost a sum total of $40 million and would require 30 full-time employees to complete. If you only have a budget of $20 million and 22 full-time employees, it can be very difficult and time consuming to manually determine the best selection of projects to resource. In this 20-project example, there are over 1 million different possible portfolios. In a 30-project portfolio, there are over 1 billion different possible portfolios, and the number continues to rise exponentially as shown in the chart below:

An optimization finds optimal or close to optimal portfolios based on your constraints from many potential solutions. The surface map below shows all the possible solutions meeting limited cost and limited employee constraints for a small (12 project) portfolio. This portfolio has 4,096 potential solutions and an exhaustive search of all possible solutions (a "brute force" search) identified 2,773 solutions. Of these 2,773 solutions, three optimal solutions were can be seen among many local smaller maxima.

Even though this was a small portfolio with only two constraints that was easy to solve using the "brute force" technique, it illustrates the challenges of optimizing larger portfolios with multiple constraints and billions of potential solutions :

  • The optimizer must be able to "explore" the optimization surface to find potential optimal solutions
  • The optimizer must avoid converging prematurely on a maxima that is not close to optimal
  • The optimizer must be able to find optimal solutions in a reasonable time period

The Bubble Chart Pro™ OPTIMAL optimizer has been designed to quickly optimize small (less than 100 projects) portfolios quickly and to find an optimized solution (not simply a near-optimal one), if one exists.

1. Start by clicking the Optimization button at the top of the Portfolio form.

2. If the portfolio has never been optimized, this will open the Optimizer form. All of the parameters are easily set using drop-down menus.

3. Select the attribute that you want to maximize such as “SMART Score” or “Profit” from the “Optimization Attribute” drop-down menu. The Optimizer will search for the portfolio that maximizes this attribute.

4. You add your constraints to the list by using the buttons and drop-down menus below the listbox.

5. Here is a form completed with 4 constraints. This will find a subset of projects that maximizes the total SMART Score while not exceeding $45,000 in “Cost (x$1,00), 70 “Resources Required,” keeping the mean of the “Probability of Success (%)” above 75%, and mean strategic SMART Score above 60. Clicking “Optimize” begins the optimization.

6. The Optimizer progress form opens to show you the progress of the optimization. The optimizer works by using a carefully-designed algorithm that tests partial portfolio subsets and quickly discards those that dont meet your constraints. This way, it finds an optimized portfolio without having to check all the possibilities.

7. When the optimization is complete, the results are displayed in the Optimization Results form. T8. When the optimization is complete, the results are displayed in the Optimization Results form. This optimization yielded portfolio with a Total SMART Score of 587.3. It spend $40,852 of the $45,000 cost constraint,; it uses 60 of the 70 required resources constraint, the mean probability of success for the selected projects is 75.6% and the mean strategic SMART Score is 75.9.

It took only 8 seconds to find this portfolio out of over 1 million possible portfolios.

8. After the optimization, the selected projects are marked with a check mark in the first column in the Portfolio form. Clicking the header at the top of the form lets you sort the portfolio by that column.

9. By highlighting the selected projects and clicking the “Subset” button, we can display only the 11 selected projects in the form. The data at the bottom provides a statistical summary of each attribute. The highlighted fields correspond to constraint values displayed in the Optimization Results form.

10. If you go to the Preferences form and select the [Mark Unselected Projects] check box, the unselected projects are marked with an “X” to make it easy to see how the optimizer performed in the bubble charts. In this chart, we can see how the optimizer selected mostly high-value projects, while rejecting the lowest value projects in the low-value high-cost lower right quadrant.

11. In this chart, we can see how the SMART value score and the Optimizer work together to select an optimized portfolio. Notice that the optimizer rejected all of the low probability of success projects except for a few in the lower left quadrant. In the lower right quadrant, all the high-cost and low probability of success projects were also rejected.

12. After a portfolio has been optimized, you can see the results by clicking on the portfolio button at the top of the Portfolio form. To run a new optimization, click the “Open Optimizer” button at the bottom of the form.

13. This will open a new Optimizer form that is already filled-in with the last optimization constraints. You can then edit it as before.

Next: The Portfolio Dashboard