Project Portfolio Management (PPM) What is a Portfolio?

Sunday, January 20, 2019, 6:00 AM | Leave Comment

Most believe a portfolio is an extension of projects and programs. They see the portfolio as a roll-up of the projects their employer has approved, a way to group them together.

An example might be all IT projects and programs for the current year making up the IT portfolio.

In reality, the portfolio comes first. The portfolio is the strategic vehicle by which a business delivers on its goals and objectives.

So, in IT, for example, if the goals for the year are around lowering costs, increasing security and reducing downtime, then the portfolio is responsible for delivering those goals.

IT leaders will then plan to meet those goals through a number of projects and programs, and those will be placed in the portfolio. However, if one of those projects is failing, it can be canceled, removing it from the portfolio.

The resources assigned to that project can then be moved to a new project or other existing projects can be changed, modifying the portfolio further to ensure it still delivers on the goals. So, while the contents of the portfolio change, the purpose doesn’t. It still has to deliver the expected results.

In other words, the portfolio is consistent, projects and programs can be changed as needed based on their ability to contribute to goals. This means the portfolio is a living thing. It changes over time as a result of numerous variables, such as product delivery problems, but also changing business priorities, new opportunities and challenges or inaccurate plans.

The portfolio must, therefore, be actively managed. It must be continuously reviewed and adjusted to ensure the projects and programs within it are the right ones and that they’re capable of achieving the business goals that are expected.

In order to successfully manage a portfolio, you must cover all elements of the portfolio lifecycle starting with the capturing of ideas and suggestions for projects and continuing through the analysis and selection of the initial components.

Portfolio management then shifts to overseeing the project execution phase before moving into an active role in ensuring the expected business benefits are actually achieved once projects have been completed. Most importantly, all of these elements must be managed as part of a single approach to delivering results.

As I said at the beginning, the portfolio comes first before projects and programs. It must be managed in that way to ensure the organization’s goals have the best chance constant of being delivered.

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This column is © copyright to and originally appeared in their weekly project management tip newsletter.

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