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Portfolio management? How do I even get that near a meaningful agenda?

Project and programme management are well understood as a means of delivering effective outputs and outcomes; portfolio management still seems to be challenging organisations in terms of:

  • what it means (its big programme management with prioritisation isn’t it?)
  • its necessity (could you do just the project and programme management maturity assessment please, we don’t do portfolio management here)
  • getting it onto a senior stakeholder agenda (they understand PPM, but what’s the third P for again?)
  • how does it relate to my business; why should I bother? (you mean – I’ll be able to connect all my activity from strategy to delivery and back again??)

The APM Portfolio Management SIG will be running an evening event on Tuesday October 1st in London to:

  • Discuss how a portfolio management initiative is different from a project mgt or a programme mgt initiative in terms of getting it off the ground.
  • Present a real life case – one currently ‘in progress’ – and one we can learn from both now and as the initiative develops
  • Welcome short, pre prepared, ‘experience snapshots’ of portfolio mgt from the floor
  • Brainstorm the learning points in workshops
  • Summarise and make available to our members

We will collate, structure and write up the discussions and points from the meeting so that we can play them back to our SIG community.  

Do you have experiences of initiating and rolling out portfolio management that would be useful to share with our members? If yes could you please post a summary (blog reply) here or contact us with a brief summary offline and let us know whether you would be willing to stand up for 5-10 minutes (no more) and present your experiences, challenges and how you overcame them?

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  1. David Dunning
    David Dunning 23 August 2013, 06:57 PM

    Chaps nice examples, thank you :-)The exam question is more of how do we raise the perception of a need, line up the decision makers to do something, and make a case to a poorly informed - or maybe deliberately not informed organization?Not what have we done - more - how did we get something moving?DD

  2. Ross Nichols
    Ross Nichols 21 August 2013, 02:42 PM

    Hi David,I'd agree that Portfolio Management can be a tricky concept to understand.  I find it helpful to think in terms of project, programme and portfolio management,'P3' management.  My recent experience of introducing a client with limited project management knowledge to 'P3' management was positive.  I produced a bespoke 'P3' template based on EXCEL spreadsheets, which allowed the client to manage his projects, manage clusters of projects as programmes, and make business decisions on projects and programmes, all linked interacively within the same EXCEL workbook.  He asked for 'what if' functiionality and this was built in to the template to allow him to see the effects of speeding up or slowing down a project or programme on the business finances and other resources such as people, and also on the planned benefits and cumulatie risk exposure.  The return on investment functionality in the portfolio management aspect was tailored to his business goals, which included non-financial aspects such as environmental impact as a driver for investment decision making.  In my view, it is the intergration of portfolio management with project and programme management, the 'P3' management approach, that helps the client to understand what portfolio management is all about.  Making portfolio management a relevant and effective tool for decision makers that is directly linked to the projects and programmes they are interested in means they are far more likely to use it rather than simply admire it or be intimidated by it.That's my view - what about the user's view?  Here is the client feedback from Oliver Browne-Wilkinson of Medical Models Ltd on the 'P3' template I produced for him:    "By understanding the key road blocks facing the company as new products are being developed and launched into existing and new markets the EIN-SW (Engineerig Innovation Network-South West, who funded the project] project quickly understood the core strengths and weaknesses facing the company. The resulting support developed a purpose built strategic development template that took into account all the key issues facing new product development and built those stages into a unique staircase of activities and milestones. Most importantly it allows for multiple projects to be bundled into programs to see the cumulative effects both for resource and financial planning. The first successful outcome from using the planning tool will come to market in September 2013 and has allowed us to refocus some existing IP into a new market place. Having a new product into a new market is regarded as diversification using the Ansoff Matrix, but we feel that significant progress has been made in analysing and capturing potential outcomes and apply risk management techniques to the process, thus reducing potential exposure to losses. Finally the forecast BENEFITS of a project are not always as expected and with this additional layer of strategic planning we are more able than ever to maximise the outcomes from each project." I hope this is useful and I look forward to following this SIG discussion.Best wishesRoss Nichols 

  3. Brian Wernham
    Brian Wernham 19 August 2013, 12:22 PM

    I am method agnostic, but Dean Leffingwell's SAFe method has some interesting stuff to say about a new 'kanban' perspective on Portfolio Managment...The idea is that one can optimise the portfolio of projects by aiming to reduce work-in-progress.  In other words, split up/phase projects that have plans for building up significant product under development but no imminent go-live in sight...If I am in London on October 1st I could give a 5 minute overview, otherwise I will be talking at the Agile Business Conference - and Dean will be there also...Brian Wernham RPP FAPM