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Selling portfolio management

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This new SIG has many challenges, no, lets call them opportunities why not? One of these is the promotion, or rather selling (the value of) portfolio management.

I take the view that this really needs to be done at senior levels in an organisation. Why? Well promoting portfolio management I think is different from the promotion of project or even programme management. Those capabilities have often grown in organisations from local centres of excellence and their value gradually recognised. Portfolio management only truly adds value when it operates at some corporate level, and hence needs to be driven at the same senior level (which could be departmental/divisional i.e. does not have to be for the whole organisation).

This means that the primary audience for selling portfolio management is the executive level. And the key sell messages? These fall into three categories, firstly, those which highlight the value of portfolio management to their organisation, e.g. control of investment in projects. Secondly, scare stories, e.g. do you really know how much you are spending on projects that go nowhere? Finally, and for some executive stakeholders perhaps most importantly.what is in it for me?

Sitting alongside this more positive sell is overcoming resistance, because there will be a great deal of this. Remember that high value portfolio management is a new and potentially powerful corporate governance mechanism. Therefore, bad practise will be exposed (and those responsible), pet projects will be exposed, annoying powerful people and autonomy may be reduced which will also annoy some.

So, if you want to sell portfolio management in your organisation, do your stakeholder analysis and develop your sales (stakeholder management) strategy and pick your allies very carefully.

I look forward to lots of disagreement, refinement and outright outrage at some if not all of the above, so much the better, energy will help us develop good practise more quickly.

Adrian Pyne (Portfolio SIG committee member, Chair of ProgM - Programme Management SIG)


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  1. Bruce Bozza
    Bruce Bozza 27 December 2010, 12:27 PM

    I agree with Adrian regarding the importance of senior management as key stakeholders in any Portfolio Management (PfM) implementation at a corporate level.  This simply reflects that such an implementation should be viewed as a significant business level transformation programme (and managed as such).  Whilst PfM is not overly technically complex, it does involve significant business cultural change.  Similarly, most organisations are unlikely to get it right first time, particularly in relation to process, people and possibly business aspects of the programme.Breaking the implementation down into smaller tranches reduces overall risk. Starting with one or more Pilot areas will provide a safe space for learning and if done right will create the momentum for larger scale implementations.  Nothing is more powerful to the Board than being able to confidently demonstrate real cost savings/value generation of 20-40% which is not unrealistic in many business areas.What I would stress to organisations new to PfM is to get your hands dirty and demonstrate the benefits of the approach.  If you look at the underlying basic techniques and methods within PfM it is fundamentally about how to maximise the value returned to the business from the money it invests (at an acceptable and optimised risk level).  Its up to you to define what that business (or asset portfolio to be managed) is. That is, the application of PfM thinking is fully scalable.  An example:  defects and change requests relating to a given application; which can be broadened out to a family of applications (e.g. those related to financial management); then the corporate management set of applications; then all applications; then further supersets (regions or global, across government and so forth).A few key points for ongoing debate/feedback:1.       PfM is a separate but related discipline to Project and Programme Management (particularly cost estimation, benefits management and risk management).  The better you are at the latter the more value can be delivered by PfM.2.       Use common desktop applications to support initial efforts.  Technology is not a significant issue in early stages and you need to consider the cost of large scale systems particularly the potential need to re-implement to accommodate changing business needs.  If you are at the point of considering advanced systems be crystal clear about the value it needs to deliver, and your capability to drive out that return to the business.3.       In what areas has your organisation applied PfM either successfully or not?

  2. Nigel Bell
    Nigel Bell 04 January 2011, 10:37 AM

    Just a short note to say how much I enjoyed the blog post ... and even more so the response from Bruce!  A great start to the year.