Introduction to Context

The context of a project, programme or portfolio is made up of two areas: governance and setting.

Governance deals with the procedural and cultural aspects that need to be in place to improve the frequency and level of delivery success. The topics covered here are the institutional factors that cannot be implemented overnight. An organisation that invests in this area over a period of years should consistently achieve higher levels of successful delivery.

Setting deals with the broad organisational factors that are outside the boundaries of the project, programme or portfolio but, nonetheless, have a significant impact upon the way the work is approached and carried out.

One important example of the setting is the sector in which the work is performed, e.g. IT, construction or defence. Another is the commercial nature of the work, e.g. for profit, not-for-profit, single or multi-organisational. Whatever their sector or commercial setting, an organisation’s projects, programmes and portfolios must be compatible with its overarching strategy and need to be compatible with the business-as-usual part of the organisation.

For internal delivery, a structured approach to change management ensures that beneficial changes are embedded within the organisation’s operational approach. Where the work is performed on behalf of a client organisation, the contractor must also work within the client’s environmental constraints.

The context of a portfolio (shown below) will always be the ‘host organisation’ e.g. a company, government department or charity. Some standalone programmes or projects will have the host organisation as their context, while some will be part of a portfolio. Equally, some projects will be part of a programme.

Figure 1.1: Context

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