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Assuring successful delivery of the portfolio

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The APM Portoflio Management SIG and the APM Project and Programme Assurance SIG presented a joint event entitled Assuring successful delivery of the portfolio on 9 February 2011.Almost 70 people attended to hear the talks and participate in a workshop on portfolio assurance. It was chaired by Roy Millard.

The day began with keynote speaker Terry Morgan, Chair of Crossrail, speaking about the circa 16bn infrastructure and rolling stock development project expected to deliver shorter cross-London travel times of 20-40% by 2018. Of particular interest to portfolio managers was the investment model of staging release of funding to successful bidders, the release of which depends on delivery and performance of intermediate objectives. It was interesting to note that the burden of assurance is being placed on delivery partners.

This was followed by Steve Jenner, Portfolio Management SIG Chair who spoke about the recent launch of the OGCs latest Management of Portfolios publication and associated exams. Steve reminded us that its all about doing things right and doing the right things a two-cycle process at the heart of the five requirements for successful portfolio management: an energised change culture, senior management commitment, governance alignment, strategy alignment, and an effective portfolio office. The release includes a detailed practitioners guide, a shorter pocket size guide for senior executives and a handy fold-out pamphlet summarising the main principles and practices. In tandem with this, the APMG-UK is offering accredited training the foundation exams are already underway with practitioner exams to follow by the third quarter. Steve also made the point that portfolios aren't just bigger projects or programmes and so assurance needs a different approach to both of the others.

Chris Beach and Roy Millard then gave an excellent example of portfolio assurance best practice from Transport for London. TfL delivery objectives have been mapped to and closely aligned with mayoral transport priorities as part of TfLs Strategic Assessment Framework (SAF). The SAF is used to support investment decisions and project development and uses spider plots to convey outcomes management information across all objectives. Different kinds of assurance work are carried out for different levels of customer, ranging from the mayor down to line managers. In excess of 100 gate reviews take place each year. Perhaps one of the most innovative aspects of this work is the Independent Investment Programme Advisory Group, a committee of independent experts that provides portfolio (board) level assurance on economy, efficiency and value for money.

Alex Clark gave us a taste of portfolio assurance in the multibillion dollar, multinational Rolls Royce corporation. Rolls-Royce has a very varied portfolio, supplying state of the art equipment and machinery to civil and defence aerospace, marine, energy and nuclear customers in 160 countries with operations in 50 countries. Programme and project assurance is reported on at board level and around 130 gate reviews happen annually. While the assurance process is clearly very mature and well-established, it is also clear that it focuses on programmes and projects rather than the portfolio as a whole.

Bob Assirati finished the presentations with a look at portfolio assurance in central government. Portfolio management, in the form of an integrated assurance and approvals framework, with an emphasis on senior responsible owner accountability, compulsory starting gate reviews and a close link to the coalitions Transparency Framework, is being applied to major projects (those valued at 50m or more) as part of OGCs new remit within the Cabinet Offices Efficiency and Reform Group.

During the afternoon a number of workshops were held that looked at questions such as:

  • Who is responsible for assurance at the portfolio level?
  • What are the challenges and solutions for porfolio-level assurance?
  • How should assurance by prioritised within a portfolio?
  • How can assurance work within multi-organisation portfolios?



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