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Maximising value from portfolio management

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The Portfolio Management SIG hosted its 5th annual conference on 17 May in London. It was another very successful and thought-provoking occasion, with almost 150 people taking part (a record for the SIG) from a wide variety of business sectors. Delegates heard from a variety of presenters who focussed on their successes, and challenges, in developing approaches to portfolio management that maximised value for their organisations. They included lots of practical advice and pragmatic answers to the delegate’s questions.

We continued our successful policy of finding different examples and aspects of current portfolio management (PfM) practice to present and discuss with our audience of portfolio practitioners and managers, senior business managers and many others from both the public and private sectors.

Stephen Parrett (SIG Co-Chair) opened the conference and introduced the theme for the day and illustrated how the event contributed to the SIG Aims:

  • Promote awareness of portfolio management practices
  • Provide an active forum for interested professionals to share experiences, ideas, tools, techniques and challenges
  • Encourage cross-professional collaboration
  • Contribute to the development of best practice

The presenters highlighted many of the factors that help organisations create a sustainable and appropriate portfolio management approach for the future, including:

  • Hold onto the strategic vision and ensure the portfolio aligns, undertaking mid-term reviews if that is what is required to adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Ensure all actual and potential projects, programmes, planned changes and initiatives are included in the initial portfolio discussions.
  • Maintain a constant review of what is needed in the portfolio to deliver the strategic goals and the capacity/capability of the organisation to deliver.
  • Understand the ‘enablers’.
  • All organisations, even if in the same sector, are different and each needs to find its own approach to portfolio management.
  • Develop psychological resilience and empathy, to ensure that challenges are tackled with confidence, an understanding of other stakeholders and careful planning of implementation.
  • Have the right people in the right place, across projects, programmes and within the portfolio team, with a mix of skills and led by experience.
  • Keep a watch for potential issues on the timing of change and the readiness (or not) of change adopters across the organisation.
  • Prioritisation is a big challenge, and ranking of priorities is not the end result, but the start of conversations towards a considered and executive-driven portfolio.
  • Look at how to capture and use data effectively from the centre, searching for trends and hot-spots where action may be needed, which can be hard to spot at the local level.
  • Focus on stakeholder values and build pragmatic processes that are matched to the organisation.
  • Information can help get people discussing what needs to happen, but behaviours make the difference – influencing the latter is a key role of portfolio managers.

Other highlights from the conference included 

  • 3 well-supported workshops with lively discussions in each one: 
    • “Disruptive projects in the portfolio – leading edge thinking, approach and practice” - A write-up of this will be added to our website soon.
    • “’Agile’ portfolio management – what is it and how can we make it work?” – A working group of some of the workshop team has been set up to build on the discussions and findings from the session.
    • “Reference Class Forecasting – optimising the overall portfolio cost and schedule based on ‘big data’, and how to apply these ground-breaking techniques” - A discussion article is being planned for publication via LinkedIn shortly – we look forward to your views.
  • Formal launch of the SIG’s 2nd thought leadership report in the four-part series “Managing the Portfolio”, introduced by Peter Glynne. This is now available for downloading. The full set will step through four key stages of thinking, providing meaningful insight into the practical issues facing leaders of change across all industry sectors.
  • A reminder that the SIG is working on a guide to portfolio management, based on real-life experiences, and this will be published later this year.
  • A speaker panel at the end, which covered many interesting questions from delegates, swiftly followed by a well-attended “social” at the Marquis Cornwallis where many discussions from the day continued.

For more details on the available presentations please click on the links below:


Owen Salvage
Vice-President Group IS, ABB



Joanna Rowland 
Director of Transformation Portfolio, HM Revenue & Customs. 


Andrew Britton
Head of Portfolio Office,
MS Amlin.



Rachael Troughton, Head of Portfolio and Louisa McLeod, Senior Assurance Manager, The Open University.



Building and getting value from a Global Change Delivery Capability.


Prioritising a mega-portfolio – balancing ambitious transformation plans with business challenges.


Taking and making hard decisions in the Portfolio Office – building the political capital and data set to win those critical decision points.


Assurance: the partner to maximising portfolio success and driving strategic value.


In closing the conference, Steve Leary (SIG Co-Chair), reflected on the wide range of opportunities that delegates and guests had during the day for meeting colleagues, making new contacts and discovering how others handle the many challenges of getting portfolio management right.

Steve also thanked the speakers for their time and commitment to the conference and all those behind the scenes that worked hard to make this event a success, from both the SIG committee and the central APM supporting team. He highlighted the key contribution and support by the sponsors and most of all the delegates. In concluding he highlighted opportunities for APM SIG members to join the 2018-19 SIG committee, before we all adjourned to the Marquis Cornwallis for a well-earned drink.


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