A Strategic Guide to Project Portfolio Management
A high performance project portfolio management process is often sought and rarely achieved. In fact, there is no practice more critical to streamline and organize the enterprise for profit – and to coordinate your resources with the strategic objectives and goals that drive its success.
Throughout this guide to project portfolio management we will explore how PPM leaders can achieve greater effectiveness in project portfolio management by taking a more strategic, business-outcome focused approach. An essential skill in today's world, where the increased pace of change caused by digital transformation demands a culture of strategy execution, increased PPM Maturity, bimodal support, plus more proactive PMOs that contribute real business value.
We will also discuss the role of project portfolio management in corporate strategy and how you can bring strategic heft to your activities. Your PMO can be the driver of greater business value among key stakeholders, gaining their trust as you take the wheel.
This in-depth project portfolio management strategy guide will help you grow and mature your effectiveness in project portfolio management. Use these solid project portfolio management disciplines and the governance structure recommended here to improve your overall portfolio decisions to forge a new agenda for your high-performance PMO.
What are the most common challenges you’re hearing about project portfolio management?
I think that the biggest challenge is that project portfolio management is still being treated as a reactive, tactical discipline. It’s being seen as a consolidation of reports on current initiatives, rather than a strategic approach to managing organizational resources to deliver the collective goals and objectives. This reporting driven approach also means that it tends to be focused on traditional, waterfall-based project delivery. Many organizations struggle to integrate agile and hybrid into their portfolio management approaches, which means it’s only addressing part of the portfolio. Finally, portfolio management is still measuring performance against project metrics rather than business metrics – it’s seeking to ensure efficient and effective work delivery rather than optimized outcome achievement.
What is driving organizations to improve project portfolio management?
The biggest driver is the acknowledgement that what they have in place right now simply isn’t good enough. In many organizations there was never a conscious decision to implement portfolio management, it was a natural evolution from the desire to improve the ‘big picture’ of what was happening across the portfolio of strategic initiatives. Now there is a recognition that portfolio management must be the foundation for the delivery of that work – planning, funding, execution and benefits realization. That can’t happen with the historic approach that organizations have in place so that’s driving improvements.
Why is project portfolio management important?
This question is simple. If you are not doing this, how do you prioritize the most important work to get the most benefit from your budgets to meet your strategic objectives? The truth is, you can’t!
What type of organizations benefit from project portfolio management?
Every organization will benefit from project portfolio management. There isn’t a business on the planet that doesn’t think it can do better – public and not for profit as well as private. And with so much focus on discretionary investments these days – projects, it is essential that all such investments deliver the greatest benefit. Project portfolio management helps achieve that.
What is the main goal of project portfolio management?
The main goal should be to show the business their investments based on their decisions and strategies. The investments should show past investments, current investments, and future investment with the goal of consistently improving the portfolio to affect positive business outcomes. The management of the portfolio helps to organize and prioritize the right projects to be selected to move the business towards its strategic objectives, these while balancing business needs against the constraining resources of people and available dollars. A secondary goal should be to mature the PMO organization itself along with value delivery. Gartner has a great model to follow – their five progressive level of the PPM maturity model. This will help you also show your leaders how your organization is maturing while you are stewards of the company’s assets in managing an overall portfolio.
How would you recommend getting started with project portfolio management?
Start by focusing on what’s important. Why is portfolio management being undertaken? What are the business opportunities or the challenges that are currently preventing the organization from optimizing the performance of the projects it undertakes? That may be a long list, but prioritize based on impact on business performance and ability to address the issues.
For many organizations that can start with benefits realization. It’s an area many organizations struggle with, especially for non-financial benefits so make it an area of focus for portfolio management. Avoid focusing on standardization of processes and monitoring adherence by teams – that doesn’t drive performance and will lead to rejection of portfolio management as a concept.
What steps would you recommend to improve project portfolio management?
Running a portfolio management process should inherently assume that continuous improvement is part of it since the business climate is ever changing, so should the portfolio management process to adjust to these changing needs. Assuming that a PMO has a portfolio management processes and tools in place, I recommend improving the portfolio with regular check-ins with the PMO team, business analysts and the functional business customers for input. Create a listening post for your stakeholders and provide them with the information they need for timely decisions on their project investments. Also, perform an annual audit on your portfolio using the internal auditing team to help with a backwards view to see if projects provided the business benefits that were claimed. This will help improve the governance of programs and projects that are selected in the future to focus on those that provided the most value.
What does a good project portfolio management framework look like?
It has to start with the ability to support all projects and all business areas. Regardless of how work is structured, which approach is used to deliver it, or where in the business it is being run from, every project has to be part of the portfolio management framework.
Next, it has to connect all strategic elements. Planning and investment funding are seen these days as part of strategic portfolio management, with the more traditional project portfolio management elements then handling the delivery and benefits realization elements. That connection with strategic portfolio management must be seamless, and there must be support for benefits realization/outcome management.
If a project fails to deliver expected benefits then project portfolio management must have the ability to drive adjustments elsewhere in the portfolio to make up for that shortfall and protect the overall goals and objectives of the organization.
What tools/processes can organizations implement to solve for project portfolio management?
Ideally, organizations should have a fully integrated project portfolio management (PPM) solution. The tool itself will be able to support strategic planning and funding, the communication of those plans, the setting of goals and objectives, the definition and planning of initiatives, the metrics and measures that will be used to determine the success of those initiatives and then the communication of that to all the relevant teams.
Either within the tool itself, or through seamless integrations, there should then be the ability to manage the work across all of the delivery methods – which likely requires multiple tools as Agile teams won’t be using the same tool as waterfall teams.
There should also be integrations with HRIS systems, time tracking, financials and so on to ensure that all data is being tracked in real time. The tool should have a powerful reporting engine to provide all stakeholders with contextualized insight at any time, and will likely also integrate with a Business Intelligence (BI) platform for further analysis.
How does project portfolio management need to be addressed differently for different levels of PMO maturity?
The PMO is the body that, more often than not, is asked to administer project portfolio management. If the PMO is immature then there is no point trying to implement an enterprise wide, planning to benefits portfolio management approach for every organization. That’s why many organizations are now creating a more strategic Enterprise PMO or similarly named function specifically to address project portfolio management (and often strategic portfolio management).
If an organization’s PMO function is less mature, there can still be elements of project portfolio management put in place – ensuring a focus on benefits delivery rather than the triple constraint for example, or ensuring project teams always have the context for their projects. But organizations must actively seek to mature their PMOs with a greater focus on business skills, greater engagement with strategic processes, and a clearly defined portfolio driven mandate.
What steps can organizations take to solve for project portfolio management?
To me, there are four major components that solve for project portfolio management. The first being top-down planning. It’s imperative that organizations have solid goals and objectives and are able to plan their portfolio around those goals strategically. Next, the organization must have investment level funding and governance. This doesn’t mean rigid investment plans, but ultimately a focus on what investments will produce the greatest ROI for the business and a plan to govern those investments accordingly. Organizations then need to be flexible in execution. There is no portfolio that goes without change in an organization over a period of time and it’s important to remain flexible to the changing priorities of the business. Lastly, the organization must have effective outcome management of the project portfolio. Without a focus on outcomes, it’s inevitable that the organization won’t be achieving any of its goals. These are the components I believe organizations should consider in solving for project portfolio management.
What success have KeyedIn clients seen with effective project portfolio management?
The greatest success that I’ve seen is one what I call the applause meter. My stakeholders are now really engaged in how the PMO can deliver because our project and portfolio management tool, KeyedIn Enterprise, has allowed them to understand more. This has allowed me to get more individuals involved in project management and get them engaged in different things for the organization. That year over year increase in usage of the PMO has contributed correlated year over year value. Another success I can say is that myself, I was promoted to the Vice President of Project Management and we are looked at now as an Enterprise PMO. At one point, we were pigeon holed in doing just IT projects and we actually do a lot more than just IT projects now.
Not only can I just say it, I can show it. That wide and broad range has created a lot of success in the organization and when new people come in and get work done or understand where things are. They are immediately pointed to the PMO or added onto the PMO, maybe not as a direct report to me, but they are still accountable to me and what is put into the system and the functions that depend on these projects. It’s been a huge part of the success of us being able to grow, collaborate and get promotions – myself and other project managers within the organization.
What is the role of the PMO in project portfolio management improvement?
If a PMO with accountability for project portfolio management is doing its job properly, then it should always be looking for ways to improve project portfolio management. Some of those improvements come from executives – better decision making around project selection for example, and some improvements lie with the business departments that own the solutions developed within the portfolio. But the PMO owns a large part of the execution process.
There should be a culture of continuous improvement, and the PMO must encourage that culture among work teams. Every element of delivery should be continuously evolving, and there should be an environment where teams feel empowered to adapt and adjust the way work gets done to meet the unique needs of every initiative.
The PMO must ensure that happens, and that the teams doing the work are supported through that process – it’s the only way that organizations can continuously seek to optimize their performance in a world that is constantly evolving.
What are must haves when considering effective project portfolio management?
I believe that organizations should consider the following for effective project portfolio management. First, you must have leadership support. Without the support of your executives, your mission to drive effective project portfolio management for the business is going to fail. The leadership team plays a crucial role in identifying the strategic goals and objectives of the organization that the portfolio of projects must reflect. Secondly, organizations needs to have integrated planning. That means organizations need to prioritize an integrated approach to the entire business plan to execute on those strategic initiatives. Third, enterprise-wide delivery. Theo organization must all be on the same page in delivering the goals and objectives of the business. Next, the organization must have the right tools and integrations to ensure the comprehensive, real-time information in available regarding the portfolio of projects and can be updated as the goals and objectives of the organization change. Lastly, organizations who want to be effective in project portfolio management must have a commitment to excellence. This doesn’t mean perfection, but the organization must prioritize the effectiveness of project portfolio management to ensure the success of the business as a whole.
The first question we need to ask ourselves is what is effective? What are we trying to accomplish? Project portfolio management is all about how to get the maximum performance out of your investments. There are a couple of things that I think you need: You need clear project selection criteria including how your projects are going to selected and prioritized in order to have the maximum performance and outcome. The next is a prioritization framework that you use to prioritize projects including reasons you want to do that project(s). Resource allocation is another area that you need to take into consideration including where you are going to place your better resource or where you need to put those resource to get the maximum performance. That requires you to measure the portfolio you are working on with the right KPIs to drive how you conduct business. Structure is another important aspect. Continuous evaluation of these processes are important for project portfolio management. You should be continuously monitoring and checking to see if you need to change anything. If you do that you are going to have a very healthy portfolio that delivers outcomes and value for your company.
What are the common pitfalls of ineffective project portfolio management?
By far the most common problem I see is the tendency to fall back into a focus on project delivery rather than business outcomes. Project portfolio management is seen as an overlay to project management rather than a business management discipline and the focus shifts to how the work is getting done, not what is being achieved. That results in a focus on the triple constraint instead of being concerned with on benefit delivery, and the whole point of project portfolio management is lost.
The other big problem I see is a failure to keep the big picture in mind – the focus is on the project part instead of the portfolio part. Organizations succeed only when the portfolio as a whole delivers the collective set of goals and objectives. Focusing on individual projects means losing sight of that.
How can a PPM tool improve overall project portfolio management?
A PPM tool can improve overall project portfolio management In one single word – transparency. If you are not tracking your portfolio in a tool:
- How do you know what’s progressing?
- How do you know if it will meet the company objectives?
- How do you determine your priorities?
- How do you get everyone working on the right things at the right time?
Without a PPM tool you are a ship flowing rudderless in the night – with no direction!
How does KeyedIn solve for project portfolio management?
The biggest issue I’ve had in using previous project portfolio management tools is that I could not bring the organization together to understand what I was reporting, why it mattered to them, and why it was so cumbersome. After some diligence and looking at other projects. We selected KeyedIn. KeyedIn helped me with how I communicated to the organization at all levels. At one point, I was really focused on communicating to the leadership because I wanted them to recognize us as a value-add PMO and an Enterprise PMO. Previous project managers struggled through the existing tool to get the information in, but it was not producing views and communication that told a story.
What KeyedIn does for me from a project and portfolio management perspective is without much effort it allows me to tell the story. That story is where we are with our projects. How well we are performing on those projects? How much do those projects cost? Past projects that were done and how do I categorize them in the value they’ve provided whether it’s on investment, efficiencies that were produced. It not only allows me to communicate with project managers on their performance, but also the leaders of the organization so they know at all times where their projects are and any issues that we might have that would require their help. KeyedIn has done a really great job at allowing me to manipulate all my project data to tell the right story and the right level of performance.
It allows me to plan for the future by identifying trends and as a results I had a big jump year over year from 2019 to now in the usage of KeyedIn because of the way it solves for project and portfolio management at my company.
What roadblocks do teams face when trying to get better at project portfolio management?
The roadblocks to improving project portfolio management come down to speed. The world is changing so fast it can be difficult for organizations to keep up, even if they have mature processes that work well. When there is also a need to improve it can be almost impossible, especially when you have to still deliver on all the projects that are underway while trying to improve the overall management process.
Things can be made easier with clear accountabilities, clear mandates, and practical support in terms of people and tools. It will take time, but every advancement will make things better.
What are common objections your clients face regarding project portfolio management?
The top objections that I hear for project portfolio management include:
- Lack of understanding
- Lack of resources
- Lack of buy-in
- Resistance to standardization
How to get internal buy-in for proper project portfolio management?
It is very key to understand the needs of the top leadership and also how to speak their language. When developing a portfolio management capability, you must demonstrate that the benefits will help these leaders with how they make decisions for a competitive edge. One tactic to employ is to take the top 3 strategic initiatives and tie them to the portfolio and prioritize execution of these projects to show how they are doing against their goals. Do all these at a least cost, least effort from them kind of way and you will get their buy-in. Provide an easy way to consume the performance of the portfolio in whole and in parts showing each leader the details of their projects. Ensure the tool is easy to view and is easily configurable so that the information can help your business leaders with quick decision making. Perform an initial survey of your stakeholders to find out what their needs are, how your portfolio and PMO is currently performing from their point of view and then ask what improvements needed to be made to make their jobs easier to do.
Next Gen PPM
PPM. The PMO's Best Kept Secret
Improve project portfolio management processes to meet today's business demands
Project portfolio management (PPM) is designed to provide organizations with the vision to create strategic plans and the capability to execute against strategic goals. Although it requires a high performance PMO function to achieve this, variables inevitably outweigh the certainties and businesses have consistently been trying to keep up. In volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environments (often termed VUCA), business leaders need to stay ahead of the curve and adjust planning models to incorporate continuous change.
Next Gen PPM is built on the notion that governance models and old ways of running projects are not bad or wrong, they are simply no longer good enough. It requires teams to improve their overall portfolio management processes to meet newer, higher business demands, to focus on strategic goals and objectives, in order to drive a higher return on investment from every successful project or initiative.
If PMO leaders want to keep pace with rapid change, they also need to future-proof their models to ensure longevity. Next Gen PPM meets this challenge through a unique balance of top down, strategic portfolio management and adaptive, dynamic execution models for a business-outcome focused approach to portfolio management.
Explore these videos and resource to:
- Understand the changing project portfolio management landscape
- Explore the latest PPM challenges and opportunities
- Keep up to date with the latest PPM trends and innovations
- Align Project Execution with Business Strategy.
- Understand the impact of Agile on Project Portfolio Management
- Develop a strategic roadmap and future proof your project portfolio management initiatives
The Changing Project Portfolio Management Landscape
The Project Portfolio Management market is disruptive. Increased reliance on PPM creates value for the business by providing clarity and visibility into resources, projects, timelines, budgets, and more. Organizations are dependent on the PMO to cement the business’ competitive advantage through strategic portfolio prioritization and planning as well as efficient execution that is responsive to change. To cope with this intense and disruptive period of change requires a laser-sharp strategic focus. It demands innovative and proactive methods to ensure information is accurate and up to date. Discover how a strategy-first approach to project portfolio management improves business agility, ensures traditional and agile projects are tied to business-outcomes, and empowers teams to realize business strategy and drive results.Read More
PPM Challenges and Opportunities
Much of the information you read about PPM touts the benefits and all of the great things you can deliver with a greater use of project and portfolio management. But can it really be that simple? Regardless of your role in PPM (CIO, PMO leader, portfolio manager, resource manager, etc.), you are undoubtedly aware of the unprecedented degree of business change taking place in the industry right now and likely overwhelmed before even thinking about what more you could possibly be doing. While it is true that better PPM offers large benefits to organizations and business as a whole, that doesn’t mean it comes easy or naturally. Like many things, it requires work and a significant investment of time and resources to create the utopian state that you read about. Here we will outline some of the common challenges associated with PPM and hopefully allow leaders to anticipate and mitigate a few of those hurdles by being more informed.Read More
PPM Trends and Innovations
Latest market updates shape the future of project and portfolio management and have been proven to have lasting benefits. As we observe and build the future of PPM, it is helpful to look at the bigger picture of what has caught on and why it has stuck around and been widely adopted. Here are a few of the more recent trends and innovations that we have observed across PMO teams that are making strides in the industry and building the future of PPM. Ranging from the shift to digital business, significant changes in delivery models, and leveraging the PMO for Organizational Agility we are seeing a continual shift to more strategic and agile ways of working across the entire business. Find out more about these trends as well as the impact of Agile and how to build a strategic roadmap in this article.Read More
The Business of PPM
How you can drive maximimum impact from your PPM strategy
The practice of Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is long established and proven to create business value. Over time, it has evolved to yield greater results from the efforts of the PMO and continues to adapt with the market and needs of the business.
Portfolio management has many different aspects, but mastering the key components sets the PMO up for long term success. Regardless of where you are on your PMO journey, implementing a strategy-first approach ensures you see the big picture from the top-down while also ensuring bottom-up support for the individual projects.
In this section we discuss how PPM best practices drive measurable impact for the business and build credibility for the PMO. We discuss how the centralized management of all projects and resources can resolve key PMO challenges such as resource management, program management and project team collaboration - as well as contribute to the greater mission of the PMO, and business overall.
Whether your goal is PPM excellence, business transformation, or customer success, explore how a ppm tool can help you continue to grow your project and portfolio management maturity.
Explore these resources and discover more on:
- Designing a Project Portfolio Management Framework
- Safeguarding Strategy
- Applying PPM Best Practices – The six key areas
- Empowering the Business through PPM
- The Business Benefits of a PPM Framework
Building an Effective PPM Framework
The practice of Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is long established and proven to create business value. Over time, it has evolved to yield greater results from the efforts of the PMO and continues to adapt with the market and needs of the business. PPM best practices have been battle tested to show what works in the field. This guide outlines some of the best practices that have long benefitted PPM leaders and why it is important to apply them to a strategy-driven approach for greater business value contribution. Regardless of where you are on your PPM journey, incorporating PPM best practices can improve how you deliver on business goals. Implementing a strategy-first approach ensures your organization is aligned from the top-down while also ensuring bottom-up support to deliver what needs to be done. Discover how to build an effective project portfolio management framework.Read More
Applying Strategy to Your PPM Maturity
Research shows that as organization's invest in project portfolio management and mature their PPM practices they deliver stronger results. It’s no surprise that where you put your focus and attention is where you will excel, but proving the value of project portfolio management and demonstrating real, tangible results is a sure way to support that effort. Organizations that are immature or lack portfolio management processes, have a higher probability of project failures and experience a multitude of problems – including dollars spent on project waste. Strategically aligning project portfolios must take into account the needs of both your PMO and your organization as a whole to be fully effective as a strategic anchor. Your PMO must work in alignment with the strategic groups and imperatives of the business to form the future profitability and ultimately the success of your organization.Read More
PPM Best Practices
Every business is different and every PMO is unique. There is no recipe for what size or level a PMO should be at based on the size of the organization or the amount of time the PMO has been around. What does affect the maturity and ultimately the business impact the PMO is able to produce is how well they are able to deliver on their objectives. To do that, they need to instill working models that help drive toward successful outcomes. There is no secret code to success or magic button to push that creates a high performing PMO, but there are tried and true methods for delivering real results. Best practices that have long been benefitting PMO leaders and ways to build on those best practices for further growth and advancement. By applying these best practices and consistently improving how they are implemented, the PMO can not only becoming a high functioning organization, but they will also become a trusted business partner and strategic business driver.Read More
PPM Selection Toolkit
Leveraging PPM to Deliver a More Valuable Portfolio
Learn 3 ways KeyedIn can help you align with the business and realize more value.
The Project Portfolio Management (PPM) market has been steadily growing year over year for the past ten + years and is expected to continue on its trajectory throughout the UK, Europe, United States and Asia Pacific – despite major changes in the various large enterprises and verticals that rely on this software.
Why is the global project portfolio management market so steady? Simply put, because these tools are effective. They provide results and offer benefits to the business that can’t be recognized otherwise. But with a mature and established market also comes complexity and confusion. What do all these buzzwords mean, which solution is right for your company, and perhaps most importantly, do these products actually do what they say they do?
This section is designed to help project management office (PMO) leaders navigate the PPM market landscape and select a vendor that is right for them. As many leaders know, evaluating and procuring a solution is a significant undertaking and not a process you want to go through twice. With careful evaluation and review, the right PPM software provider can be uncovered.
In this toolkit we explore:
- The business of PPM
- Key functional areas
- The benefits of project portfolio management
- Price vs ROI
- How to run a PPM evaluation
The Business and Benefits of PPM
The benefits of PPM are clear: increased efficiency, improved effectiveness, and measurable business impact. PPM enables the PMO to move beyond execution-focused results and simply managing on-time and on-budget project metrics to strategic-driven selection for measurable results. This doesn’t mean foregoing focus on execution and tactics, rather building on these methods to improve outcomes. Strategic PMOs must create a culture that is results-driven and impact focused. PPM can help answer critical business questions that benefit the bottom line. What work are we doing? Who is doing it? How long does it take? How much does it cost? These might sound trivial on the outset but getting real, reliable answers is not as easy as it sounds. Visibility is key for business leaders and the level of information they are equipped with can help determine the degree of success. In order to make changes, drive results, and deliver on promises, these questions need to be addressed.Read More
The PPM Evaluation Process
Evaluating and procuring project portfolio management has different milestones for different organizations but there are some commonalities in the process that help business leaders understand what the value is and what due diligence has been done. These might include, but are not limited to, market research, vendor interviews, internal debriefs, shortlist of vendors, securing funding, and finally negotiating and contract. This is all before the implementation and go-live with the system, of course, and requires a level of careful planning and execution. Not unlike a project, evaluations typically have a timeline, budget, stakeholders, and milestones. But like a project, it is important to scope and outline what those key milestones are to ensure a successful PPM implementation.Read More
The Project Portfolio Management ROI
Budget is typically the first place teams start when evaluating any software and PPM is no different. What is the price? Many people get frustrated when they don’t get a straight answer to this question or the pricing requires explaining. What is important to remember is that price isn’t everything – the underlying question is what is the ROI. The higher the price, the higher the ROI expectations and the bigger the risk of taking on a new solution. While price plays a role, and can help compare different solutions to a baseline, the real value of the solution, and all your effort to obtain one, lie in the value it will bring to your organization.Read More
Building the Business Case for PPM
The Business Case for Project Portfolio Management
How to Secure Funding for Project Portfolio Management.
PPM software is a big investment for any project management office (PMO) of both time and money. The investment up front of building a business case and carefully selecting the right solution for your team can save you a lot of headache down the line.
Use these resource and articles to understand what is entailed in purchasing software and give you the answers you need to find the right one for your team.
Most reasons for investing in project portfolio management can be simplified into three categories: increase revenue, cut costs, or mitigate risks. It is important to note how project portfolio management tools support at least one of these areas, and ensure your budget is investing in areas that support the business.
The elements of a business case include involving key stakeholders, establishing a timeline, defining the PMOs purpose, outlining budget expectations, garnering executive buy-in, calculating risks, doing market research, identifying key features, and setting expectations of benefits and ROI. This business case model has been developed from extensive years of research and partnership with PMO leaders that have been the basis of business case justifications for many PPM purchases.
In this section we will explore:
- How to secure funding for project portfolio management (PPM)
- Laying the foundations - Defining the PMO Purpose
- Building the Business Case for PPM
- How to gather your RFI requirments
Secure Funding for Project Portfolio Management
Building a business case for PPM requires a number of steps to cover all areas. For some teams the steps are straightforward or given, for others it requires more support and buy-in. Creating an outline for how to build the business case can be much like managing a project with the end goal of procuring funding for a software purchase. While not all organizations require the extensiveness of a complete business case, in many instances outlining these key components helps with implementation and adoption of a solution. Explore the key steps to building a business case framework.Read More