By Kathy Martucci, PMP

Most of us believe that project portfolio management (PPM) is a good thing…and, it is. After all, what organization wouldn’t want to maximize their return and minimize their risk?  The simple answer is they all do. So what’s the issue? Simply, introducing a concept such as PPM is difficult enough even in a company that is ready to undertake it. When the company is too immature, it may be at the very least a disappointment; at worst, a disaster.

What is organizational maturity and capability? Many of us are familiar with the Capability Maturity Model, generally focused on software development and maintenance, which describes the evolution of a company from an organization where chaos abounds to one that uses its processes and systems to foster continued improvement.  Using the model loosely and recognizing that an evolution is taking place can assist us in assessing where an organization is in this path and what it would take to move it to a higher place; that is, a place where PPM can succeed and provide that competitive edge.

The following questions can be a starting point in assessing where the organization is today:

  1. What are the foundational capabilities for developing and conducting PPM successfully?
  2. What does the company do now?
  3. What capabilities does the company need to develop or acquire?
  4. What is the roadmap for getting there?

Although only the organization itself can provide answers to questions 2 and 3, there are some basic capabilities which must exist if PPM is to take root and flourish:

Strategic Planning: Without a doubt, if an organization does not or cannot define their mission, goals, objectives and tactics, PPM is an impossibility. It can only be successful when an organization defines an overarching strategic view; determines factors like long-term goals, industry vision, and the amount and type of change the executive leadership promotes and supports; and provides the business drivers behind its projects.

Recognizing the difference between project management and portfolio management: Even when an organization has achieved a high level of project management maturity, it does not necessarily follow that it is ready for PPM.  Although there are some similarities, the differences between managing projects (or even programs) and managing the entire portfolio of projects across functional lines are distinctively different and require different skills, abilities and executive support.

There is no concept of one size fits all: Any PPM approach considered should align with specific needs and goals of the organization. Small organizations with a limited number of projects can probably do a good job without designing and implementing a Project Management Office (PMO), a costly and resource laden project in and of itself. On the other hand, a formal PMO may be imperative for large organizations that have several projects across multiple lines of business.

A PPM software system should not drive the process: As with any decision to introduce a new competency to an organization, the business need must dictate whether or not technology should be implemented to assist with or augment that competency. A slick new software system (which, by the way, takes an enormous effort to configure and use in a meaningful way) is not a requirement to implement a successful PPM program.

Is your organization ready?

1 reply
  1. Julius Madey
    Julius Madey says:

    Kathy, Wish more public sector folks would get the PPM message. Still far too much waste and inefficiency in that sphere. Unfortunately, ‘politics’ seems to trump sound management.

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