PostHeaderIcon Portfolio Management – Why the Long Wait?

Getting there - slowly

Getting there - slowly

It’s good to see more organizations finally getting serious about project portfolio management. But why is it taking so long? While all the process elements have been understood by an enlightened few for many years, progress in putting portfolio management into widespread practice has been disappointingly lethargic.

The reality is that most organizations have a great deal to do to make portfolio management work for them. Meaningful portfolio management standards and usable software applications have been painfully slow to emerge. In addition, several pitfalls often derail implementation efforts. Here are four of the biggest:

Lack of Ownership

Managing a portfolio is the responsibility of executives and this is a message that does not always get driven home. Portfolio management provides the crucial linkage of project work with strategy and ultimately the enabler of that strategy. It is not just another level of tactical project management. Executives have to take ownership, get firmly involved and be supportive.

Ineffective Process

In the same way as projects need some form of process to facilitate successful execution, a portfolio requires a structured methodology for establishing oversight procedures, prioritizing projects, balancing resource capacity and demand, and optimizing project funding, scoping, integration, sequencing and resourcing for strategic value. Portfolio management is a discipline.

Mismatch with Maturity

Often lost in the conversations about project prioritization frameworks and strategic alignment is the simple fact that without solid planning and tracking at the individual project level, portfolio management can never achieve its primary goals. Proper portfolio management needs proper project management.

Misalignment with Culture

Portfolio management, like project management, is scalable. It has to be designed to fit the organization’s culture and the way in which decisions are made and work gets done. Misaligning the intensity of portfolio information needs, analysis and control with a firm’s culture is a guaranteed showstopper. Each activity should not only deliver real value – it has to be widely supported.

The Good News

On a positive note, portfolio management is getting increased executive level attention. There is a realization that the option to “Do Nothing” incurs a very significant cost in unrealized strategies, overstretched and demoralized project teams, a lack of knowledge and control over what’s really going on, and dissatisfied customers. No longer can organizations afford not to respond. The call to action is gaining traction.

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5 Responses to “Portfolio Management – Why the Long Wait?”

  • There are many reasons that PPM has taken a while to become more fully adopted by organizations that rely on project performance. I think we can look to previous trends for lessons as to why. CRM took well over a decade to become a clear standard. Integrated HR took a similarly long time. Quite simply, the effort required to integrated non-integrated systems and processes takes time and discipline. It’s the classic bell-shaped adoption curve and we appear to be moving well into the early majority phase now.

  • True enough Damian. Organizational inertia is a powerful force and gaining momentum understandably takes time. In addition things often don’t get done until the inconvenient truth can no longer be denied. Its perhaps the combination of 21st century organization, industry and market dynamics that are creating a ‘perfect storm’ within the project environment of such magnitude that the need to implement PPM has at last become irresistible.

  • Howard, I think you hit the nail on the head with your 4 reasons, but believe there is a fifth one that is equally important.
    It is internal marketing (or lack there off) of the successes achieved/achievable with PPM. Most organisations are very poor at this. Gartner just wrote about this in an item called “PPM Offers C-suite Smell of Success” and we are planning sessions on how to do this at our upcoming conference.
    Meanwhile have a look at how this Demand Guy is doing it

  • Jim P. says:

    “CRM took well over a decade to become a clear standard. Integrated HR took a similarly long time.”

    This is so true. Maybe in five more years or so we’d all see PPM adopted.

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