The Ins and Outs of Portfolio Management

Project Portfolio Management

Jeffrey Berenholtz, MHA, TPA, PMP and Senior Management Consultant for Think Systems, Inc. is a highly creative problem solver who excels at guiding teams through challenging projects on time, within budget, and within scope. Given his background and expertise in the area of program and project management, Jeff has answered a few commonly asked questions about project portfolio management.

How do you choose an approach to portfolio management?

Whenever I encounter a new project or team, the first steps always involve familiarizing myself with the area of work, team, and expectations. Working with Think Consulting, we engage with our Rapid Control Process (RCP) to immediately take control of the situation. It begins with a thorough and careful dive into discovery and immersion, where we produce an overall working knowledge of the portfolio. This informational output is critical to better understand how to create an initial plan of action, including the best-fit approach for this portfolio. There are many options for approaches. Choosing one too early can lead to disorganization, loss of time, and overspending of resources; choosing one too late can lead to similar consequences. Using the RCP, we gain insight and transform this knowledge into executable planning with reduced risk.

What are the roles of the different levels of your organization in the implementation of project portfolio management (PPM)?

Every challenge can provide a varying demand for resources. Through the Rapid Control Process deployment to gain insight and take control, we can glean a base understanding of resourcing needs and develop a tailored resource management plan. These resources can range from business analysts for requirement gathering, project managers with varying responsibilities, program managers for strategic decision making, and even management consultants to improve overall business success. Finding the right mix of talent and skillsets can be challenging, and at Think Consulting, we take a collaborative, leadership-driven approach to discovery, issue identification, solution planning, and implementation. This includes providing partners to deliver qualitative, holistic, measurable, and sustainable outcomes from start to finish.

What are some tips you can give a new team for implementing portfolio management in their business?

Peter Drucker famously said, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Before you can successfully implement any portfolio management, you will first need to decide on your intended objectives and key results (OKRs), your targeted key performance indicators (KPIs), and the identification of your key stakeholders and audience. Setting your OKRs will establish your vision and the why behind implementing PPM; selecting your KPIs will be used to baseline and measure your success, and documenting your key stakeholders will shape how you communicate and visualize your progress.

What are some challenges you have faced when implementing PPM?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve often faced in implementing PPMs lives with a company or team’s culture. Setting up a PPM can provide effective visibility across multiple entities and assets, provide real-time communication on goal completion, and help bridge communication between varying levels of stakeholders. But before you can begin the process of implementing a PPM, a company must be ready and willing to adopt it. This means reaching out to your teams and having candid conversations to gauge their comfort around change management. Implementing PPM may require significant changes to everyday processes, roles, responsibilities, skillsets, and structures. If your job is defense, this will require an offensive strategy outside of your typical day-to-day responsibilities. But with investment comes rewards. The more discovery and immersion a team can facilitate before planning and implementation, the higher the chance for widespread adoption and long-term sustainability.

What are the most important factors to consider when implementing portfolio management in your organization?

When evaluating the opportunity to implement PPM, there are always a few important factors to consider:

  1. How comfortable is your organization with downstream organization like project and program management? Establishing well organized and executed, successful sub-tiers of PPM like project and program management will provide a good barometer of expectations.
  2. What is your risk tolerance level? With change always comes risk; and the more comfortable your organization is with risk planning and risk management, the better prepared you will be for adapting.
  3. How adept is your organization with open communication between teams? Communication is fundamental to team success and almost always relies on intra-team cooperation and cohesion.
  4. Are you comfortable with providing visibility around goal alignment, planning, and execution? Implementing PPM means opening your organization up to visibility around your success. While this can seem like a major risk, it can also contribute to trust and to a positive reputation.
  5. Does your culture support effective and transparent accountability? Implementing PPM means reliance on a system of accountability to effectively fulfill your responsibilities.

You should be asking these questions earlier on and continually revisit them to ensure long-term success.