Do’s and Don’ts for Portfolio Managers

Jen L. Skrabak, PMP, is a senior-level project executive, leading high-profile business transformation projects, programs and portfolios. She has more than 18 years of professional experience across industries such as healthcare, biotechnology, entertainment and financial services. She recently established a PMO Center of Excellence that includes both project managers and business analysts, implemented a global US$50 million program across multiple sites and managed a $500 million portfolio. Ms. Skrabak currently serves as the committee chair for The Standard for Portfolio Management – Third Edition. 
Read her thoughts on portfolio management below:
Although PMI’s The Standard for Portfolio Management was updated for its Third Edition earlier this year, I still find that there is much confusion over what portfolio managers do and how they differ from program and project managers. Having been a portfolio manager for over 10 years, I’m offering a few key differences that may help you.
What portfolio managers focus on:
  • Strategic alignment. Portfolio managers are unique in that they are the only role focused solely on the future strategic intent of the organization.
  • Processes to assist the organization in prioritizing and selecting the right work — including governance, developing the portfolio structure, and optimizing the portfolio.
  • Resource allocation. It’s not just human resources that should be accounted for, but also financial, and equipment or materials. With staffing, it’s important to take into account not just available capacity but also capability to do the work. For example, if there are new hires needed for a program, the appropriate training and onboarding ramp-up should be taken into consideration.
  • Continuous monitoring of the broader internal and external environments, including strategic changes. Strategic changes usually result from an organization’s response to an external change. An example is the Affordable Care Act. It’s an external change that may result in changes to the organization’s strategy, which will result in portfolio changes and a review of what should be started, stopped, or sustained.
  • The aggregate — by definition, the portfolio is a collection of projects, programs, and operational work.
  • Performance of the portfolio — monitoring the planned vs. realized value.
  • Ensuring communications and stakeholder engagement, especially at an executive level. In addition to reporting the overall status of the portfolio, portfolio managers have a responsibility to communicate the overall portfolio vision to project/program leaders.
  • Risks as well as opportunities. A better way to state this might be to monitor for threats and seek opportunities
  • Organizational change management. Enabling the future state of the portfolio and ensuring that the changes stick through the development of the right business processes is critical.
  • Ongoing operations of the portfolio. Unlike projects or programs, portfolios do not have a beginning and end.  However, they may evolve according to the strategic needs of the organization.
  • Managing project/program managers. I’ve heard functional managers that have project/program managers reporting to them refer to themselves as portfolio managers, which causes unnecessary confusion.
  • Managing the execution of programs or projects. They are not focused on the execution of the work, but rather on the oversight of the collection of projects, programs, and operational work.
  • Managing triple constraints. They are not focused on the program or project scope, timelines, or budget, but rather the overall impact on the portfolio.
  • Managing the PMO. Although there may be aspects of portfolio management within the PMO, simply reporting on status, monitoring the budget, and holding governance meetings does not equate to overseeing the end-to-end process.

The views expressed within the PMI Voices on Project Management blog are contributed from external sources and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of PMI.

Article source: http://blogs.pmi.org/blog/voices_on_project_management/2013/08/dos-and-donts-for-portfolio-ma.html

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