The Resource Pool
A project manager said to me once that they envied the portfolio manager because “they don’t have to do anything”. I asked them what they meant and they explained that as a PM they had a huge number of tasks that they had to accomplish during a week--the administrative stuff that goes with any project plus all of the leadership and management elements to ensure that their team was able to complete the tasks assigned to it. By contrast, they felt that the portfolio manager just sat in meetings and then consolidated reports for the executives.
Now I don’t want to get into a debate about how much actual “work” people higher up the organization do, but I do want to explore one aspect that I feel that project manager was missing--the fact that they were likely only in a position to do their job because of the portfolio manager.
Managing the resource pool
The matrix organization is by far the most dominant now, especially in private industry. We have a team of project managers, likely a PMO and then specific resources are drawn from functional areas as needed. Historically, this made resource management across the portfolio remarkably easy--the portfolio manager ensured that a project manager was assigned to the initiative, tried to balance the workload of projects across each of those PMs and then let the individual PMs build and
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