Project Management

Taking It to the Next Level: Portfolio Management

From the Voices on Project Management Blog
by , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

About this Blog

RSS

View Posts By:

Cameron McGaughy
Lynda Bourne
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Wanda Curlee
Christian Bisson
Ramiro Rodrigues
Soma Bhattacharya
Emily Luijbregts
Sree Rao
Yasmina Khelifi
Marat Oyvetsky
Lenka Pincot
Jorge Martin Valdes Garciatorres
cyndee miller

Past Contributors:

Rex Holmlin
Vivek Prakash
Dan Goldfischer
Linda Agyapong
Jim De Piante
Siti Hajar Abdul Hamid
Bernadine Douglas
Michael Hatfield
Deanna Landers
Kelley Hunsberger
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Alfonso Bucero Torres
Marian Haus
Shobhna Raghupathy
Peter Taylor
Joanna Newman
Saira Karim
Jess Tayel
Lung-Hung Chou
Rebecca Braglio
Roberto Toledo
Geoff Mattie

Recent Posts

3 Agile Disconnects We Need to Address

What to Expect: Anticipating and Adapting to Dynamic Economic Trends

Governance Models: The Secret to Successful Agile Projects

3 Valuable PM Lessons I Learned in 2023

The 4 P’s of Successful Modern PMs

Categories

2020, Adult Development, Agile, Agile, Agile, agile, Agile management, Agile management, Agile;Community;Talent management, Artificial Intelligence, Backlog, Basics, Benefits Realization, Best Practices, BIM, Business Analysis, Business Analysis, Business Case, Business Transformation, Calculating Project Value, Canvas, Career Development, Career Development, Categories: Career Help, Change Management, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Communication, Complexity, Conflict, Conflict Management, Consulting, Continuous Learning, Cost, COVID-19, Crises, Crisis Management, critical success factors, Cultural Awareness, Culture, Decision Making, Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, digital transformation, Digitalisation, Disruption, Diversity, Documentation, Earned Value Management, Education, EEWH, Enterprise Risk Management, Escalation management, Estimating, Ethics, execution, Expectations Management, Facilitation, feasibility studies, Future, Future of Project Management, Generational PM, Governance, Government, green building, Growth, Horizontal Development, Human Aspects of PM, Human Resources, Inclusion, Innovation, Intelligent Building, International, Internet of Things (IOT), Internet of Things (IoT), IOT, IT Project Management, IT Strategy, Knowledge, Leadership, lean construction, LEED, Lessons Learned, Lessons learned;Retrospective, Managing for Stakeholders, managing stakeholders as clients, Mentoring, Methodology, Metrics, Micromanagement, Microsoft Project PPM, Motivation, Negotiation, Neuroscience, neuroscience, New Practitioners, Nontraditional Project Management, OKR, Online Learning, opportunity, Organizational Project Management, Pandemic, People, People management, Planing, planning, PM & the Economy, PM History, PM Think About It, PMBOK Guide, PMI, PMI EMEA 2018, PMI EMEA Congress 2017, PMI EMEA Congress 2019, PMI Global Conference 2017, PMI Global Conference 2018, PMI Global Conference 2019, PMI Global Congress 2010 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2011 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2011 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2012 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2012 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2013 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2013 - North America, PMI Global Congress 2014 - EMEA, PMI Global Congress 2014 - North America, PMI GLobal Congress EMEA 2018, PMI PMO Symposium 2012, PMI PMO Symposium 2013, PMI PMO Symposium 2015, PMI PMO Symposium 2016, PMI PMO Symposium 2017, PMI PMO Symposium 2018, PMI Pulse of the Profession, PMO, pmo, PMO Project Management Office, portfolio, Portfolio Management, portfolio management, Portfolios (PPM), presentations, Priorities, Probability, Problem Structuring Methods, Process, Procurement, profess, Program Management, Programs (PMO), project, Project Delivery, Project Dependencies, Project Failure, project failure, Project Leadership, Project Management, project management, project management office, Project Planning, project planning, Project Requirements, Project Success, Ransomware, Reflections on the PM Life, Remote, Remote Work, Requirements Management, Research Conference 2010, Researching the Value of Project Management, Resiliency, Risk, Risk Management, Risk management, risk management, ROI, Roundtable, Salary Survey, Scheduling, Scope, Scrum, search, SelfLeadership, Servant Leadership, Sharing Knowledge, Social Responsibility, Sponsorship, Stakeholder, Stakeholder Management, stakeholder management, Strategy, swot, Talent Management, Talent Management Leadership SelfLeadership Collaboration Communication, Taskforce, Team Building, Teams, Teams in Agile, Teams in Agile, teamwork, Tech, Technical Debt, Technology, TED Talks, The Project Economy, Time, Timeline, Tools, tools, Transformation, transformation, Transition, Trust, Value, Vertical Development, Volunteering, Volunteering #Leadership #SelfLeadership, Volunteering Sharing Knowledge Leadership SelfLeadership Collaboration Trust, VUCA, Women in PM, Women in Project Management

Date



By Wanda Curlee

 

As a project manager, you may have worked within a program or portfolio, or both. You may have seen what seemed to be a successful project slowed or canceled, and been confused or upset by this. Why would higher-ups end a project that’s proceeding within scope and budget and on schedule?

The answer, most likely, has to do with the project’s position relative to the organization’s strategy and the portfolio in which the project resided. While working in the for-profit world and consulting on U.S. government projects, programs and portfolios, I’ve learned that program and portfolio managers in all sectors have to make tough decisions about which projects to deprioritize or cancel.

Back when I was a project manager — I earned my Project Management Professional (PMP)® in 1993 — I found myself on the receiving end of bad news from program and portfolio managers. I responded by asking questions to learn as much as I could from the portfolio or program manager. My initial goal was to mature my project management skills, but I ultimately decided I wanted to work at the portfolio level.

Portfolio management is an area of growing interest within organizations and at PMI. The institute’s newest certification, the Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)®, is an expression of that. I had the opportunity to help define the PfMP® by serving on the core team that established the first iteration of the certificate, which launched in August 2014.

Some may think PMI mainly offers specialty certifications, such as risk (PMI-RMP)®, schedule (PMI-SP)® or agile (PMI-ACP)®. In fact, the PfMP offers a different kind of path, one that can help practitioners build a more strategic mindset and skill set within the world of project management.

Portfolio Management 101

So what do portfolio managers do?

First of all, a portfolio manager normally works for a C-level executive or a business unit head. While project/program management experience is not a requirement to be a portfolio manager, it can be a valuable entry point.

The portfolio manager structures the portfolio to meet the strategic needs of an organization. She views projects and programs from a strategic perspective. Whereas the project manager is worried about doing things right, the portfolio manager is worried about doing the right things.

Each of these roles is very important to the success of the organization. Let’s go back to the scenario above, where a project manager is annoyed by the cancellation of a project that was tracking well.

Think about it from the portfolio perspective: The portfolio manager may have canceled your project because another business unit started implementing something similar. The portfolio manager has to decide which project should continue and which shouldn’t.

Ready for a Career Pivot?

Okay, perhaps you’re ready to move into portfolio management. What’s the best way to transition out of the project level?

In my case, I looked for projects that matched the strategic needs of the organization. I tried to work at companies that were growing or changing. I volunteered to take the helm of projects that seemed difficult. Eventually, I managed my first portfolio.

Above all, I recommend pushing yourself to maximize experiences that help you understand the business. Strive for positions that expose you to strategy.

Also, remember that your expertise in project management can help you stand out from other portfolio manager candidates. You know how to measure success, and you have the discipline to run governance for a portfolio.

Is it worth your while to strive for the PfMP credential at some point? In one word: yes. I believe it will come to be recognized as the mark of in-depth portfolio management skill and experience.

Why do I think that? Well, back in 1993, when I earned my PMP, there were fewer than 1,500 people with that credential. Today, of course, more than half a million people have a PMP.

The PfMP is just getting started, but we’ve already seen a 57 percent jump in certifications since its official launch last year. By definition, there will always be fewer portfolio managers than project managers in the world — but I see a bright future for this line of work.

Posted by Wanda Curlee on: February 12, 2015 01:11 PM | Permalink

Comments (6)

Please login or join to subscribe to this item
avatar
Wael Darkazanli Coordination Project Manager | Parsons Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
As you mentioned " a portfolio manager normally works for a C-level executive or a business unit head. While project/program management experience is not a requirement to be a portfolio manager, it can be a valuable entry point.",
Can we consider that PfMP is something different and requires special experience, or it is a series of managerial levels and experiences in order to be a PfMP?


avatar
Wanda Curlee Dr. Wanda Curlee| PM POWERED Exton, Pa, USA
Hello Wael - Good question. Yes, you need special experience whether you go through the project management discipline or through the business line. You MUST have strategic experience with competing priorities. Depending on the types of projects//programs/PMOs you have led, the business experience can be demonstrated. Many large projects/programs and enterprise level PMOs give you the strategic experience needed to be a portfolio manager and therefore, the business requirement. On the flip side, if you were in project management and then left, you can still be a portfolio manager. Again, your business experience will define your ability to meet the demands for portfolio management. The business positions must have a strategic component that have different priorities.

avatar
Johan Notenboom Netherlands
Hello Wanda, thank you for your article. I would appreciate if you could elaborate a little bit about how you see the decision making process and collaboration between a portfolio manager and a program manager. Taking the example of the cancellation of a project would be fine.

avatar
Wanda Curlee Dr. Wanda Curlee| PM POWERED Exton, Pa, USA
Hello Johan - A good item to discuss but can depend much on the culture of the organization. I have seen where projects/programs are just told one day they are cancelled. The project or program manager has no idea what has happened and this may be true for the project/program sponsor as well. To the other extreme there are those portfolio managers that closely work with program/project sponsors. When a portfolio manager finds a need to adjust the portfolio it may be a black or white situation or it could be something that needs more finesse. For example, let's say the portfolio's strategic objective is to implement the best sales tool that will increase sales by 10%. The Portfolio manager consolidates all the projects/programs related to the effort. A year after the Portfolio has been in existence, the Portfolio Manager becomes aware of a different sales tool being implemented by a business unit. The Portfolio Manager should assess both sales tools being implemented. The program/project sponsors should be contacted and the situation discussed. The Portfolio Manager will provide a recommendation to the portfolio governance team. The recommendation should not be a surprise to either of the sponsors affected. Once the decision is made, it may be that individuals from one of the projects/programs can be diverted to whichever is kept; thereby minimizing the effect on program/project resources.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.



avatar
David Mullaney Senior Project Manager| State of Colorado Fort Collins, Co, USA
A project team can really be dismayed with the cancellation of a project - especially if the project is progressing and the change is a big surprise. I admire that author's maturity and professionalism to embrace such situations as learning opportunities. Good examples for all of us to consider. I agree that the PfMP certification will become increasingly important.

avatar
Wanda Curlee Dr. Wanda Curlee| PM POWERED Exton, Pa, USA
David - Thank you for the kind comments. I have been the project manager on a project that was going great and out of the blue was cancelled. This was a tremendous learning experience for me once I was over the shock and grief. The project team should have time to deal with the upheaval but in these ever changing times that does not always occur.

Please Login/Register to leave a comment.

ADVERTISEMENTS

I hope if dogs ever take over the world, and they choose a king, they don't just go by size, because I bet there are some Chihuahuas with some good ideas.

- Jack Handey

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsors