Portfolio Management Predictions for 2016

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Wanda Curlee

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Categories: Portfolio Management

By Wanda Curlee

Compared to project or program management, “portfolio management” is in its infancy. I suspect many still think of investment or financial portfolio managers when they hear the phrase.

Portfolio management—I don’t usually put “project” before these words—will certainly change significantly during the next decade. Think how much project management has changed in the last 10 years.

But instead of looking into a crystal ball to imagine the state of portfolio management in 2026, let’s just think about 2016. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for three things this year.

1) C-Suite recognition.

I expect many more people in the C-Suite to recognize that implementing strategy is doing the hard work. Someone needs to be the push between executives and senior management on one hand, and program and project managers on the other.

Some would say that this is the PMO manager’s position, but that misses the point. The portfolio manager sits above the PMO and does the hard work for the C-Suite. He or she has the ear of the C-Suite and makes tough recommendations to the governance team. This is primarily done by looking at the strategic objectives, aligning the projects and programs to them, and ensuring that the appropriate resources are available for execution.

2) New tools.

What else will we see? Tools! To date, there is no one tool that truly meets the need of the portfolio manager. Yes, some come close. But there is nothing that appears to have the input of a seasoned portfolio manager.

I hope some enterprising software company will retain an experienced portfolio manager to help design a brilliant tool. Because when the end user is asked to help design the software, a much better product happens.

3) Virtual abilities.

Along with the right tools, a portfolio manager needs to be able to work in a virtual environment. With clients, project managers, vendors and leaders in different parts of the world, many companies are now operating in a virtual environment. That means it’s increasingly important that portfolio managers have the ability to deal with time zone and cultural differences.

It’s hard to say exactly how working in a cloud-based environment could impact the world of portfolio management. It could conceivably provide greater transparency to an organization’s leaders, for example.

What do you expect to see as portfolio management matures in 2016 and beyond?

Posted by Wanda Curlee on: February 09, 2016 05:32 PM | Permalink

Comments (8)

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Wanda, hello. I would just like to comment on a statement in your first paragraph. You write: "Compared to project or program management, “portfolio management” is in its infancy". As a person who practices and consults in program management, I would disagree. Program management is finally starting to come together in the project community, but still far from accepted as an organizational capability.

The portfolio culture already exists in organizations; it is what the finance department has done for decades, so although the methods may require adjustment, Portfolio management is not a major cultural change.

On the other hand, program management, because of its cyclic nature and the level of uncertainty and ambiguity it is exposed to, requires a real culture change, mostly at the C level. They want business initiatives to be agreed and predictable, not to be developed as you go.
In that sense, agile is the best thing that happened to programs...

For the rest I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Hello Michel - Thank you for the comment. I will have to professionally disagree with you on Portfolio Management. Yes, the Financial Officer does look after the finances of the organization but project portfolio drives that projects and programs are mapped to the strategic objectives which align with the strategy. This is difficult work that the CFO does not normally care to monitor. Therefore, a project portfolio manager needs to report to the C-suite. I advocate the CEO but the CFO is another option as he is part of the C-Suite.

Regarding programs, I think it depends on the company and organization. Sure, there are some that do not have a clue but others are trying to implement. The project portfolio manager when doing a roadmap and looking at interdependencies of the portfolio, may see the programs and suggest the projects be compiled into a program.

Project portfolio management requires a culture shift for the entire company. Program management should be a shift by the entire company but can just occur within an organization.

Finally, project portfolio management was recognized last by PMI as evidenced by the certification. Until a certification is implemented and accepted, normally by Governments, that is when we will see project portfolio become more important. I would contend that programs have been accepted and demanded by some governments. This drives the need to have consultants that have the certification and are able to drive programs and project portfolio.


I agree with Michelle. I worked in corporate planning in the late 90 and we prioritised the £500m investment programme across the business based in alignment with corporate objectives, benefits vs costs and return per resource. Each project had to go to an investment board, chaired by the CEO. We called business planning but I think we did what we now call portfolio management. I do wonder if people talk about portfolio management they are referring to IT projects only, not the true portfolio I.e. All the projects and programmes delivered by the organisation. So as Michelle says organisation have been doing this for years.

Hello Paul - Thank you for your post. Interesting perspective, my experience in the US is different. The CFO would maybe look at large projects/programs and see if the business case made sense but there was and still is no real mapping to strategy and strategic objectives. The CFO would occasionally monitor the project to see if the budget was on track but not if benefits were being realized.

I have done portfolio management for retail, consulting organizations, outsourcing and several other companies. Only one has been in the IT department.

Maybe Portfolio Management is more mature in capital intensive industries such as energy or infrastructure, where the projects take years to deliver.

Hello Paul - This is most likely true. I don't have any experience in these industries.

Interesting thanks for sharing

Kevin - Thank you

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