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Thoughts on this week lecture

Good things comes to those who wait! Yesterdays lecture was finally uploaded around midnight yesterday but by then I was already tucked into bed. Today, after putting the kids to sleep, I gave my wife some time of with the telly and watched this weeks recorded lecture, titled “Introduction to Project Portfolio Management”.

The lecture began with group discussions on the chapters covered by this week. I was a bit disappointed that the group discussions were cut from the recorded lecture – it’s always rewarding to hear others students perspective and insights from reading the same literature. Previously, Gunnar have stayed with one or a few students and held discussions together with them. This allowed those student’s how was unable to join the live session to listen to parts of the discussions.
Some criticism of portfolio management was raised in the summery of the group discussions and concerns were raised on how – or even if – this could be implemented in smaller companies. I agree with the criticism to an extent. If you run a small firm with less then a handful projects then yes – formal portfolio management as described in this standard might be exaggerated. However, I’m positive that if management in those firms looked at what they actually do, they would identify many of the practices within portfolio management. If you share common resources on multiple projects; aligning, prioritizing, scheduling, authorizing, managing and controlling these projects becomes key.

I do believe that “The Standard For Portfolio Management” could provide even small firms with inspiration and guidelines to help them structure and organize their work. As Gunnar stated, “portfolios are snapshot views” and these views helps management to look at the organization and ask the question; are the executed projects and expected deliverables aligned to the organizational strategies? Are we running the right projects? Are we taking deliberate, calculated, steps towards our strategic goals?

I work within IT operations and I really enjoyed seeing operations as part of the portfolio structure (Page 4) – sadly this was missed by Gunnar in the lecture slides and associated discussion. Projects themselves hardly ever produce any value, it’s when the project is finished and launched into operations that value is created. Consequently, it’s within operations the first signs of a decline in value are likely to be discovered. Maintaining a ridgid relationship between strategic portfolio management and operations could help senior management to align and reprioritise portfolio components. It’s no use in developing deliverable X if the underlying infrastructure lacks the capacity to deliver the intended benefits of said deliverable. The resources should therefor be prioritized to remediate the underlying problem first.

From my perspective, one of the most intriguing parts of Portfolio Management is the connection between benefits and projects. I strongly believe that a clear and well communicated vision and mission in combination with strategic goals are fundamental for successful project management. If there’s transparency in the portfolio (i.e. the connection between each project, the deliverables and the strategic goals) the intent of the project is known. With a known intent, project managers can take own initiatives to ensure that the requirements that actually fulfil the intent of the project are prioritized – increasing the likelihood that the output of the project delivers utility within the organization. I’ve had the unfortunate experiment of seeing project with a high level of requirement fulfilment resulting in deliverables with low value. Requirements engineering is hard – having a clear intent and a continual customer involvement is key.

What did you learn from the lecture? What’s your view of portfolio management? Please leave a comment!

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