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A Brief History of Project Portfolio Management
By Demian Entrekin

Change often starts from the outside. Sometimes the novice is the only one who can see the door. This idea could be applied directly to the creation of the Project Portfolio Management market and the disciplines that go with it.

PPM did not emerge from the PMI, nor did it originate from the entrenched Project Management vendors. It did not originate from Microsoft, nor did it spring from Primavera. These were the dominant Project Management vendors at the time, and they have had to play a significant game of catch-up, and some might say that they haven’t actually caught up.

There were many different factors impacting the rise of PPM. The internet bubble had burst in the beginning of the millineium, but connected web applications were here to stay. There was a huge focus on cost visibility. Portfolio theory had begun to cross-pollinate the PSA market. PPM just made sense.

Other questions come up, such as “what is the significance of the market category known as PPM?” In other words, why is it important to even have a clearly bounded category for the discipline itself? In the 1990s, we already had some examples of Enterprise Project Management, but those were sporadic and not particularly effective.

In short, I’d say that the market category acts as a container for a generally accepted set of tools and techniques that the market can readily understand and assess. From a set theory standpoint, it is the name of a set of items.

If the category name is new, the name helps loosen the bias of the current status quo. It stands out as different, new. We need these categorical monikers to put things in their proper places. Even when we think outside the box, we need to create another box.

At the time PPM seemed like the most promising category for the problems we were trying to solve. It could encompass many of the fundamental concepts that drove us to start the company in the first place. These concepts were things like project data normalization, visibility into all projects, centralized resource allocation, reporting of project performance across different categories of work, etc.

PPM has given way to IT Governance in the IT department, but it certainly remains as a central component of the underlying architecture of the solution. As an interesting side note, I made the first Wikipedia entry for Project Portfolio Management on October 3, 2005. It was coincidentally my 41st birthday.

The point is this: we were not PM insiders. We saw a need from the outside looking in. We were not steeped in the PM dogma, but we had a deep respect for the discipline. Perhaps it’s essential for an outside view to drive significant market changes.

Perhaps you too need an outsider to come in and ask some hard questions.

Demian is the CTO of Innotas. As founder and CEO, Entrekin oversaw marketing, product development, sales and services for the company. Today, he focuses on strategic product direction. Prior to Innotas, Entrekin co-founded Convoy Corporation and was Chief Architect of its initial products. In that role, Entrekin helped the company lead the middleware market with an annual growth rate of 670 percent and played an instrumental role in Convoy’s subsequent acquisition by New Era Networks in 1999. A recognized thought leader in Project Portfolio Management, Entrekin has published numerous papers on PPM and his blog (PPM Today) explores current issues related to successful PPM implementation. During his 18 year career, Demian has assumed leadership roles as a consultant and as an entrepreneur, delivering commercial and corporate database applications. Demian holds a B.A. in English from UCLA and an M.A. in English from San Francisco State University.

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