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Portfolio Thinking Part I (#1 in the series Portfolio Thinking)
By Demian Entrekin

The more I think about Portfolio Management in general, and Project Portfolio Management more specifically, the more I realize that there is a process that might be best defined as Portfolio Thinking.

What is Portfolio Thinking?

First of all, I am well aware that I have the unique perspective of focusing on Portfolio Management concepts as my quotidian duty, and so I spend a significant amount of time pondering what it all means and where it’s headed. What are the implications? What are the pre-requisites? What are the levers and the constraints?

What I come back to is the essential simplicity of Portfolio Thinking. It all comes back to “bang for buck.” Portfolio Thinking is about the deceptively simple question of how to spend constrained resources. That question then expands into several other critical questions:

  1. What are we spending our available resources on now?
  2. Who are we and what are we trying to accomplish?
  3. What are the investments that will provide the greatest leverage?
  4. How many investments can we successfully take on at a given time?
  5. What is the best sequence of those investments?

There appears to be a significant overlap between the Theory of Constraints and Project Portfolio Management, or Portfolio Thinking.

Here are Theory of Constraints thinking tools:

  1. Gain agreement on the problem
  2. Gain agreement on the direction for a solution
  3. Gain agreement that the solution solves the problem
  4. Agree to overcome any potential negative ramifications
  5. Agree to overcome any obstacles to implementation

Sound familiar?

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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