We call the third and final PPM Domain “Portfolio Execution.” This is the Project Portfolio Management (PPM) Domain that at first appears to be most familiar. We have all had some involvement with delivering projects. We know what working on a project means. We’ve seen the timelines, been to the status meetings, argued about scope.
“Portfolio Execution” typically translates into the day-to-day delivery of projects. This is where the work happens. The field gets plowed. The ditches dug. The cement poured. You get the idea.
But on closer look, “Portfolio Execution” has some important departures from “Project Execution.” Without too much effort, we can begin to clarify some of the fundamental distinctions. At the simplest level, Portfolio Execution entails the combined execution of many distinct projects. If you add up the execution of all of our projects as one portfolio, then you have “Portfolio Execution.” Right?
Well, as it turns out, that’s not quite right. The whole is not merely the sum of its parts.
That leads us to the next simple observation: There are activities related to the execution of individual Projects and there are duties that pertain to the Portfolio(s) overall.
Let’s spend a moment on these two areas.
Project Duties: These may be the most familiar to us of all. We justify, we budget, we plan, we schedule, we outline dependencies, roles, estimates, available resources. We get approval, we start the plan, we work the plan, we close the plan. There are a few items I may be able to add to the immense body of material that’s been written on this topic, but for the most part this activity list is fairly well defined. The case studies are numerous to say the least.
Portfolio Duties: Once an organization has embraced a portfolio approach to managing projects, then there are several other activities that managers and stakeholders will now want to consider. Here are a few:
- Regular check-ins throughout the project to sync the project deliverables with the evolving goals of the overall portfolio
- Reporting on portfolio-wide metrics that define how the project will fit into the overall mix in terms of value creation
- Reconciling project resources with other demands to answer questions like “can we reallocate skilled resources to other projects to take advantage of unique skills or unique knowledge?”
What you can see pretty quickly is that the portfolio activities have an important bearing on the project activities. In other words, the big picture view changes the little picture view. In short, Project Execution must now fit itself into the big picture, and both will benefit.
In reflecting back to the discussion in the other two domains (Supply & Demand and Portfolio Prioritization), one can see that the topic that emerges over and over is prioritization. Here, once again in “Portfolio Execution,” we find that prioritization emerges again: “Are we delivering what we need as of today? Can we make adjustments to our resource allocation? Can we assess how we’re progressing and make adjustments?” It’s not a stretch to say that a major aspect of Portfolio Execution entails not only prioritizing, but re-prioritizing.
Taking this argument one step further, I would argue that the centerpiece of all three PPM Domains lies in prioritization and re-prioritization. We are less dogmatic and more agile. We are more goal-oriented and less process-obsessed.
But in order to prioritize effectively, we need visibility into reliable information. That’s where the PPM tools come into play. That’s why the entire Project Management market is shifting toward a unified approach to PPM data and process. That is why PPM cannot really fly without a PPM infrastructure.
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.