portfolio balance

Article - Seven Steps to a Successful Project Portfolio Management Implementation


A question that I get asked fairly frequently during my consulting or training engagements sounds something like this:

We have heard about this "project portfolio management methodology" ... How valuable is it and how do we go about implementing it?

Considering the number of times I had to answer this inquiry in the last four or five years, I decided that it might be a good idea to sum up at least the high-level steps required to implement PPM at any given company. And here is what it looks like:

Step 1: Executive Commitment

There should be a serious commitment from the senior executives of the company to install a systematic, formal and rigorous portfolio management process. The senior management must believe that companies that use PPM outperformed those who don’t.  For more information about the value of project portfolio management, see my earlier article "What is the Value of Project Portfolio Management?"


Step 2: Mature Project Management In-place

Successful implementation of project portfolio management would be severely challenged for organizations lacking   the ability to scope, estimate and manage its projects. Therefore the introduction of project portfolio management should start with a company getting a good grasp on project scoping and estimating, followed by project monitoring and control.


Step 3: Establish Your Throughput Capacity

Once the scoping, estimation and other project management processes have been implemented, the efforts of the organization should focus on the determination of throughput capacity of the project pipeline.

One of the easiest ways to assess pipeline capacity is to measure it in dollars or some other currency. For example, the company executives may decide that the total budget allocated to projects in the next calendar year will be $100 million. The budget for each successful project is then estimated and, depending on the allocation method used the projects will be added to specific buckets until all of the buckets are full.

Jamal’s Musings – What is Portfolio Balance?

An interesting conversation clearly demonstrating the value of the portfolio balancing happened once when I was teaching my Project Portfolio Management Masterclass in the Gulf region. Among other attendees there were two high-ranking representatives of one of the largest construction companies: an owner (and a CEO) and his general manager. The following exchange took place between us:

CEO: This portfolio balancing theory is great but I can hardly imagine how it would apply to my business. We are basically very similar to a professional services company. People come to me and say, “Build me this!” What am I going to reply to them? “Sorry, your project does not fit into our portfolio balance model?”

Me: Well, let me finish the module on balancing the portfolios and we will have a chance to chat about this topic at the end.

CEO: (staring at Burj Khalifa visible through our conference room window) Wait a second! I think I get it! I am fairly old and close to retiring in a couple of years. Your presentation made me think; what kind of legacy am I going to pass on to my son, who will take over our business? Right now our entire portfolio consists of very low-risk, low reward projects. We basically build shoebox types of buildings with a very low margin of profit. I would like to have that (points to Burj Khalifa) on our company brochures!

GM: Forget about Burj Khalifa, we have conducted some calculations and if we get into HVAC business, our margins will go up from 5% to 25-30%. And if we somehow manage to get into the energy management business, we can raise our profit margins to 50-75%. Too bad we don’t have any internal expertise at our company.

CEO: Why don’t we hire several specialists in the HVAC and energy management and start a couple of projects from those domains next year? These projects will represent maybe 5% of our total portfolio, but this share will grow with time.