Project portfolio management helps you organize data and highlight crucial information during project life cycles inside each portfolio, which saves time and increases efficiency. In this article, learn how you and top-level executives can get a bird’s-eye view of all your business project life cycles and remove barriers to high-level performance.
If you manage various initiatives over different teams and departments, you know how hard capturing and sharing results can be.
Project management tools offer a way to organize and execute work for one initiative, but you need project portfolio management to gain clarity across teams and departments.
Your team needs structure and your stakeholders need to see results. Project portfolio management is the brain of the operation. This organizational model helps you organize data and highlight important details during project life cycles within each portfolio.
Project portfolio management (PPM) is the centralized management of multiple projects. With project portfolio management, you gain visibility across projects and initiatives to connect your team’s daily to-dos with your company’s organizational strategy. Project portfolio management tools help you track your business priorities and see the big picture from strategy to execution.
The value of PPM is in uncovering and selecting projects that offer the best return on investment. Then, follow up by implementing the resources necessary to take them on.Organize work with Portfolios
Both project management and portfolio management are subsets of work management, which is a systematic approach to coordinating work throughout your organization—from projects and ongoing processes to routine tasks—to drive clarity.
Project management is ideal for:
Planning, managing, and executing one specific initiative
Team collaboration for one project
Assigning roles and responsibilities for the project team
Project portfolio management is great for:
Managing multiple projects and large-scale initiatives
Coordinating across cross-functional teams
Assessing the right projects for your organization and resources
Organizing and tracking your team’s priorities
Easily visualizing progress across initiatives for executive stakeholders
Clearly defining and connecting daily work to strategic objectives
Staying on top of business goals
Project portfolio management acts as a gatekeeper between your team’s time and the influx of potential projects. The goal is to assess which projects will generate the highest return on investment and which are aligned with the business’s objectives.
Without the oversight of project portfolio management, your team may take on too many projects simultaneously. This can result from improper resource allocation or a disorganized project manager—no matter the cause, it quickly becomes a bad example of portfolio management.
Instead, think of PPM as your personal mission control dashboard. It keeps everything accessible so the quality of work stays high and each team can hit their goals.
In short, project portfolio management keeps your business agile.
Project portfolio management frees up time and improves efficiency across teams. When your company manages different projects simultaneously, staying organized is non-negotiable. Project portfolio management is not geared toward any specific industry—if your company handles multiple projects, your team will benefit from it.
Popular industries that use this resource include:
IT teams often have large budgets with smaller teams. Keeping an eye on your team’s workflow prevents error and over-utilization. Keep tasks on time and use data to drive profitability.
Marketing teams often need their attention on many moving pieces. From e-commerce to websites—there is a lot to keep track of. Keeping the pulse on the company’s objectives as a whole rather than one piece of the puzzle makes project portfolio management ideal.
Construction industry benefits tremendously from project portfolio management. Throughout each step in a construction worker's job, it takes meticulous planning. Over the project life cycle, a lot can change as well. Project portfolio management supports the team while keeping an eye on the whole picture.
Precision is the cornerstone of the financial services industry. There is no room for error between banks, credit unions, and credit card companies. Adapting and utilizing project portfolio management ensures that quotas are met, documents are accounted for, and teams are equipped with the tools necessary to get the job done right.
Just like project management, there are some key PPM roles and responsibilities. With these roles, you can ensure everyone understands their responsibilities within the project team and every other team member.
As you might expect, the project portfolio manager is the person creating and managing the project portfolio.
As the project portfolio manager, you may not be the project manager for every project within your portfolio—but it’s your job to ensure the projects within your portfolio are up to date and have relevant recent status updates. You are responsible for keeping tabs on each project life cycle and providing support where needed. Plan to check in frequently with individual project managers to develop a cadence for project status reporting.
Executive stakeholders are any team members or company executives who need a high-level view of what’s happening across the portfolio’s initiatives. For example, if you’re managing a team within the marketing department, the CMO or head of marketing might be an executive stakeholder in your portfolio.Organize work with Portfolios
A program manager has a similar role to a project portfolio manager. The main difference between the two roles and management techniques is that a program manager is in charge of related projects, while a project portfolio manager might not be.
For example, a program manager might manage multiple projects related to a specific product marketing launch. In contrast, a project portfolio manager would manage multiple projects within the marketing department, which might not be directly connected.
Yes, there are still project managers in project portfolio management! Project managers can own individual projects within the larger portfolio. Depending on the size and scope of the portfolio, some projects may also be owned and managed by the project portfolio manager.
Everyone working on the projects in the portfolio is part of the project team. Your project team may be a cross-functional group of members from various departments within your company, or they could be traditional team members. The main difference between a “project team” and a “team” is that a project team is a group that works together for the duration of a project before disbanding.
Project portfolio management is part of a larger system of work: work management. When used correctly, PPM helps you and relevant project stakeholders get a bird’s-eye view to make better strategic decisions. Teams that use project portfolio management software benefit from:
High-level, holistic planning
More time for creative and strategic work
Real-time project progress
Project data automation
Gain clear reasoning for project methodology
To get the best results from project portfolio management software, you need a tool that keeps your strategy and daily to-dos connected, provides a quick overview, and updates in real-time.
There are three must-have project portfolio management software features:
One principal value of project portfolio management is the ability to get an overview of the progress of every project within the portfolio. To do so, ensure your project portfolio management tool offers reporting features at both the project and portfolio levels. That way, executive stakeholders can get at-a-glance insight at the portfolio level, then drill down into any project-specific status updates where necessary.Read: How to write an effective project status report
Because a portfolio consists of many complex projects, make sure your project portfolio management software offers a way to view the timeline of each. You should be able to view any dependencies and adjust if something is off. With a Gantt chart-like view, you can identify key milestones and dates for every project and ensure things are moving smoothly.
Workload management can help you develop and track your resource management plan. With workload management tools, you clearly understand your project team's responsibilities and deliverables across all of the projects within the portfolio.
If you need to change or optimize your resource management plan, you can visualize who has the bandwidth and who is close to burnout on the team.
Project portfolio management works best when you maintain an updated, real-time portfolio. As the project portfolio manager, it’s your job to check in with the individual project managers regularly and confirm their projects’ data is accurate. That way, you and any executive stakeholders can home in on any at-risk or off-track projects and course-correct while ensuring on-track projects are accurately aligned with your company’s strategic objectives.
Many moving pieces go into the project portfolio management process. It is a continuous effort that requires careful planning to identify, track, and manage projects. The focus is to always deliver high-quality projects that are aligned with business objectives.
To get started with PPM, follow these five steps:
PPM can help you connect daily work to strategic objectives—but for you to do that most effectively, you need to know what strategic objectives you’re connecting to.
If your company sets yearly or quarterly goals, you may have various objectives ranging from revenue goals to churn reduction targets. Clarify which strategic goals or OKRs your portfolio is contributing to and how.
Key takeaway: Determine how your project portfolio will support specific company goals.
Your portfolio should include all relevant projects. Make sure you add the right projects and prioritize them in order of importance, if applicable. As the project portfolio manager, take some time to connect with the individual project managers to align on how each project in the portfolio connects to your strategic goals. Finally, confirm there are no related projects that you haven’t included in your portfolio.
Key takeaway: Organize your portfolio by adding projects important to your overall business strategy. Communicate with project managers and explain how their projects contribute to the greater plan.
A portfolio is a tool to help you align with your project managers and better prioritize project work. It also provides executive stakeholders with a dashboard of all initiatives across your department. Make sure they have easy access to your PPM software. When executives get real-time insight into project progress, they’re empowered to make better decisions.
Key takeaway: Keep stakeholders informed by sharing an overview of initiatives.
Make sure your project managers regularly update their individual projects. That way, your portfolio becomes your team’s mission control for all initiatives. You can see these in one place to better visualize dependencies, identify new project opportunities, and help projects at risk.
Key takeaway: Keep your team accountable for updating projects regularly, so your overview accurately represents project workflows.
In addition to helping you and key stakeholders stay up to date on project progress, a portfolio is a powerful tool for resource management.
During the project planning stage of each project, you’ll likely have created a resource management plan. But, if you see a project falling off track from your portfolio overview, you can redistribute available resources across projects to address that issue.
Ensure your PPM software offers workload management tools to increase resource allocation and redistribution visibility.
Project portfolio management is a vital component of business planning that enables project managers to estimate a project's potential revenue before it even begins. Before making any pivotal decisions, businesses may put the pieces of a project together with the help of a PPM tool.
Here are a few of the best:
A decision tree is a flowchart that begins with a single central concept and branches out according to the outcomes of potential choices. The model often resembles a tree with branches, hence the term "decision tree."
These trees are employed in decision tree analysis, illustrating a difficult decision's probable results, expenses, and effects.
A cost-benefit analysis enables you to assess the financial benefits of a choice so you can evaluate whether it is worthwhile to proceed with it. It's a helpful tool when you want to prevent bias in your decision-making process, particularly when you have to make a significant choice that will affect the success of your team or project.
A priority matrix classifies tasks or projects according to criteria, such as effort and urgency, and allows team members to rapidly decide what to tackle first. It takes the guesswork out of where energy should be allocated and prevents important tasks from slipping through the cracks.
PPM is the best way to collaborate with and across your team. Get a bird’s-eye view of all your initiatives in one place to track the right metrics in the right place.