Review of two new books – Strategic Project Portfolio Management & Agile Portfolio Management

I recently had the privilege to read two new Project Portfolio Management books – one was published earlier this year, and the other will be published shortly.  I was somewhat apprehensive about this, given that the PPM publication space has become rather stale with very few original ideas being presented.

I’m happy to say that both Agile Portfolio Management by Jochen Krebs (ISBN 978-0-735-62567-9) and Strategic Project Portfolio Management – Enabling a Productive Organization by Simon Moore (ISBN 978-0-470-48195-0) do a good job of shedding new light on the discipline.

Agile Portfolio Management provides a comprehensive walk through of agile PM principles and practices and then applies these principles to PPM.  The author does a good job of detailing good practices when dealing with the third constraint of the agile triple constraint: people.  I was also intrigued by the author’s concept of applying agile project practices such as a Scrum meeting to reviewing an organization’s portfolio.  The image of having a group of executives or decision makers standing (NOT sitting) and being given only a couple of minutes to indicate what’s going on in their part of the organization is refreshing (as well as amusing).  The author also does a good job of detailing the other two portfolios that all organizations manage – resources & assets.

Unfortunately, the author’s bias towards agile is evident – he manages to sacrifice many useful PM tools such as Gantt charts, Work Breakdown Structures and Critical Path Analysis at the altar of agile.  While these tools might have limited application on highly conceptual, poorly defined projects, for better defined projects they absolutely have their place.  A key to being a good project manager is adaptive project management – use the right tools for the right job.

Strategic Project Portfolio Management (expected to be published in November 2009) provides executive-focused coverage of PPM theory as well as a comprehensive walkthrough of the best practices and cardinal sins of launching a PPM initiative.  The author highlights the criticality of capturing as many diverse ideas as possible as part of the identification process – this is valuable as too many PPM publications focus on reducing or filtering these ideas prior to evaluation.  The author makes a number of good points throughout the book – here is a sample of the ones I highlighted:

  • “While financial accounting systems provide granularity on how your money is being spent, your project portfolio management system can tell you why.”
  • “The more ideas you capture, the stronger your portfolio will become.”
  • “An ornate portfolio selection process is no real value without proper tracking of execution.”
  • “Simply creating a well-designed dashboard in the hope that someone will find and act on it is wishful thinking if there is no process to support it.”

A concern I had with this book was that the “people element” was given less coverage than process & technology – the human element (whether that is at the line staff level or at the executive level) is where most PPM initiatives fail.  I perceived a bias in the book towards the use of technology – many times the term “portfolio management system” was used where “portfolio management practices” might have been more appropriate.  Finally, while there was brief coverage of agile practices in one chapter, the rest of the book had a strong emphasis on applying traditional planning practices to projects and portfolios.

In spite of these minor issues, I appreciate both authors’ desire to inject fresh ideas and concepts into the PPM publication space.

Categories: Project Portfolio Management | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Review of two new books – Strategic Project Portfolio Management & Agile Portfolio Management

  1. Pingback: Review of my upcoming book « Strategic PPM

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