Which should you start with – Project Portfolio Management or Project Management?

It’s often assumed that Project Portfolio Management (PPM) should only be introduced into organizations that have first achieved standardization and consistency with project management.  This is logical as “doing the right projects” is an academic practice if you cannot “do projects right”.

Here are some justifications for introducing PPM in parallel, or even in advance, of improving your organization’s project management capabilities.

1. If resource availability is a common source of risk to the successful delivery of your projects, reducing multitasking by focusing resources on higher value projects may improve the estimates of resource availability, which in turn could improve project predictability.

2. If your organization suffers from invisible sponsors (see Overcoming Project Management Super Villains), PPM might be a good way to “encourage” real commitment.  When sponsors realize that their projects will get axed if they aren’t fully engaged, they will be more likely to support their project managers.

3. Clarifying scope and expectations for a project can be a painful, effort-intensive activity for project teams.  Introducing a consistent project intake and evaluation process can front-load this effort before the project team has even been assigned.

4. Focusing and motivating their teams is a common challenge for project managers.  This challenge is aggravated when the team is asked to work on a project that appears to be of limited value or when the project is not treated like a priority by sponsors or stakeholders.  With appropriate project intake and prioritization practices, the rationale for projects should be obvious so that he project manager can effectively communicate the benefits the project will have to both the organization and to individual team members.

Like the age-old question of whether the chicken or the egg came first, with PPM and project management, either option is viable with the right context!


Categories: Project Portfolio Management | Tags: | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Which should you start with – Project Portfolio Management or Project Management?

  1. itorganization2017

    I don’t disagree with you, but I think your analysis misses out on an important discipline – Program Management.

    In fact, every time I see the term “Project Portfolio Management” I cringe! It implies that a Portfolio is a collection of Projects. Unfortunately, that is often the case, and is bad – very bad – practice, IMHO.

    In a large organization where there might be 100 or more active projects, no Portfolio decision-making group or process can make meaningful decisions about priorities, accountabilities, and all the other things that ensure value is extracted from all the project-related work.

    Hence, the discipline of Program Management. Chances are, those 100 projects are associated with a handful of key business programs. Chances also are, some of the 100 projects have no linkage to the key business programs, and should be seriously challenged as to their existence.

    So, yes – I agree that there are situations where you might want to start at the top – the portfolio level, and others where it’s better to get skilled at the bottom – the project level. But either way, if you are not connect projects to the portfolio via the intermediate Program Management discipline, I don’t believe you will have a coherent, sustainable approach to value realization.


    • kbondale

      Thanks for the feedback, Vaughan! Of course, the article was missing the connection to Program Management. As it does tend to be “sandwiched” between “true” PPM and project management, I wanted to provide a counterpoint to the common bottom up approach and in that context, whether one starts top-down or proceeds bottom-up, program management would definitely need to be considered as part of an overall transition between the two “endpoints”.



    I liked your artical.Thanks.


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