How to Successfully Implement Project Portfolio Management

“How to Successfully Implement Project Portfolio Management” on Smartsheet, December 5, 2021

Project Portfolio Management Implementation Process

The project portfolio management (PPM) implementation process is an organizational endeavor. The company establishes an action plan and a framework for governance then standardizes new practices around those elements. To implement PPM successfully, you must drive change at all levels.

“Operationally, most organizations focus their efforts on project selection, governance, and oversight. Project selection is the process of reviewing project requests or proposals and deciding which projects to pursue based on strategic alignment, return on investment, or other enterprise-specific factors. Governance and oversight are the processes for creating standardized delivery patterns, reporting on project performance, and taking corrective actions when necessary,” says Alan Zucker, Founding Principal of Project Management Essentials.

“Every organization configures its portfolio management practices somewhat differently. Small companies may have a single portfolio, whereas large corporations may have many. Typically, a senior manager should lead the portfolio management team. The team may be within the finance, planning, or technology department, but members should always report to a senior leader,” recommends Zucker.

Step 1: Define Your Project Portfolio Management Approach

Define your project portfolio management approach by determining your company’s goals, establishing your framework, and analyzing your company’s willingness and ability to change in order to create a realistic timeline for your work.

“The first step is to decide what is important to the organization in terms of selecting and overseeing project execution. The second is to design and implement a basic process that meets those minimal needs. Use paper-based or lightweight tools to implement the first iteration of the process because you want to be able to implement updates or changes to the process quickly, as you learn,” says Zucker.

Step 6: Learn and Evolve from Your Project Portfolio

Situations change over time, and so do portfolios. It is essential to evaluate your portfolio on a recurring basis to ensure that your current framework and approach continue to align with the goals of the company.

Don’t be afraid to make changes when needed: “After you have gained some experience with the process, evaluate it. Solicit feedback from senior leaders, management, and project teams. Are the ‘right’ projects being selected? Is the process transparent and lightweight? Based on the feedback, adjust where needed,” recommends Zucker.

  • Leverage Existing Company Culture: Take a look at your company’s existing processes and culture, and create a plan that works within that structure. “When implementing a project portfolio management program, it is important to understand the organizational and cultural context. Many new programs fail because they establish practices that are out of context. Successful programs establish clear business goals based on the existing culture. Then, these programs establish processes and practices that begin moving the organization in the new direction,” Zucker observes.

  • Support Your Teams: Your team is one of your most valuable resources, and it only grows more experienced and valuable over time. “One of our core principles is ‘fund the teams, rather than the project.’ This means that we fund the project delivery teams and then decide which teams should execute which work or projects. This practice reduces the churn of forming and disbanding our project teams. Lightweight project portfolio management processes allow you to prioritize projects quickly. When the teams complete one project, you assign the next project (that is, the one at the top of their prioritized stack),” explains Zucker.