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You Gotta Have Priorities! Exploring the Value of Project Portfolio Management

by Kristin Bent

June 14, 2010

While researching the Managing your SAP Projects 2010 event, I’ve stumbled across three different terms time and time again: project management, program management, and portfolio management. Project management brings to mind the sorts of details generally associated with overseeing an SAP project – defining scope, managing budgets, establishing timelines, aligning resources, etc. Program management takes project management one step further, requiring team leads to maintain these usual project management responsibilities – but in a multi-project environment.

Last, but not least, there’s portfolio management – the act of prioritizing projects to ensure that the ones at the top of a project manager’s “to-do” list are those that will deliver the most value to the business. As Wikepedia puts it, “project management methods are used ‘to do projects right’ and the methods used in PPM [project portfolio management] are used ‘to do the right projects.’”

Leveraging portfolio management sounds like a no-brainer, right? Without it, project teams run the risk of planning new initiatives on a simple “first-come, first-serve” basis, rather than stepping back, looking at their project pipeline as whole, and then deciding which projects to take on, based on the benefits each will deliver.

As Craig Curran-Morton points out in his article, “Baby Steps,” the benefits of portfolio management and project prioritization maybe aren’t quite this obvious. In fact, he questions whether a lot of project managers even fully understand what portfolio management is, due to it being a relatively new concept. He writes: “The first challenge we encounter is our failure to educate ourselves on the definition, details and dynamics of portfolio management. There is simply no common understanding of the concept. If I walked into a room of 20 people from the same organization, I would probably get 15 different definitions of PPM. Unlike project management (which has been around for many decades), project portfolio management is in its infancy.”

I would love to hear any insights on this topic - how could such a valuable strategy take so long to catch on? Are there are any project managers on Insider Learning Network who could speak to portfolio management? Does it play a prominent role in your organization, or, as Curran-Morton suggests, is it just too new a concept to have gained momentum among PMs?

Until next time!

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William Newman

9/25/2013 8:44:58 PM

The Project Management Institute (PMI) encapsulates all three of these layers into a comprehensive approach called OPM3 (organizational project management maturity model). Using the OPM3 model and approach, organizations can align resources to a set of best practice techniques and approaches to maximize performance and reduce complexity.

For more information on OPM3 visit the PMI website at or For more information on scheduling a OPM3 assessment or workshop for your organization, contact