Portfolio Manager: When This Position Becomes a Must for Your Business

7 min read

“While project management is about executing projects right, portfolio management is about executing the right projects.” (c) Bob Buttrick. So, when does the project portfolio manager (PPM) come?

Project portfolio management (PPM) is the centralization of your company’s business processes. It is done to analyze the current projects, and categorize and group them into portfolios. This analysis is based on numerous key characteristics. It aims to meet the business’s strategic objectives and goals. The process involves setting priorities based on these goals and then choosing initiatives and projects to provide optimal business value. There are several roles in project management, as well as more than one methodology; they often overlap in more than one way. However, all project management roles, including project portfolio management, require badass skills in organization, time management, resource allocation, and budget management.

So, When Does the Time Come to Get Yourself a Project Portfolio Manager?

Prerequisites for creating a position of PPM in your enterprise are:

  • An overwhelming number of simultaneous projects do not deliver value to the organization due to a lack of focus.
  • Projects don’t support larger, company-wide business goals.
  • Projects that are massively delayed.
  • Resource conflicts, most notably when people are assigned to simultaneous projects, result in delays.

Project Manager vs. Portfolio Manager

Generally, there are several responsibilities usually tied to the role of a project portfolio manager. It’s their solemn duty to oversee projects, to ensure they are being executed at full potential and when the necessity occurs – to jump in with notes, options, and recommendations. There is a difference between a “PM” (Project Manager) and a “PPM” (Project Portfolio Manager). PMs most often work on small or singular projects, they are in charge of a series of tasks that must be completed within a specific time frame. PPMs are juggling several sets of such smaller singular projects.

Portfolio Project Manager is the person, who groups and categorizes all your projects, finds similarities and conflicts, intertwines the resources, and finds the suitable timelines for releases and deadlines. The average US PPM is responsible for the planning, development, and implementation of all initiatives and efforts that utilize information technology solutions, principles, standards, and best market practices. The person in this role usually develops, establishes, and maintains the standards and procedures for managing all the projects in your care. Throughout the whole business lifecycle, the PPM collects feedback to ensure that every project result meets customers’ and stakeholders’ expectations regarding deadlines, costs, and performance. You do not need a Portfolio Manager until the average (US) salary of $89,690 per year will not be worth the hustle. You require one of the tasks above are collecting dust on your plate.

Historical Perspective of PPM

Over the last century, the business has evolved beyond recognition. Tools and techniques have influenced the project and portfolio management efforts. The overall change furthered the practitioners’ need to develop the skills of scheduling, tracking, and reporting. Technology has continued to develop at a rising speed. We have moved from the computer mainframe to the desktop and are now moving to the cloud.

As technology developed, the practitioners kept pace with the capabilities of ever-evolving tools and techniques, to catch up with industry demands. The roots of PMO as a business unit lie in the use of “The Principles of Scientific Management” written and published by Frederick Taylor in 1909. It was the first time the connection of efficiency to optimization was proven in scientific terms. In a word, he has proven that contrary to popular belief, working hard does not necessarily mean “getting things done.” However, “working right” does.

Gantt Chart was one of the steps made toward separating the “right approach.” It was originally developed in 1896 by Karol Adamiecki and Henry Gantt. First used on large construction projects, for example, the Hoover Dam (1931). In the 30s, the U.S. Air Corps created a project to track its aircraft development. It may be considered the first recorded case of a PMO as a position and a role coming into being. Critical Path Method (CPM) was developed in the late 1950s. It is a project modeling technique. It was originally developed and “put to work” by DuPont.

For example, the success of the Manhattan Project contributed to this method.  The U.S. business community “built on this,” and by the fifties, the interstate highway network (1956) was built with the help of both – the Grant Chart and an official PMO. The Navy adopted and popularized the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) as a project management approach by using it in the Polaris missile defense project.

In the 60s, the role of a PMO was adopted mostly in complex projects:  aerospace projects, weapons development projects, and large construction.  However, PMO wasn’t yet used in businesses across the map. It became a vital position in the seventies.

In 1969, when the Project Management Institute (PMI) was founded, the first definition of PMO came into existence: “… foster recognition of the need for professionalism in project management; provide a forum for the free exchange of project management problems, solutions and applications; coordinate industrial and academic research efforts; develop common terminology and techniques to improve communications; provide an interface between users and suppliers of hardware and software systems, and to provide guidelines for instruction and career development in the field of project management.”

Project Management Tools was launched by Joel M. Koppelman and Richard K. Faris in 1982. Over the past 30 years, these tools have led the industry in defining how individuals and large corporations manage projects. More recently, portfolios have become a common topic for discussion as organizations grow in complexity and size, resulting in the need for a richer set of tools, methods, and skilled practitioners. New Agile Management Methods also referred to as Agile Project Management, iterative methods of determining requirements and delivering projects are now being utilized in a highly flexible and interactive manner (Scrum).

These methods are primarily used in conjunction with a skill set to “visualize” and extrapolate data for the enterprise’s benefit. So today PMO is a person that uses scientifically proven methods to distinguish the “work hard” from “work smart” and build a strategy for greatness using this distinction. Though PMO was born within huge organizations and sophisticated projects, today these practices can be beneficial for multiple smaller companies.

Checklist: Processes It’s Time for PMO to Implement in the Company

This list will be useful not just for the Project Management Officers. Though it’s the PMO’s job to seek to add value to the project delivery process by providing standardization and cohesiveness to projects, executives and higher management can also use this list to track and review processes throughout various stages of the project. This list will help you keep projects within agreed tolerances in terms of scope, time, cost, and quality.

Scope Management
  • When a change request is initiated, is there a process to evaluate the impacts on scope, schedule, cost, and contractual compliance?
  • Are approved changes reflected in the Schedule and Project Management Plan?
  • Has the customer reviewed, verified, and signed off the Statement of Work (SOW)?
  • Is there a requirements matrix, which links the contract, functional specification, and deliverables?
Scope Change Control
  • Is a documented change control process in place?
  • Have all know changes been managed via change requests?
  • Is each change request evaluated regarding scope, cost, and schedule impact?
  • Have all changes been done with a formal change order and approved and signed by the customer?
Cost Control
  • Are back-office operations aware of billing milestones?
  • Are invoices accurate, timely, and by the contract?
  • Is revenue recognition being done correctly?
  • Is the financial report updated monthly?
  • Is the Estimate to Complete (ETC) forecast being updated monthly?
  • Is ETC consistent with the forecast, project schedule, and deliverables?
  • Is revenue meeting the target?
  • Is cost on target?
  • Is gross margin on target?
Quality Assurance and Control

This can be a very important area where the PMO can add value to the project. Often project managers can just be focused on meeting deadlines and managing the day-to-day issues that come up in a project and checking quality can drop off their radar. Here the PMO should check:

  • Is the appropriate project management methodology used?
  • Is there a quality plan for the plan?
  • Was an approved delivery methodology selected?
  • Was an approved lifecycle selected?
  • Is there an Acceptance Test Plan in place?
  • Has the customer signed off on the Quality Plan and Acceptance Test Plans?
  • Are quality control activities taking place?
  • Is quality being measured independently?
  • Is there a Deliverables Status Log?
  • Is there a defect tracking system in place?
  • Have all the planned resources been identified and assigned by the due dates?
  • Are team working hours per day acceptable on a long-term basis?
  • Are borrowed or part-time resources meeting project needs?
  • Has all training been provided/scheduled where required?
  • Is anything being done to provide incentive/reward to the team?
Risk Management
  • Was a risk management process used during the bid phase?
  • Was the entire team involved in risk identification?
  • Is there a Risk Management Plan?
  • Are individual risks clearly described?
  • Does Risk Log exist? Is it reviewed and updated on a regular basis?
  • Are all high-priority risks been addressed?
  • Are risk response plans in place for high-priority risks?
  • Is the risk reserve being managed correctly?
  • Is the Risk Log reviewed for a change?

Who Can Help the Project Portfolio Manager?

In the PPM space, it’s the portfolio manager’s job to oversee projects, ensure these are being executed at full potential, and jump in when necessary.

How Can PPM Express Help a Project Portfolio Manager?

It can help to oversee and plan all the projects and portfolios in one place. It aggregates all the necessary information from all the tools the teams have into a “bigger picture.” It helps with the progress and development track. You can see all the changes and micro-shifts in real-time and react instantly.

It helps with the decision-making, well because it makes all the processes transparent and “within reach.” You can change statutes of tasks, roles, and assignments – still in one place. More so, everyone who needs to see the changes, you’ve made can observe them online as if they’re right there with you. It helps to keep up with your organization’s principles, standards, and best practices because you can track even the slightest deviation from “the plan” and correct it in no time.

PPM Express can even help you develop, establish, and maintain project management standards and procedures. Throughout the project lifecycle, the PPM Express allows project portfolio managers to obtain feedback to ensure that project efforts meet customer expectations for contracted time, cost, and performance.

PPM Express is a SaaS platform that enables an organization with a full portfolio and project visibility by aggregating project-related information across groups, portfolios, and systems. Take a look at some of these basic project portfolio manager needs that are covered by the PPM Express:

  • Evaluate the impacts of any change or new process on scope, schedule, and cost.
  • Be sure, that those approved changes are reflected in the Schedule and PPM Plan.
  • Check if the customer-reviewed, verified, and signed off the changes.
  • Keep the “requirements matrix” in check and intact.
  • Track all the billing operations and milestones.
  • Keep invoices accurate, timely, and “by the book.”
  • Assure the report is updated monthly (weekly\daily).
  • Keep the revenue and cost “on target.”
  • Keep up with the quality plan.
  • Have all the planned resources been identified and assigned by the due dates?
  • Manage the team’s working hours.

Make sure that borrowed or part-time resources meet your needs.

Portfolio Manager: When This Position Becomes a Must for Your Business
Scroll to top