Tag Archives: Portfolio Management

Review The outcome-driven organization – Your project portfolio running on espresso

Now that I am working on a book on agile portfolio management, I was curious about this book. Looking at the title I was thinking am I too late? After reading the book I am even more energized to deliver the agile portfolio management book. This book is all about prescriptive or control-based portfolio management. 

The outcome-driven organization – Your project portfolio running on espresso 2nd Edition, written by Linda E. Szmyt and Fernando Santago gives you a project portfolio management set up comparable with Management of Portfolios (MoP) from Axelos/PeopleCert and Managing Benefits from APMG. The authors want to see transparency, a sense of fairness, as well as visibility and predictability across the portfolio. That’s what they call a project portfolio running on expresso. They move away from a focus on scope and work, to one driven by outcomes and business results.

Investment types

Throughout the book 6 types of investment are used: mandatory/legislated, keep the lights on, optimize current operation, grow the business, transformational, venture. Compare the buckets in MoP (in MoP you can differentiate from these types. E.g., covering your main strategic objectives). What I miss is a discussion regarding allocation of funds across these buckets. Prioritization within the buckets or investment types is based on adjusted NPV and IRR taking delivery and benefit risks into account.

For each investment type you get an overview of activities needed for the realization of the benefits, the rigour required and the usage of a business case as the cornerstone for managing a portfolio to maximize value (I don’t agree that there is no need for a business case for the mandatory/legislated investment types. Here, the business case can be used to show do nothing, bronze, silver of gold solution scenario’s and use that in your decision-making).

Benefits management

Benefits management is all about calculation of financial indicators like NPV, IRR and EVA/EVM and benefits forecasting. The benefits map is explained in detail and shows outcomes, capabilities and initiatives including propagation of inflows to initiatives and outflows. An explanation of the importance of the role business change manager connected to the benefits is lacking. Those who are responsible for realizing the benefits. With these people you can discuss what outcomes/capabilities are needed. Benefits performance index (BPI) and or realization performance index (RPI) as additions to the schedule and cost performance indices from EVA/EVM are discussed too.


On some places you see very brief additions regarding agile. But remarks like “this is not very different than a project following a predictive approach and delivering in phases that add more functionality to a capability” is too easy. Or “projects that follow an agile approach are not that different from other projects when it comes to the realization of benefits”. I would say that if you have an incremental delivery of benefits, you can benefit of regular feedback, deliver a better product, and reduce benefit risks.

Portfolio reporting

“Red” initiatives including expected ROI and level of risk are important. The authors show what information is needed to maximize value at the portfolio level. E.g. the current and expected IRR at portfolio level, the target split percentage between operational and transformational projects. The investments metrics showing for each RAG-status and project stage the total investment or IRR. This could give a completely different picture if you show the number of projects. Another view is the investment versus delivery and benefit risk.

Conclusion. A good overview of prescriptive or control-based portfolio management. The set up of portfolio dashboards with indicators at portfolio level are much better than looking at only lists of projects and their RAG-status. But…

You can create great reports or dashboards based on financial figures but it’s jiggling with balls. It gives the impression that you use a data driven project portfolio approach, but I doubt it. There are so many assumptions behind those figures (e.g., the outflows, the contributions, the delivery and benefit risk adjustments, et cetera) that you may wonder if you are kidding yourself. This asks for scenario thinking, continuous validation, checking hypotheses with MVP’s and RATs, and execution flexibility among other things but that will be covered in the agile portfolio management book I am writing together with Rini van Solingen. By the way the authors see the MVP as the minimum marketable product (MMP) and not as an instrument to test, with minimum effort, a hypothesis.

At http://www.outcomedrivenorganization.com you can find free downloads of several tools and templates.

To order The outcome-driven organization: bol.com

Management of Portfolios, Programmes, and Projects: A practical guide for leaders and decision-makers

Happy to see that TSO published my latest book.

Looking for guidance and overviews of PRINCE2, PRINCE2 Agile, MSP, MoP, P3O, MoR, AgileSHIFT, P3M3 than this book will help.

Do you come across daily challenges when managing portfolios, programmes, or projects? No matter what role you have in the portfolio, programme, or project team, you will find practical solutions in this guide to help you perform more effectively and achieve your strategic objectives

Key features include

  • health checks for portfolios, programmes, and projects, including management offices
  • checklists to assess the maturity of your organization
  • guidance on best practice for portfolio, programme, and project management (PRINCE2, PRINCE2 Agile, MSP, MoP, P3O, MoR, AgileSHIFT, P3M3)
  • key topics and challenges you may face as a manager
  • roles and responsibilities involved in directing portfolios, programmes, and projects
  • a glossary of specific terms
  • a roadmap to quickly find solutions
  • appendix summarizing roles and responsibilities

Key questions include:

  • Why hasn’t a strategic objective been met? 
  • Why has a project missed deadlines, become more costly, or failed to produce benefits?
  • How can you communicate or collaborate with a project manager or a team working remotely?
  • Is risk management in place?
  • Are the right stakeholders involved?

To order Management of Portfolios, Programmes, and Projects: A practical guide for leaders and decision-makers: TSO

Project creature articles 翻譯成中文

Honored to see that the two articles I wrote together with Marisa Silva regarding project creatures are now translated into Chinese and published in China.

Project creatures that accelerate and enhance a portfolio of projects

Proud to see that the PM World Journal published a next article that I wrote together with Marisa Silva.

As you might recall, last year we (Marisa Silva and myself) went on a safari to hunt the project creatures that could negatively impact a portfolio of projects [Silva, M. and Portman, H. (2019). Creatures that slow down portfolio delivery and how to kill them; PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue IX, October]. While it was not as exciting as doing it in Kruger Park, we can fortunately say that it was also not as dangerous and we returned sound and safe despite all the white elephant projects, pet projects, and unicorn projects we encountered in the way!

Almost one year after that experience, portfolio management got us thinking again. If portfolios are always a mix of “good” and “bad” projects, those that are well planned and those that are included without any thorough rationale, some that are carefully studied and others that are pure opportunistic, could it be that there are also project creatures that could accelerate and enhance the success of a portfolio? The quest for project creatures continues!

In the animal kingdom there will be animals that are at the top of the system, the apex predators. Also, in your portfolio you will have projects who could play the role of apex predator. It is these predators who will consume your scares resources. To make sure you feed the right projects (‘doing the right projects’) you have to prioritize your projects and assign resources to those projects that enhance and accelerate the value delivery of your portfolio.

Assume you are a portfolio manager or PMO professional and overseeing your portfolio. Compare yourself with a falcon with super sharp eyes who can spot the right project, or do you want to be a seagull that appears from high, swoops in, eats all the projects, makes a lot of squawking, shits on everything and disappears as fast without even noticing if you captured the right ones.

Armed with our experience and the support of other “project hunters”, we found a few. In this article, we present our findings, strategies to capitalise on such beautiful creatures, and why it is so important that at least some of them are in your portfolio of projects.

The project creatures we describe in this article are:

  • Cheetah project
  • Lion project
  • Ants project
  • Eagle project
  • Bee project
  • Dolphin project

To download the article Portman, H. And Silva, M. (2020). Project Creatures that accelerate and enhance a portfolio of projects; PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue IX, September 2020:

Review: Portfolio Management – A practical guide

pfm guidePortfolio Management – A practical guide is a publication from the APM Portfolio Management specific Interest Group written by Steve Leary, Richard Moor, Marina Morillas Lara, Stephen Parrett, Lynne Ratcliffe and Adam Skinner.


Portfolio management contributes to organizations in many crucial ways:

  • Provides a focal point for strategic goals
  • Ensures the prioritization of the goals, with prioritization rules for projects and programs that are clear and unambiguous
  • Helps ensure the whole board and executives are fully behind the approach, are sponsoring the portfolio and are actively championing portfolio management and empowering a capable team
  • Provides the capability to assess all key change factors
  • Considers in-flight projects and programs and business as usual (BAU) in the same way and ensure full alignment to the strategic goals
  • Ensures ‘tactical’ projects contribute to the strategic goals – if they don’t, don’t do them
  • Embeds portfolio governance into the organization’s controls and makes it robust
  • Critically assesses what information is really needed to make portfolio decisions
  • Provides the means to be consistent and fair across the portfolio, irrespective of the program or project sponsor’s influence.

QRC (PfM A practical guide, 191129) v1.0

To download: QRC (PfM A practical guide, 191129) v1.0

The guide is divided into four main sections. The first section – Introduction to portfolio management explains the basics of portfolio management. How it can contribute to organizations, when you can benefit from portfolio management and where it fits in your organization.

The second part – Adopting portfolio management deals with the link to the existing organizational processes like strategic planning, stakeholder engagement, risk management and benefits. Different delivery methodologies (traditional, agile, hybrid) and their impact are discussed.

Part three – Portfolio management core processes looks at the underlying processes of portfolio management. See the QRC for the flow of processes: create strategic plan, construct & prioritize portfolio, review portfolio, assess performance of portfolio, reporting on the portfolio and develop, monitor & control the portfolio.

The last section – Implementing portfolio management illustrates how an organization will need to clearly and unambiguously identify what will deliver value for them, and then adapt the practice of portfolio management to their needs. Governance roles and the relationship to organizational governance are explained.

The book ends with an overview of challenges for portfolio management:

  • Lack of clarity of the organization’s vision, goals and strategy
  • Lack of board-level consensus
  • Priorities not clearly defined or understand
  • Resources and their allocation not optimized
  • Lack of portfolio management skills
  • Inadequate or overly bureaucratic portfolio controls
  • The cultural challenge
  • Limited perception of portfolio management
  • Portfolio management is seen as just the latest management idea.

Conclusion: If you are new to portfolio management or a senior manager this book will help to understand the basics of portfolio management. If you are an expert in portfolio management, you will recognize most of it and you can use this book to promote the added value of portfolio management.

To order: Portfolio Management – A practical guide



Creatures that slow down portfolio delivery and how to kill them

Drawing: FreshTown Graphics
Proud to see that the PM World Journal published the article that Marisa Silva and myself wrote.
It started with a simple post from Marisa Silva on LinkedIn about a few project creatures. I replied and added a few more, as other people on LinkedIn did too. Reading all those comments, I suggested that the two of us could write an article about this topic.


Many organizations struggle to finish their projects on time, on budget, and within scope. If you look into their portfolios, one of the first things to notice is the huge number of projects. I remember an organization with more than 600 projects. It was firefighting all over the place. Problems in one project were solved by resources from other projects and as a result the problem project is not at risk anymore (but delayed) and by using resources from other projects, these projects are now at risk too. And this approach was continuously repeated. Furthermore, the portfolio had independent projects delivering the same benefits (on paper) or delivering the same output. 100 percent resource utilization in optima forma and as a result a ‘traffic jam’ in the portfolio pipeline. After rationalization the final portfolio contained less than 100 projects and all of a sudden it was possible to finish projects and deliver benefits.
Portfolio management helps to solve these kinds of problems. Portfolio Management supports management by answering the following four questions:
  1. Are we doing the right projects?
  2. Are we doing projects the right way?
  3. Are we getting projects done well?
  4. Are we getting the business benefits?
In this article we want to focus on these questions by visualizing projects as specific creatures with their own behavior. For example, a pet project is a project that can be seen as a ‘pet’ or personal favorite from a senior manager and is not contributing to the organization’s strategy. This is not the right project (question 1) but by running this project you are absorbing scarce resources and change budget. The sooner this project is killed the better.
For each project creature you get one or more examples to understand the creature, to which question it relates, who must act, and how to kill the project creature or transform the creature into a project that fits in the portfolio.
The following project creatures are discussed:
  1. Pet project
  2. Watermelon project 
  3. Mushroom project
  4. Submarine project
  5. Cockroach project
  6. Ghost project
  7. Zombie project
  8. Tsunami project
  9. Pufferfish project
  10. Holy cow project
  11. Peacock project
  12. White Elephant project
  13. Prambanan project
  14. Groundhog Day project
  15. The Fake Nose project
  16. Octopus project
  17. The Elephant in the Room project
  18. The Unicorn project
To download the complete article: Silva, M. and Portman, H. (2019). Creatures that slow down portfolio delivery and how to kill them; PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue IX, October: pmwj86-Oct2019-Silva-Portman-creatures-that-slow-portfolio-delivery v1.1
And for a more complete Russian translation see forbes.kz/blogs/blogsid_216656
Please let me know if you are aware of other creatures in your organization?

Bimodal Portfolio Management


1*ORjFcvHHbyWBTA1WIijXYwAt the moment, many organizations are in the middle, or on the brink of, a radical change to more business agility. I receive quite often the question how to cope with both an agile portfolio as well as a more traditional portfolio with temporary projects and programs. Existing frameworks supports either an agile IT portfolio or a more traditional portfolio, but I haven’t seen frameworks which supports both.

If I look at existing traditional and agile IT portfolio management frameworks, I asked myself if combining these frameworks can bring an answer for those organizations who need to manage an agile as well as a more traditional portfolio?

In this article I will start with a brief explanation of the existing portfolio management frameworks by explaining the principles and the process (Management of Portfolios, Standard for Portfolio Management, Disciplined Agile Portfolio Management, Agile Portfolio Management, Evidence-Based Portfolio Management, and SAFe Lean Portfolio Management).

MoP P3O SAFe Hybrid (190621) v0.1In the second part of this article I focus on Bimodal Portfolio Management where I combine the best of these worlds and offer a solution for both worlds in the form of a Bimodal Portfolio Kanban (see figure), Bimodal Portfolio Management Principles and Bimodal Portfolio Roadmaps.

To download the article: Bimodal Portfolio Management (article, 190626) v1.0


Review: Manage your project portfolio

9781680501759-480x600Johanna Rothman wrote the book Manage your portfolio Second edition – Increase your capacity – Finish more projects. A book for the more professional portfolio manager or as mentioned on the back of the book: Expert skill level.

If you are facing too many projects, if firefighting and multitasking are keeping you from finishing any of them, this book will help you to manage your portfolio. It makes use of agile and lean ways of working and brings the biggest benefits when you are running your projects in an agile way too. Projects become to be delivered features and evaluation means prioritizing feature sets. In the quick reference card, I highlighted the way the author promotes the usage of Kanban boards to manage your portfolio and it visualizes some of the decisions to be taken.

Manage your portfolio (QRC, 171017) v1.0

To download: Manage your portfolio (QRC, 171017) v1.0

The author divided the book in fourteen chapters and these chapters gives you a step by step approach to build your portfolio. All chapters end with several situations and possible responses to try.

  1. Meet your project portfolio: It’s not your customer who cares about your portfolio. If you are facing issues to finish projects, if you want to deliver faster, more often and qualitative good products to your customer, you need a portfolio
  2. See your future: by managing your portfolio you make the organization’s choices transparent. It becomes clear what to work on first, second, third. It will help to avoid multitasking. What does it mean if you apply lean approaches to your project portfolio? You must think in terms of value, let teams work in small chunks that they can handle and complete
  3. Create the first draft of your portfolio: start collecting all the work before you attempt to evaluate and determine whether you need to do it now. When needed organize sets of projects into programs. Divide your projects in feature sets or Minimum Marketable Features. Not all feature sets are equally important.
  4. Evaluate your projects: the very first decision is about whether you want to commit to this project, kill the project, or transform the project in some way before continuing. If you don’t want to commit but you can’t kill it either put the project on a project parking lot (name, data, value discussion and notes) so you don’t lose track of it.
  5. Rank the portfolio: You can use many methods to rank. The author discusses the rank with Cost of Delay, business value points (divide a total number of points across your projects), by risk, organization’s context, by tour product’s position in the marketplace or by using pairwise comparison, single or double elimination.
  6. Collaborate on the portfolio: Making portfolio decisions is never a single person’s decision. Facilitate portfolio evaluation meetings.
  7. Iterate on the portfolio: Set an iteration length for your review cycles. This cycle length is affected by your project life cycle (agile delivery gives you the opportunity to have shorter review cycles), your product roadmap, and budgeting cycle.
  8. Make portfolio decisions: Conduct portfolio evaluation meetings at least quarterly to start with, decide how often to review the project parking lot. How are you going to cope with advanced R&D projects? Build a project portfolio Kanban (create backlog, evaluate, project work, assess/validate and maintain) to manage your portfolio.
  9. Visualize your project portfolio: Create a calendar view of your projects with predicted dates. Show not only your staffed projects but your unstaffed work too.
  10. Scaling portfolio management to an enterprise: What are the consequences of resource efficiency thinking (100% resource utilization is 0% flow)? How can you scale by starting bottom up or top down? You need both but scale with care. Do you know your enterprise’s mission or strategy otherwise it will be very difficult, if not impossible to make large decisions? Set up a corporate project portfolio meeting to answer the questions which projects help to implement our strategy and which project distract us from our strategy.
  11. Evolve your portfolio: Using lean can help you to evolve your portfolio approach. What does it mean if you stabilize the time-box or the number of work items in progress (see Naked planning video too).
  12. Measure the essentials: for a lean or agile approach consider the following measures: team’s velocity (current and historical), amount of work in progress (cycle and lead time, cumulative flow), obstacles preventing the team to move faster (how long in progress), product backlog burn-up chart, run rate. Never measure individual productivity.
  13. Define your mission: Brainstorm the essentials of a mission, refine the mission (specify strong verbs, eliminate adverbs, avoid jargon), iterate until you feel comfortable, test your mission, make the mission real for everyone.
  14. Start somewhere…but start!

Conclusion. Johanna Rothman wrote a must read for portfolio managers who are struggling with their role when their organization is moving towards more business agility, with more and more permanent agile teams in place but also for the traditional portfolio manager, facing too many projects and almost no delivery to get hands-on practical advice to start organizing their portfolios.

To order: Manage your portfolio Second edition – Increase your capacity – Finish more projects.

Naked Planning Overview by Arlo Belshee

Arlo was one of the first to lay-out the inspiration for Kanban systems for software development.

Portfolio Canvas

In one of my previous posts I discussed the Portfolio Canvas. I received several questions from my readers, triggered by the picture of the Portfolio Canvas, that they would like to see the post in English. I asked the developers if they were willing to create an English version. I just received the first draft.

The remainder of this post is the translation of the Dutch post: Portfolio Canvas.

I was triggered by a sneak preview of this portfolio Canvas during a seminar about business agility with an agile portfolio (28 June 2017). I thought this canvas was an answer for agile portfolio management, but now it is formally released, I have to conclude it’s not completely true.

In this post, I will briefly summarize this portfolio Canvas and I give my vision and some recommendations. Feel free to give feedback too.

Michael Sauerbier, Diederik Biesboer, Daniel van den Dries & John van Rouwendaal (all from Cratos Consulting) are the developers of the Portfolio Canvas®.

Portfolio Canvas ENOn their website ( http://cratosconsulting.nl/het-portfolio-canvas/, in Dutch only) we get the following summary:

The Portfolio Canvas is a tool for portfolio managers and (senior) management to:

  • Create a project portfolio overview and
  • To facilitate the priority discussion

The Portfolio Canvas supports organizations in answering the following questions:

  • Who, why, when, and which projects and programs
  • What are the overall portfolio cost (Euro) and benefits (revenues)
  • Biggest portfolio risks and dependencies

The Portfolio Canvas delivers added value in the development and monitoring of a project portfolio by:

  • Facilitating the creation of the project portfolio
  • Delivering a simple overview of the agreed portfolio
  • Communicating the agreed portfolio
  • Facilitates progress monitoring and control.

Remarks and recommendations:

  • Good initiative, which can become, in co-creation, a valuable add for organizations.
  • Replace revenues with benefits or value (financial & non-financial) and work force with people.
  • Nice layout. For me unclear why the arrow and the circle in the center is counter clockwise.
  • I have my doubts if the portfolio canvas offers enough information to control the portfolio progress (maybe by adding post-its on projects in the ‘DOING’-area with impediments (e.g. end date not feasible).
  • I would suggest extending the portfolio canvas with a timeline at the bottom with milestones (changes, benefits). And make the picture clockwise to show movement of the portfolio (and remove or shorten the rectangular extension)
  • The developers explain that the portfolio canvas is based, among other things, on Kanban (Lean). I would like to emphasize this by adding a WIP-limit in the ‘DOING’-area (as an answer to a common anti-pattern of too many parallel in-flight projects).
  • Best practices like Management of Portfolios (AXELOS) or the Standard for Portfolio Management (PMI) suggest dividing the portfolio into different buckets or categories and prioritize the initiatives within these buckets or categories.
  • This could be facilitated by giving each strategic objective its own color and use post-its with the same color for the corresponding projects and programs.

Looking forward to your remarks and recommendations.

Review: PPM! Manage Your Organization Masterfully with Project Portfolio Management

6524736_463577During The PMO Conference Chris Garibaldi presented Deloitte’s Project Portfolio Management framework. After the conference Chris sent me a copy of the book he wrote in 2015 together with Jason Magill, Matthew Ku, Michael Ravin and Christopher Martin. In this post you find a review of this book: PPM! Manage Your Organization Masterfully with Project Portfolio Management. The document is divided into seven chapters explaining the value, the PPM framework, PPM maturity, PPM transformation, PPM implementation, PPM technology and their view on PPM’s future.

Chapter 1 explains the value of PPM, why do we need to have PPM. The value can be found in the following areas: portfolio alignment (doing the right projects), in-flight portfolio health (will the projects deliver value), business partner culture, and the gift of time (efficient PPM processes, management oversight).

The second chapter explains Deloitte’s PPM framework in detail. In the model, the PPM “Racetrack”, you see four primary capabilities: Demand Management, Project/Program Management, Result Management and Portfolio Management (Resource Management, Financial Management and Governance). All four capabilities complement each other through a cyclical flow of information.

Chapter 3 puts the PPM Maturity in the spotlights by using Deloitte’s D.MAP PPM Assessment Steps and Roadmap Development. The model starts with a current state assessment followed by a gaps and future needs identification resulting in a future state incremental roadmap. In the assessment the five capabilities (resource management is now seen as a separate one in comparison with the four capabilities of the PPM framework) are being analyses. Like many maturity models we see five maturity levels (initial/ad hoc, defined, managed, measured and optimised).

The PPM transformation is explained in chapter 4. Without organisational adoption of the PPM framework you will not get the benefits. Key are the people.They are the users, suppliers and benefactors of PPM. In this chapter the authors give you an oversight of concerns and perceptions of project managers and project participants, concerns from program managers and resource managers as well as requirements and conditions to be understood and supported by executive leaders. The chapter ends with some scenarios encountered by frustrated clients: heeding the dashboard luring call, sending a less-seasoned to do a senior leader’s job, you can worry about organisational adoption tomorrow, you just want something that comes out of the box, and ignorance is a bliss.

Chapter 5 describes what a PPM implementation entails by using a case study. The following steps are explained:

  • Implementation project leadership and sponsoring team;
  • Implementation work plan;
  • Organisational change;
  • Process and functional thread (using conference room pilots);
  • Deep technical thread.

In chapter 6 we get an eight step approach for a long-patch PPM tool selection.

The final chapter elaborates a little bit on PPM’s future, being self-evident due to the value it brings.


The document gives a good overview of Deloitte’s Project Portfolio Management framework.What I miss is some advice how to cope with business agility, many organisations are implementing permanent agile trams using scrum, kanban, devops etc. How to give the work these self organising teams have to perform a place in this PPM framework. This is at this moment also lacking in industry best practices like Management of Portfolios (MoP, Axelos) and The Standard for Portfolio Management (PMI). A comparison with these methods could be valuable too.

A first comparison from my side:

Deloitte’s PPM Management of Portfolios (MoP) Standard for Portfolio Management
Demand Management Portfolio Definition Cycle

Principle / Strategy Alignment

Process Groups: defining, Aligning

Knowledge Area / Portfolio Strategic Management

Project/Program Management Portfolio Delivery Cycle / Management Control Process Groups: Authorizing / Controlling

Knowledge Area / Portfolio Performance Management

Result Management Portfolio Delivery Cycle / Benefits Management Process Groups: Authorizing / Controlling
Portfolio Management Resource Management Portfolio Delivery Cycle / Resource Management Process Groups: Authorizing / Controlling
Financial Management Portfolio Delivery Cycle / Financial Management Process Groups: Authorizing / Controlling
Governance Portfolio Delivery Cycle / Organizational Governance

Management Principle / Governance

Knowledge Area / Portfolio Governance Management
Unclear if it’s covered by Deloitte’s PPM Portfolio Delivery Cycle: Stakeholder Engagement / Risk Management

Principles: Senior Management Commitment / Energized Change Culture / Portfolio Office

Knowledge Area / Portfolio Communication Management / Risk Management

To order: PPM! Manage Your Organization Masterfully with Project Portfolio Management