Many of us say: „No I am Project Manager, I manage Projects. Portfolio does not really concern me.”. Some of us have experience in bigger companies and they at once see dozens of projects or even hundreds of them when she/ he hears the word Portfolio. But in practice they have their own Portfolio and they are not even realizing it. They manage their Portfolio, but they just think about it as doing what they do every day and do not put more attention to that. But when you realize that you really have a Portfolio, you will see that you can organize your work much better and make your life easier having at the same time better results than before.
Project Management and Portfolio Management – what is the difference?
In a few words – Project Management is finding balance within the boundaries of the budget, schedule and scope of the project. Portfolio Management is finding balance in budget, schedule and scope between many projects. At the same time, it’s making sure that everything is in line with the strategy of the company and leads to gain strategic goals. In both cases the bigger picture is required but Project Management concerns bigger picture on the whole project. Making sure that for different tasks will progress in that way that next milestone will be achieved, costs will not exceed those estimated etc. While considering Portfolio – the bigger picture concerns all project and making sure that they will build up in a success of the whole company.
When do you have Project Portfolio?
At what point you have Project Portfolio and you are not ‘just’ a Project Manager? Answer to that question is not simple, but you can see some signs. Below you have list of some of them.
1st sign (obvious one): You have multiple projects
The best situation for Project Manager is focusing on only one project. But we all know that many times it is not the case. Project Manager has assigned few projects – depending on the specific of the industry and scale of each project. Usually one Project Manager has project from similar area as she/he knows the specific aspects of it and has better insight. This results in more smooth and efficient management in practice. What this manager is not always realizing is that she/he has a small Portfolio and can apply many useful Portfolio technique to make her/his life easier and more efficient.
2nd sign: You have one very complex project
There are sometimes quite complex projects that have one Project Manager assigned. Is it you? And this manager has no other project to handle but he/she has full hands with only this one project. There are many work packages and smaller teams that must be handled. There are so many issues to be handled during so called day-to-day management basis that sometimes He/she get lost in those details. And you know what? This Project Manager does not realize that she/he has a Portfolio. After having this in mind, it is easier to make sure that the Project Manager of such a complex project also must maintain bigger picture to finalize the project with success.
3rd sign: You have start-up or you manage SME
You have a small company and you think that Portfolio concerns only big companies and you do not even consider having one? You realize that your company is growing in a fast pace and having more and more initiatives? Even if you do not name them projects? Sometimes you can see that there are so many details that you have to take care of, you feel a little lost? You will definitely benefit from having a chance to get a bird’s eye view on everything. You can be surprise – your small company may still have a Portfolio and you can manage it in more efficient way, when you realize it.
4th sign: You can be promoted for Portfolio Manager
You are waiting to be promoted to Portfolio Manager or you take it into account in your job carrier? You want to be prepared. The Portfolio that you will manage can differ a lot.
- A lot depends on the company organization structure. If you have Programs in your company that gathers Projects from similar area, then you will manage Portfolio mostly by balancing Programs. If you have many projects in the company but no Program level, then your Portfolio will gather all those projects.
- Your Portfolio and its specifics will vary from industry considered
- How you manage your Portfolio will depend a lot on strategy of the company.
Why this is important?
Realizing that you have a Portfolio, will encourage you to use some management techniques and tools that are dedicated to Portfolio. They are more efficient and enable to have bigger picture on everything. Knowing that you have Portfolio, whatever title in your job you have, may be a first step to change your point of view and help make decisions that are more beneficial for you, your Portfolio and the company.
You can be Portfolio Manager without knowing it
You can be Portfolio Manager even though your job title says differently. The Portfolio Management is strictly connected to different approach that will help you on daily bases.
You have one very complex project but if you think about it you can easily divide it into subprojects and baam – you are Portfolio Manager.
You have small company and many initiatives going inside it. If you stop and think about it you will realize – baam – I have a Portfolio.
You are Project Manager and I manage multiple project to have a full-time job and then – baam – you have your Portfolio.
You are Project Manager who thinks about future carrier and next steps – next on the ladder is Program or Portfolio Manager title – baam – you must prepare to manage Portfolio.
Change your approach
One thing is crucial. Do not put a lot of attention to the job titles and just try to think it through and decide if you have you Portfolio. You may think – it does not matter if I can name it Portfolio or not. And you are completely right that names do not matter. What matters is if you realize that you have Portfolio, the next step is changing your approach to the management from which you can benefit a lot!