Tag Archives: Portfolio

PMI’s Standard for Portfolio Management

The publication of the third edition of PMIs Standard for Portfolio Management represents a significant step forward in linking the performance of project and programs to the achievement of the organisations vision, mission and strategy.

One of the key additions is the introduction of the ‘Portfolio Strategic Management’ process group. The standard’s fundamental proposition is that efficient portfolio management is integral to the implementation of the organization’s overall strategic plan. While project and program management focus on doing the work right, the purpose of portfolio management is to ensure the organisation is investing its limited resources in doing the right work.

As with any portfolio the optimum return is achieved through an appropriate diversification of risk. Short term, low risk, low return projects will not build the organisation of the future, investments to maintain and expand current capabilities need to be off-set by some future focused, high risk high reward projects to develop new capabilities, products or services. The challenge is developing a balanced portfolio that maximises stakeholder value overall, and this needs a practical strategic plan as the basis for developing the portfolio strategy.

The challenge facing most organisations is developing systems to efficiently link innovation, strategy, portfolio management, project execution, organisational change management and the realisation of value. Any weak point in this ‘value chain’ will reduce the return on its investment in projects and programs achieved by the organisation. Establishing systems to achieve this linkage is a key management challenge, ensuring they are in place is a key governance responsibility. We have posted on this topic several times:

Linking Innovation to Value

The failure of strategic planning

Who Manages Benefits?

Benefits and Value (White Paper)

The updated Standard for Portfolio Management provides an authoritative resource to assist organisations in the overall development of an effective value delivery capability.

One of the elements we really like if that PMI have separated the management of the portfolio (effectively investment decisions and oversight) from the need for organisations to manage their project delivery capability. The ‘enterprise project management’ system that develops and nurtures project delivery capability (see: PCD White Paper) should be quite separate from the portfolio investment decision making process. There is a fundamental conflict of interest created if the same management body is responsible for decisions to ‘kill’ projects that are no longer viable whilst at the same time supporting and nurturing the project team to help them remain viable. PMI have not fallen into this trap!!

Stocks of the PMI Standard for Portfolio Management Third Edition are available world-wide. Australian readers can buy from: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/shop/shopexd.asp?id=37&bc=no

For other PMI standards see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Books.html#PMI

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Averaging the Power of Portfolios

The interaction between dependent or connected risk and independent risk is interesting and will significantly change the overall probability of success or failure of an endeavour or organisation.

As discussed in my last post on ‘The Flaw of Averages’  using a single average value for an uncertainty is a recipe for disaster. But there is a difference between averaging, connecting and combining uncertainties (or risk).

Adding risk

Where risk events are connected, the ability to model and appreciate the effect of the risk events interacting with each other is difficult. In ‘The Flaw of Averages’ Sam Shaw uses the simile of wobbling a step ladder to determine the uncertainty of how safe the ladder is to climb. You can test the stability of one ladder by giving it a good ‘wobble’. However, if you are trying to determine the stability of a plank between two stepladders doubling the information from wobbling just one is not a lot of help. Far more sophisticated modelling is needed and even then you cannot be certain the full set of potential interactions is correctly combined in the model. The more complex the interactions between uncertainties, the less accurate the predictive model.

However, when the risks or uncertainties are independent, combining the risks through the creation of a portfolio of uncertainties reduces the overall uncertainty quite dramatically.

The effect of portfolios

Consider a totally unbiased dice, any one throw can end up anywhere and every value between 1 & 6 has an equal probability of being achieved. The more throws, the more even the results for each possibility and consequently there is no possibility of determining the outcome!

The distribution after 10, 100 and 1000 throws.

As the number of throws increase, the early distortions apparent after 10 throws smooth out and after 1000 throws the probabilities are almost equal.

However, combine two dice and total the score results in a very different outcome. Whilst it is possible to throw any value between 2 & 12, the probability of achieving a number nearer the middle of the range is much higher than the probability of achieving a 2 or a 12. The potential range of outcomes starts to approximate a ‘normal distribution curve’ (or a bell curve). The reason for this is there is only one combination of numbers that will produce a 2 or a 12; there are significantly more combinations that can make 7.

The more dice you add to the ‘throw’, the closer the curve becomes to a ‘normal distribution’ (or bell curve), which is normally what you expect/get, which is the origin of the name!

The consequence of this phenomenon is to demonstrate that the creation of a portfolio of projects will have the effect of generating a normal distribution curve for the outcome of the overall portfolio, which makes the process of portfolio management a more certain undertaking than the management of the individual projects within the portfolio. The overall uncertainty is less than the individual uncertainties……

Each project carries its level of uncertainty and has a probability of succeeding off-set by a probability of failing (see Stakeholder Risk Tolerance) but as more projects are added the probability of the overall portfolio performing more or less as expected increases, provided each of the uncertainties are independent! This effect is known as the Central Limit Theorem.

One important effect of the Central Limit Theorem is the size if the contingency needed to achieve a desired level of safety for a portfolio of projects is much smaller than the sum of the contingencies needed to achieve the same level of ‘safety’ in each of the individual projects. Risk management is a project centric process; contingency management is better managed at the portfolio level. Not only is the overall uncertainty reduced, but the portfolio manager can offset losses in one project against gains in another.

Whist this theorem is statistically valuable, the nature of most organisations constrains the potential benefit. From a statistical perspective diversity is the key; this is why most conservative investment portfolios are diversified. However, project portfolios tend to be concentrated in the area of expertise of the organisation which removes some of the randomness needed for the Central Limit Theorem to have its full effect.

It is also important to remember that whilst creating a portfolio will reduce uncertainty, no portfolio can remove all uncertainty.

In addition to the residual risk of failure inherent in every project, there is always the possibility of a ‘black swan’ lurking in the future. Originally conceptualized by philosopher Karl Popper and refined by N. N. Taleb, a ‘black swan’ is a risk event that has never occurred before, if it did occur would have and extreme impact and is easy to explain after the event, but is culturally impossible to predict in advance (ie, the event could be foreseen if someone is asked to think about it but it is nearly impossible to think the thought for a compelling reason). For more on black swans see our blog post  and White Paper.

The Law of Averages

The Central Limit Theorem is closely aligned to The Law of Averages. The Law of Averages states that if you repeatedly take the average of the same type of uncertain number the average of the samples will converge to a single result, the true average of the uncertain number. However, as the ‘flaw of averages’ has demonstrated, this does not mean you can replace every uncertainty with an average value and some uncertain numbers never converge.

Summary

Both the Law of Averages and Central Limit Theorem are useful concepts; they are the statistical equivalent of the adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. When you create a portfolio of projects, the average probability of any one project succeeding or failing remains the same as if the project was excluded from the portfolio, but the risk of portfolio suffering an overall failure becomes less as the number of projects included in the portfolio increases.

However, unlike physical laws such as gravity, these laws are not immutable – drop an apple within the earths gravitational pull and it will fall; create a portfolio and there is always a low probability that the results will not conform to normal expectations!

Certainly the probability of a portfolio of projects ‘failing’ is lower then the average probability of each project failing but a reduced level of risk still leaves a residual level of risk.

Project Governance

Corporate governance is defined as aligning as nearly as possible the interests of individuals, the organisation and society. Good governance is good business!

Project governance is a sub-set of corporate governance, focused on systems that ensure the right projects and programs are selected by the organisation, and the selected ‘few’ are accomplished as efficiently as possible. Projects that no longer contribute value to an organisation should be terminated in a way that conserves the maximum value and the resources reallocated through the portfolio management process to more valuable endeavours.

Project Governance Structure

The framework for effective project governance is laid out above, and is an executive management responsibility. Sponsors and the Portfolio Selection/Management processes provide the key link between the executive and the working project and programs (for more see our Governance White Paper).

The focus of this post is to look at the pre-selection activities that inform the portfolio selection processes. One of the key conclusions to be drawn from the Ombudsman’s Report discussed in my earlier post Cobb’s Paradox is alive and well  was that many of the projects that contributed to the $1 billion in failures were set up to fail – the projects had absolutely no chance of delivering within the announced parameters: the inputs to the portfolio selection process were grossly flawed (or were non-existent).

This appears to be a wide spread issue. Most project management standards such as ISO21500 and the PMBOK® Guide start with an approved project and a business case or similar that defines what has to be accomplished; this is the end of the portfolio selection process outlined above and is assumed to set realistic and achievable objectives.

What is missing, are the steps leading up to this point; the life of a ‘project’ starts with an idea, need, opportunity, requirement or threat (the ‘concept’). The organisation assesses and studies the ‘concept’ hypothesises options and solutions and frames a proposal that becomes the foundation of a future project. These key investigative elements of a project generally sit under the portfolio umbrella developing information to allow a proper decision to be made. In mining this can represent exploration, feasibility studies, ‘bankability’ studies and concept designs which between them can cost $millions, leading to project funding. Importantly, this ‘Front End Loading’ (FEL) is seen as the key to a successful mine in most major mining corporations.

Similar problems exist in major infrastructure projects, defining a solution to prison overcrowding can involve building a new major prison, building several smaller prisons, extending current prisons, changing the way criminal justice system works to reduce the need for prison places, or a combination of the foregoing options (substitute University/hospital/school, into the previous sentence to see just one dimension of the challenge). However, unlike mining, most government and many corporate organisations see effective ‘front end loading’ as unnecessary.

Other organisations use the process to formulate definitive solutions to problems they have no real understanding of (typical in ICT) and then pretend the defined solution has no associated risk (because it is defined) despite the fact the full dimensions of the problem the project is supposed to solve are still unknown, and are frequently changing over time.

The challenge, requiring informed judgement and effective governance is recognising which development processes suits what type of ‘concept’:

  • Sometimes, the ‘investigation’ requires a significant amount of work (eg, a bankability or feasibility study); this work may be treated as a project in its own right, and is time, cost and resource constrained with a defined deliverable (the report).
  • If the work is expected to flow forward and will only be stopped in exceptional circumstances, project phases work best, with some form of ‘gateway’ or transition review.
  • In other circumstances, studies are undertaken as part of the portfolio by corporate or PMO professionals with no dedicated budgets, assessing multiple proposals as an ongoing process, but once a concept gets the go ahead a project is created and a budget and resources allocated.
  • Other concepts (particularly problems) cannot be defined and an ‘agile’ approach is needed where elements of a partial solution are developed and put into use developing new learning that will then allow the next module to be developed in a progressive sequence. However, whilst this may be the most suitable and cost effective way of developing an effective solution, budgeting in a traditional ‘iron triangle’ concept of fixed cost, time and scope is impossible.

The challenge is recognising which type of project is being proposed (based on Project Typology), and then deciding which type of process will develop the best input to the portfolio selection process and what level of uncertainty (risk) is associated with the proposal once developed. Certainty is not important, what matters is appreciating the extent of the risks and the likely benefits, so an informed investment decision can be made. Most ‘game changing’ initiatives involve high risk, high reward projects that create a totally new future!

OGC Gateway™

The OGC ‘Gateway Reviews’ is a flexible process that addresses this part of major projects from the client’s perspective:
Gateway 1 = Business Justification, options identified and appraised, affordability, achievability and value for money established.
Gateway 2 = Procurement strategy, will the proposed strategy achieve the project objectives?
Gateway 3 = Investment decision, based on realistic project cost information (eg, tenders or bids) can the business case be confirmed from both the cost and the benefit perspective?
Gateway 4 = Readiness for service. The completion of the project work and a reassessment/confirmation of the expected benefits as the deliverable is put into ‘service’.
Gateway 5 = Benefits evaluation. Did we get what was expected now the project’s outputs are being used?

Summary

Most of the risks and rewards associated with a project or program are determined long before the project manager is appointed; if these decisions are wrong (or non-existent) project and program management cannot resolve the problem.

The role of effective project management is to deliver a realistic and achievable outcome efficiently; if the parameters for the project are unrealistic in the first place, the best project management can do is stop the situation deteriorating further! As far as I know, none of the various BoKs and methodologies, including the PMBOK® Guide has a ‘miracle’ process that will magically transform an impossible set of objectives into achievable set of objectives. Wishful thinking is not an effective substitute for effective project governance!

Primavera Australia becomes ‘stronger’!

After 20 years Primavera Australia has rebranded to Fortior Global Pty Ltd. The name is derived from the Latin fortis meaning strength, with fortior meaning stronger.

The company continues as one of the largest resellers of the Primavera range of products world-wide and has been steadily building sales year on year. In addition to the software sales and support, Fortior Global will have an increased focus on services, support and providing a complete range of Portfolio, Program and Project management services covering risk, estimating, cost control and (of course) scheduling.

The ‘global’ references existing projects in Asia and South Africa and plans for further expansion into the world markets.

If the buzz at the brand launch last night is anything to go by Fortior Global will be going from strength to strength. The new website is www.fortiorglobal.com

CPO – Chief Project Officer

CPOs should become CP3Os – Chief Project, Program and Portfolio Officers! It is impossible to deliver value to an organisation if any of the layers of project governance are ineffective. Like C-3PO in Star Wars, the CP3O needs to be an expert in communication and understand the right language and protocols to use at different levels of the organisation to tie the project, program and portfolio management processes directly to the creation of value.

The original C-3PO

At the portfolio management level, selecting the ‘right’ projects and programs to continue, cancel or start is vital to the future success of the organisation. The CP3O should be a key advisor to the executive team responsible for the strategic plan and selecting the on-going mix of work for the organisation; balancing high-risk, high-reward projects that may define the future of the organisation with ‘safer’ projects that help keep the lights on and grow today’s business. The capacity and capability of the organisation’s program and project delivery systems is a key enabler and the primary constraint on this process. The CP3O should be the person with the knowledge to facilitate effective decision making.

Program management focuses on the efficient coordination of multiple projects to deliver benefits. Each program is focused on delivering key elements of the organisation’s overall strategy and consequently has a significant contribution to make to the organisation’s ability to deliver value to its stakeholders. The CP3O should be actively engaged in ensuring the programs meet their businesses objectives. The program sponsor and other managers may have line responsibility for the initiative, the CP3O focuses on skills and support.

Project management is focused on the efficient creation of the deliverables defined in the Project Charter. Projects are most effective when their objectives are clearly defined and unnecessary change is minimised. Whilst Project Managers may report to a variety of managers, the CP3O should focus on skills development and performance.

Most organisations have developed PMOs to support the delivery of Projects and Programs and to provide the data needed for both governance and Portfolio Management decisions. The development and operation of the organisation’s PMO structure should be a core responsibility of the CP3O.

The role of a Project Director (at least in Australia) is as the manger of project managers. The difference between Project Directors and Program Managers is the Program is created to deliver a defined benefit (the responsibility of the Program Manager) and projects are created to deliver the outputs required to enable the benefit. The Program Manager has overall responsibility for both the performance of the projects within the program and enabling the benefit; whereas Project Directors tend to be responsible for oversighting the performance of the projects within their area of responsibility. The Project Director is typically discipline and location based; eg, the Director for IT projects in Sydney. The project deliverables may contribute to a range of initiatives within the organisation. Project Directors should be direct reports of the CP3O.

The CP3O (or CPO) role is becoming more common. Defining the value proposition for this executive will be critically important to the improvement in delivering value through projects and programs. One of the key initiatives a CP3O can use to drive continuing improvements within the organisation is to develop a focus on process improvement using an effective maturity model. PMI’s OPM3 is probably the best tool from the perspectives of rigour and its focus on projects, programs and portfolio management.

This post has covered a lot of ground. For more information on specific topics see:
Portfolio Management: See White Paper1017
Types of Program: See White Paper1022
Programs -v- Projects: See White Paper1002
PMOs: See White Paper1034
OPM3: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/OPM3.html

PMI Standard Updates, OPM3 and Project Governance

PMI launched four updates to its range of standards on the 31st December 2008. The four standards are aligned and consistent which will help ensure all levels of the profession are using the same terms, have the same understanding and can promote harmonisation across all levels of an organisation. Earlier blogs have discussed the changes in the PMBOK® Guide and their impact on the credential examinations for PMP, CAPM, PgMP and PMI-SP. This blog focuses on the changes to OPM3 and The Standards for Program and Portfolio Management and their potential benefits for organisations.

The second edition of PMI’s Standard for Portfolio Management describes good practices in the discipline of portfolio management focused on ‘doing the right work’. It does not matter how good an organisation is at delivering projects and programs if the outputs are of no real benefit to the organisation. On-time, on-budget and not used is just a wast of money and resources.

The new standard builds on the processes for managing a portfolio of projects and programs defined in the first edition to include Portfolio Governance to include the responsibility of senior management to be accountable for investment decisions throughout the portfolio lifecycle; and Portfolio Risk Management. The key element in portfolio risk management is not avoiding risk, but balancing the types of risk accepted to deliver the maximum potential return from the organisation’s overall investment in its portfolio of projects and programs. Portfolio Governance makes sure the investmant is managed effectively.

We have been advocating the need for PMI’s standards to include Governance since 2005, Patrick Weaver presented a series of papers at PMI Congresses that appear to have had some influence on the new Standard. For copies of the papers see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Resources_Papers.html#Governance

The most significant difference between the First edition and the Second Editions of the Standard for Program Management is in the development of program-specific knowledge areas. These included knowledge areas that are critical to successful program management as well as knowledge areas that are significantly different at a program level than at a project level.

A second significant difference between the two editions was in the removal of “themes” that were introduced in the first edition.

  • The theme of Program Stakeholder Management was expanded into a knowledge area.
  • The theme of Program Governance was significantly expanded and also became a knowledge area.
  • The theme of Benefits Management was incorporated into the body of the document. 

The challenge now facing organisations is to make effective use of the resources represented by these new PMI Standards; this is where OPM3 comes into play.

OPM3® – Second Edition

OPM3 is a model for measuring project management maturity against a comprehensive set of best practices based on the PMBOK® Guide (projects), Program and Portfolio Management Standards. The updated OPM3 Standard, its self assessment module and the more capable OPM3 ProductSuite are fully aligned with the new PMI standards and have incorporated the concept of Organizational Enablers, previously only found in ProductSuite. Organizational Enablers are the attitudinal and structural elements of an organisation that enable the efficient management of projects and programs.

The updated OPM3 tools and reports allow assessment results to be categorised by Knowledge Area, by Business Results, and by Balanced Scorecard to ensure any planned improvements are focused on the areas of a business that provide the greatest return on investment. In short, OPM3 is the tool that allows organisations to create a better value proposition from their investment in projects and programs.

For more on OPM3 see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/OPM3.html (this page will be progressively updated as we develop a better understanding of the new OPM3 tools – Mosaic is one of the very few organisations in the Asia Pacific region with consultants qualifed to deliver OPM3 ProductSuite assessments ).