Project Portfolio Management: The Perspective of Choice (Part 2)

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10-29 Perspectives
​In my previous installment on this topic, I spoke about the value of modelling the underpinning structure of the enterprise from a number of different perspectives – whether that be from the business, technical or actor perspectives.

I then went on to describe two key perspectives for project portfolio management: Process vs. Capabiltiy. Now I’d like to explain why the capability perspective is more useful for a number of reasons:

Thinking in terms of capabilities doesn’t trap us into thinking in the context of a single process or system. Instead of focusing on project portfolio management, we can focus on the financial management that underpins project portfolio management. Chances are this is the same financial management that supports project execution or operations or any of the other elements in the Request-to-Fulfillment value chain. Hence, when looking at financial management (as an example), we need to make sure that we can support all of these needs using a harmonious structure, taxonomy, nomenclature, process, etc.

The flip side of that is to develop financial governance to support each new process individually. When organizations do that, they end up with a spaghetti mess of poorly coupled systems and data silos. One financial system is used to manage projects in engineering, and a whole other system is used to manage projects in execution. Meanwhile, bids and contracts are all tracked somewhere else. Focusing on the process perspective denies the complexity inherent in the organization as a system.

The second reason to think in terms of capabilities and not process is that continuous improvement is better built on a platform of capabilities than it is on a defined process. As the organization matures and improves performance, whole capabilities can be enhanced or invested in without forcing a reengineering of the entire process. This phenomenon is particularly true in the field of project portfolio management, which arguably itself is precisely an exercise in ongoing improvement. Reengineering an entire process to support continual improvement becomes a significantly more complex endeavor.

Remember, when looking at implementing project portfolio management within an organization, you’re never focusing on solving today’s problems. You’re not even focusing on solving tomorrow’s problems. You’re focusing on giving the organization the ability to solve the problems that will arise next week that we haven’t event thought about yet. Selecting a capabilities based perspective is the first step in identifying how that will be done.