This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.
"I occasionally come across the phrase 'project portfolio management', or sometimes just 'project portfolio', but so far it has failed to convey much concrete meaning to me. Perhaps because it is often found in the company of ethereal buzzwords like 'enterprise architecture', or perhaps because it is difficult enough to survive single projects, the agile crowd seems to be likewise unconcerned with the topic."
...and goes on with an insightful discussion of the commonly faced issue of whether to "redesign our product or rewrite it from scratch." He is quite correct that this is a portfolio management issue -- a product portfolio management issue. And it is one that needs to be driven from a strategic viewpoint. The process for upgrading and/or replacing product offerings must be tied -- through a clear strategic roadmap -- to the organizational goals, and communicated clearly to those doing the work.
That said, what got my attention was his comment that "...because it is difficult enough to survive single projects, the agile crowd seems to be likewise unconcerned with the topic." On one hand, this rings true with me, and makes sense in the context of my view of agile processes being most concerned with what I view as task-level practices, less so with project-level interdependencies typical of more complex projects, and somewhat oblivious of bigger picture issues of strategic import like portfolios and pipelines. But on the other hand, those very agile processes are also a not-unreasonable response to living in an ineffectively managed multi-project environment. The short-term planning horizon and the closely operating teams focused on moving from point to point in the effort is not unlike what we in the Critical Chain Project Management community refer to as "relay race behavior" -- the minimization of intra-, cross-, or extra-project multitasking in an effort to accelerate completion of handoffs through the projects. The focus that both agile and "relay race" brings to an organization's culture is a significant contributor of the benefits derived from both agile and CCPM, which, by the way, can work together nicely.
To a large degree, the pressures for agility come from the lack of project portfolio and pipeline management. When there are no clear priorities driven down from strategic plans, through product portfolios, to project portfolios and pipeline management, then individual project managers, resource managers, and resources are left to fend for themselves to answer the question "What should I be working on?" And if project management is the answer to anything, it is the answer to that question.
A picture that should be familiar to readers of this weblog...
Project Portfolio Management is the process of turning a (hopefully related) list of initiatives that come from a strategy into a prioritized collection of projects and programs that are funneled through a pipeline. The result of doing it right is a process that both maximizes benefit for the organization and minimizes undo pressures on the resources expected to deliver them. Too many organizations fail to recognize the major reason that it is "difficult enough to survive single projects" is that those single projects and the people that are working on them are buffeted by the needs of other projects, planned and otherwise. Unless and until shared-resource, multi-project shops, like R&D, Engineering, IT, and Product Development understand the impacts of living in such a system, they will continue to struggle with their individual projects.
For such organizations, getting particular single projects done quickly and reliably is good, but not enough. What is important is to synchronize the organization for delivery of an accelerating flow of valuable projects through the pipeline and to the bottom line.