This paper is the fourth of a four-part series in which an attempt has been made to capture the collective wisdom of the leading participants in an extended LinkedIn discussion over the first six months of 2014. The actual original texts have been edited for grammar and spelling to make for easier reading online. The observations quoted are the opinions and property of the contributors as noted.

Published here November 2014.

PART 3 | Some of the Things that Contributors Said About Success
More Contributors' Thoughts on Project Success | Confusion Abounds
The Meaning of the Term "Project Management"
The Meaning of "Program Management" | "Project Portfolio Management"

"Project Portfolio Management"

So far, we have project management producing new "products, services or results" via new projects, and we have program management orchestrating multiple projects and all that this involves. Who then are the recipients of these "products, services or results"? The answer is operational management, or "operations". However, "operations" is the core activity of most organizations and it can be demonstrated that this activity is, in many respects, very different from project management. Consequently, the larger the organization, the more necessary it is to have some structure that bridges the difference between projects and operations. That is, from converting corporate strategy into projects, to garnering benefits from the resulting products.

So, going a step even higher, enter project portfolio management.[8] The PMBOK guide defines project portfolio management as:[9]

"The centralized management of one or more portfolios to achieve strategic objectives."

This definition appears to be circular. TenStep Inc. provides a more informative definition by defining project portfolio management as:[10]

"A collection of projects or programs and 'Other Work' that are grouped together to facilitate effective management of that work to meet strategic business objectives. The projects or programs of the portfolio may not necessarily be interdependent or directly related."

Both these definitions embody the concept of achieving strategic objectives that, in turn, implies garnering actual benefits from deploying the products of the programs and projects.

So there we have it. We suggest that:

  • If we want to talk about the effectiveness or efficiency of the delivery of new "products, services or results", then let's use the term "Project Success". This is the responsibility of the project manager.
  • If we want to talk about the realized value of a particular product at any time, then use the term "Product Success". This is the responsibility of the technology manager.[11]
  • If we want to talk about delivering a product within scope, quality, time and cost parameters, then use the term "Project Management Success". This is the responsibility of the project manager with support from the project's sponsor.
  • If we want to talk about the successful creation of a product to specification, and its transfer of ownership to operations, followed by successful usage, then talk about "Program Success". This is the responsibility of the program manager.
  • If we want to talk about the successful choice of a product, service or result, its creation, delivery, and deployment, together with the garnering of real benefits to the organization responsible, then talk about "Project Portfolio Management Success". This is the responsibility of the project portfolio manager.[12]

We should not forget that the term "success" itself is a multifaceted construct and the perception of success from one person's perspective may well be different from any others. Thus, the five perspectives of a project as listed above are very unlikely to be unanimous. Nevertheless, if we were to use the suggested or similar differentiating terms, we suspect that we would have much less trouble in accepting the apparent conflict between hearing about project successes, subsequently followed by product failures.[13]

Editor's concluding remarks

We hope you have enjoyed the fallout from the original discussion and also found these summaries both informative and useful.

The Meaning of   The Meaning of "Program Management"

8. Note that "portfolio management" must be prefixed by the word "project" to distinguish this discipline from well-established "Financial Portfolio Management".
9. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc., PA, USA, 2013, Glossary, p551
10. See TenStep Inc.'s web site at /
11. On smaller projects, the role of project manager and technology manager are often combined, with technology manager predominating.
12. The "project portfolio manager" role is often vested in a committee of senior management executives, lead by a PPfM chairman.
13. Perhaps better expressed as "product portfolio failure".
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