Published here January 2013

Executive Summary | Governance in General | More Definitions
Project Portfolio Management Governance | Programs and Projects
Project Portfolio Management Governance Guidelines | Summary and Conclusions

Summary and Conclusions


The concept of "governance" in general, and project portfolio management in particular, is not clear-cut at this time. Moreover, the boundaries between governance and management is a delicate balance between exercising sufficient control for management and reporting purposes at the high level and carefully avoiding interfering with project management's responsibilities to produce effectively and efficiently at the project level.

The essential connection between the two, i.e. between Project Portfolio Governance, or Program Governance, and Project Governance is in the presence of the respective life spans. The life spans of the corporation and project portfolio management last indefinitely. Program management lasts until the last project within its responsibility is completed. Project Management of each individual project lasts until its specific project objectives are achieved.

Projects are the basic building blocks of the whole project portfolio execution structure and the governance of individual projects form the basis of the whole project portfolio reporting structure. This is achieved either directly, or via the portfolio subset of program management. Therefore, the governance structure established for the projects within the project portfolio form the basis of good project portfolio management governance.

Good project portfolio management at the project level is reflected by the establishment of the major milestones in the project life span at which corporate management needs to have a thorough accounting of the status of each project. These major milestones also act as "gates" through which the project must pass in order to move forward. In a well-established project portfolio management system, these major milestones or gates may be identified as follows:

  1. Value Proposition approved (i.e. corporate recognition of the project concept in principle)
  2. Business Case approved (i.e. corporate acceptance of the justification for the project)
  3. Project Charter or Brief approved (i.e. corporate commitment of the resources, including financial, for executing the project)
  4. Detailed product scope or design approved (i.e. project management's establishment of the vision of the end product)
  5. Product Delivery accepted (i.e. the transfer by project management of the product into the care, custody and control of its owners and users)
  6. Project Closure Activities completed (i.e. project management settlement of all accounts, completion of any maintenance periods, transfer of all documentation, compilation of lessons learned, and so on)

Note: The naming of these descriptors may vary from organization to organization and also vary in number. Some organizations have additional gates at the front end, while others have additional or incremental gates at the closing end.

For purposes of comparison, good project management, as distinct from project governance, is established in the traditional project objectives of scope, quality, time cost, risk objectives or constraints and so on.

From these observations it will be seen that the description of good project governance is very different from good project portfolio governance that we described earlier in the section: At the corporate level under Project Portfolio Management Governance.


Project Portfolio Management Governance is very different in goals and content as compared to Project Governance. Therefore, the standard guidelines for each must be dealt with quite separately and according to the natural goals, objectives and content requirements of each.

The attributes of Program Management are such that the standard for Program Management Governance is something of a hybrid between Project Portfolio Management Governance and Project Governance. This is because it encompasses some attributes of both. Therefore, it too should have its own separate standard guidelines.

R. Max Wideman
Fellow PMI

Project Portfolio Management Governance Guidelines  Project Portfolio Management Governance Guidelines

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