This series of papers has been developed from our work in upgrading TenStep's PortfolioStep™. For more information on TenStep's internal consulting methodology, please visit http://

Published here September, 2007.

Introduction | Project Portfolio Management Terminology 
Whole Portfolio Process Overview | Your Organizational Environment
The Ten Steps | PART 2

Whole Portfolio Process Overview

A complete portfolio management process life cycle consists of four major sequential phases or activities. These are: Prepare; Plan; Execute; and Harvest. There are several things worth noting about this sequence.

  • Firstly, unlike a project that has a life span that is often misnamed life cycle (a project doesn't "cycle", it starts and it finishes), a project portfolio is an entity that does have a true life cycle. That's because the portfolio does get reviewed and its process repeated throughout the year and certainly on an annual basis.
  • Secondly, project practitioners will be familiar with the sequence: Prepare; Plan; Execute (and deliver) as it applies to a single project. However, portfolio management starts much earlier in the game and, downstream, must actively deploy project outcomes and rigorously garner the expected improvements.
  • Thirdly, the outcomes of portfolio projects are not just deliverables, they are enablers - enablers of future benefits derived through "harvesting".
  • Fourthly, the harvesting activity includes the reaping of the benefits, gathering data on the actual benefits realized, assessing value and feeding the findings back into the preparation phase of the portfolio process. All of this is to establish continuous improvement, and thus completing the portfolio cycle.
  • Fifthly, not many organizations conduct this entire process as just described, especially including rigorous harvesting. This is simply because of the difficulties of managing across major organizational boundaries in traditional "stovepipe" structures.

In a sense, the four major phases of portfolio management described above may be likened to four levels of organizational maturity. Only those organizations that actually conduct all four phases successfully, and are truly effective in modifying the input strategies as in "continuous learning", have reached the highest level of project management organizational maturity.

Project Portfolio Management Terminology  Project Portfolio Management Terminology

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