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 November, 2007.

PART 2 | Projects, Programs, Portfolios, "Other Work"
Establishing the Management Environment | The Organization's Strategic Plan
The Role of the Project Management Office
The Role of the Project Portfolio Steering Committee | PART 4

The Role of the Project Portfolio Steering Committee

Managing a portfolio does place special demands on project management. As we noted earlier, where there is any significant number of projects, it is simply not possible to conduct successful portfolio management unless there is consistent reporting of data being fed back to the Steering Committee.

Without interfering in the project management process, or trespassing on the program/project management responsibilities of a PMO, the Steering Committee will want to gain a regular overview picture. This will include indications of project progress with a view to cancellation and substitution if very unsatisfactory, the status and availability of resources, the performance and reception of deliverables, and so on. This means that there MUST be standard project management processes and procedures in place.

The Most Important Process: Design of a Common Project Life Span

Perhaps the most important standard project management process, from the portfolio perspective, is a gated project life span methodology within which the appropriately adopted methodology for the technology is conducted. That is because overall portfolio progress status reporting depends on receiving reports from project management, especially at key milestones, that are in a consistent format across all projects.

These key milestone reports are typically, and in progressive order: Value Proposition; Business Case; Project Charter; and Delivery Acceptances as shown in Figure 3. Standard templates for each of these milestone documents are available elsewhere.

Figure 3: Idealized high-level gated project management process
Figure 3: Idealized high-level gated project management process

From the diagram you will see that each of the documents listed serve quite different purposes. It is worthwhile emphasizing this point by briefly describing each in the context of portfolio management as follows.

The Value Proposition is a quick one-page document briefly describing a potential project or initiative and its justification. It is used for initial screening and its purpose is to reduce overhead by avoiding unnecessary preparatory detail by weeding out work that is obviously of little benefit value and/or not aligned with the overall management strategy. It is a very simplified form of Business Case. However, for a small project you may decide that it represents sufficient documentation for the project to proceed through to completion and product delivery. Apart from this, you may find that the Value Propositions screen out some 50% of the potential opportunities, while the rest proceed on to a Business Case

The Business Case is a more elaborate document required to justify a medium or large project. It is obviously a key document in the early life of a project or program. It describes the reasons and the justification for the project's undertaking based on its estimated costs, the risks involved and the expected future business benefits and value. You may find that the Business Case screens out, say, another 25% of the potential opportunities. The Business Case provides the basis for selection and authorization of further expenditure of resources for detailed investigation, feasibility, planning and so on that will be contained in a full Project Charter.

The Project Charter is a key approval document in the on-going life of a medium to large project or program. It provides the project manager with the authority to consume portfolio resources to execute the project within scope, quality, time, and cost constraints. The content and effort to prepare the Project Charter should be scaled to the size of the project. It also provides portfolio management with the basis for final selection, authorization and release or expenditure of further resources from within the portfolio.

The Delivery Acceptances of deliverables may be documented in different ways depending on the nature of the physical items or measurable outputs that are identified as part of the project's product or objectives. Deliverables can also include intermediate products or services that are necessary for achieving the project's final results. These reports will alert portfolio management of pending project completion, and the transfer of the care, custody and control of the deliverables over to operations, or to another client or customer.

Coming Next

In Part 4 we will provide tips on Steps 1 to 4.

The Role of the Project Management Office  The Role of the Project Management Office

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