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 February, 2008.

PART 5 | Tips on Step 8 - Plan and Execute the Work (Activation)
Managing the Portfolio | Tips on Step 9 - Report on Portfolio Status (Reporting & Review) 
Measuring the Success of Projects, Within Tolerances
Portfolio Variances | The Earned Value Technique | PART 7

In this Part 6 we will cover:

Tips on Step 8 - Plan and Execute the Work (Activation)

Progressive Activation of the Work

Project portfolio management is more than a one-time event that you perform once a year during your Business Planning Process. It is an ongoing process that you use throughout the year. When you build a financial portfolio of stocks, bonds and other assets, you must monitor and manage the resulting portfolio continuously or at least at frequent intervals. The same concept holds true when you are building a portfolio of assets. That means that the required work must be planned and executed throughout the year. In project portfolio management this sequencing of projects and Other Work is called "Activation".

Activation takes various forms. First, when the Steering Committee originally authorizes the work for the coming year, the portfolio managers need to plan for how the work will be staffed and when the work will start. Some of the portfolio work, like support and operations, should already have a staff in place that will continue to perform those functions. The staff may need to be reduced or grown, but the basic staff should already be in place. The project work, however, will need to be scheduled during the year based on priorities, deadlines and staff availability.

Management of the portfolio includes managing the resources, proactively communicating expectations, gathering progress status, confirming continued Business Case validity and project viability in terms of projected benefits. However, your business will undergo changes during the year that may, more likely will, call for new projects and perhaps deletion of others. Hence, if new work is added to the portfolio it could mean that other previously authorized work will need to be removed. This ongoing process of replanning and rebalancing the work based on changing business needs is all a part of portfolio management.

Portfolio management is a mindset. All resource allocation decisions are made in the context of how they will impact the overall portfolio objectives. The result should be that the performance of the entire portfolio is continuously optimized for the greatest benefit to the organization.

A Brief Word on Staffing

For augmenting resources for portfolio work, there are at least three staffing options available. These are:

  • Hire a new employee. Adopt this option if you foresee a long-term need.
  • Train or retrain current staff. Do this if you have spare capacity. This is probably the best option from the view of existing staff and it also encourages flexibility
  • Hire people under contract. Do this if your need is only short term, especially if the need is urgent.

What is the Right Mix?

It is worth noting here that if more than about 25% of an IT project effort is outsourced, the learning opportunity provided by the project will likely be lost when the project is completed. This includes the knowledge and experience necessary for maintenance and support of the resulting product.


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