Portfolio management is a bit like gardening!

By June 13, 2014 January 6th, 2017 Uncategorized

Portfolio Management is not only about Managing Project… It is about having a vision or strategy and then selecting project accordingly, managing these projects and delivering these projects… It is exactly like gardening, don’t you think?

  1. You have a VISION about what kind of garden you want
  2. You Select the right seeds
  3. You Plant the seeds in the proper soil and provide the resources required
  4. You Monitor the garden and take action as required
  5. And Finally you Harvest

So …Is your garden producing the fruit and vegetables you are expecting it to produce?

Basically… In your Project Portfolio

  • Are you funding the RIGHT PROJECTS?
  • Is your staff working on the RIGHT TASKS?
  • Are you getting the MAXIMUM VALUE out of the investments you have made?

Today’s Landscape

Large projects take time and money, and sometimes, they do not deliver what was expected. So do you know what is in your garden? What will you Harvest?

Today’s landscape is characterized by:

  • Fast pace of change
  • Limited resources
  • Limited time available
  • High expectations from clients
  • Very little space for errors

Let’s again compare your project portfolio to a garden and you to the gardener…

There is the VISION

How do you get a garden that produces what it should be producing?

  • First, start with a VISION about what kind of garden you want and what kind of results you expect… e.g., how many tomato plants! (priorities)
  • You select the seeds accordingly (the projects)
  • You select the plants for the resources available carefully (project selection criteria) since your garden has a limited space (budget) and limited access to the sun (resources)
  • Even when you have selected and planted the best seeds, it is not going to be enough to get the garden you hoped for: you will need to take care of it and monitor the results on a regular basis and take action as required (executive involvement and steering committees)
  • You may also need to remove weeds or plants that are not required anymore in this garden (decision to stop or change some projects)
  • Then you can harvest!

Project Success and Failure

In the early project management days, “successful” project management meant that the job got done, period. Time and cost didn’t really matter and were not considered constraints. Then when time-to-market pressures and competition increased, it was not only getting the job done, but getting it done within the agreed-to amount of time and cost.

Today, there is even more pressure on managers and executives. Large projects cost millions and take many years to deliver. A successful project must not only be delivered on time and on budget, it must be relevant for client needs and market. Large projects must also be a good investment!
The IT market has a tendency to change quickly, and executives need to be aware of the changes that may impact the “net value” of project or results. We can no longer manage a project portfolio without looking at what is happening outside the projects and company.

How to be a successful gardener?

Start with the VISION

  • Define your objectives and criteria: your vision, principles, organizational priorities, and vision of market evolution (see local fruit market)
  • Develop project filtering and ranking criteria. Ensure that projects selected address the real business needs and priorities by providing appropriate criteria
  • Prepare requirements and ask for proposals

Select the right seeds

  • Get Project proposal: Ask project managers to prepare a simple business case in order to present their projects
  • Evaluate the financials (ROI) and ask for an independent opinion
  • Even if project decisions can be very rational, remember that intuition also plays an important role

Plant the seeds in the proper soil

Provide the resources required for project success
Be aware of any competition for the same resources (other plants)

Monitor your garden and take action as required

Put in place the proper project portfolio governance (provide processes and tools), then monitor…

Avoid the “unhealthy” portfolio (or garden) by being agile…

An unhealthy portfolio has projects that will not deliver what is expected, how it is expected and is not aligned with the organization’s strategic direction or market needs.

Of course this could happen to any project portfolio since from the start:
Decisions on new projects are based on uncertain, evolving, conflicting or incomplete information
It is often required to decide without having first built contingency or completed risks analysis. (We don’t know the seeds and the resources required for a new plant)
So, like the gardener, we will need to monitor and to be more agile in our decision-making (e.g., If it rains too much, maybe we will change our strategy!)

In Summary

The gardener = the manager or the executive committee

  • Has a vision of the garden
  • Select the seeds
  • Monitor the garden and take action as required


Garden = Project portfolio

  • Varieties of plants (projects)
  • That take space, water (resources)
  • Some yielding more fruit than others (ROI)

Remember that agility is the key to a healthy and effective garden.

How do you really know you have been successful?

It is when you get what you were expecting to get from your garden… The Fruit of your work!