project portfolio management summit … in sunny CA

i just returned from california, where the nice folks @ ‘everything channel’ hosted me for 3 days to attend the project portfolio management summit.  it turned out to be a great networking event with executives and vendors that came together in the common cause for better business decision making through project portfolio management.

so, how would one explain ‘ppm’ to one’s grandmother?  simply put, project portfolio management provides organizations with a structured approach to make management decisions around which projects they should be investing in. 

given that much of the richness of decision sciences is abstracted in the general platitudes of ppm, the reality is that there is no single definition that would accurately capture the breadth and depth of human decision-making.  more so, in business environments with incentives skewed in terms of frames of reference, time frames and financial rewards … ppm can at best be defined as a set of structured approaches to enable data-driven decision making.  it does not even attempt to model and capture the behavioral and cognitive diversity of making complex decisions in constrained environments.

back to earthly things.  there were 2 kinds of software vendors with many kinds of promises: vendors that promised to install software that can ‘do it all’ and those that offered remote hosted software that can ‘do it all’.  somehow surprisingly, not a single vendor invoked the “cloud” word … for a change.

here’s a shout out to mark price perry who gave 3 extremely provocative and practical presentations … check out

3 obvious ideas:

a. dont forget core strategy: decision making with ppm is a dance around campfires … where s’mores and singing about priorities / resources / goals / money cannot come in the way of the greater purpose of the organization.  before you get into the many means and mechanics of ppm, focus on the organization’s core strategy — how does it uniquely create and capture value compared to its competition?

unfortunately, no one seemed to address this core context within which ppm needs to exist.

b. planning and budgeting are key: most organizations have some means or methods to conduct a budgeting ritual.  this cannot be ignored during ppm conversations since most funding is routed through the budgeting route … and it ends up being an upstream influencer of how $’s are allocated. 

again, didnt hear a lot about this symbiotic synergestic reality.  a set of simplistic alternative suggestions that merely ignore budgeting are simplistic at best and can be dangerously misguiding at worst.  caveat emptor.

c. organization change management is a reality:  given the inherent design of organizations, changes to decision-making structures and approaches come with the realities to cater to organization change management.  organizations that start off with little to no ppm culture, have the biggest chasms to cross in terms of organization change management.  it would behove of ‘hosted players’ to recognize that going to a hosted model from ground-zero can actually be harder due to the realities of organization change.

again, scarcely was a word spoken about this very critical component of going ppm.

that said… the event overall was extremely useful given the scope of content that it covered.  i am pleased to accept katherine busey’s ( managing director cio programs) offer to help strategize and plan the 2010 event.

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