PPPM Lifetime Difference – Time is Relative

Project/Program Portfolio Management (PPPM)
By PH Lohnes, PMP

Today’s post is going to be a pick up post dealing with an issue that a reader raised about the timelines that project, programs, and portfolios follow or at least, should follow. Different temporal perspectives have a significant impact on the decisions that each level management will have to make concerning the completion of the particular component. Another characteristic of PPPM time horizons is the finite nature of the project versus program or portfolio. This post will discuss the differences of time in an organization’s PPPM environment.

First, the finite nature of a project is well known even to the point of being one of its defining characteristics that all project managers with any formal training can attest. A project is closely related set of activities that should produce quality (”fit-for-use”) deliverables on a specified budget and schedule. It is the schedule that provides the project with its finite nature — every schedule has a planned finish date. Thus projects agree to a unique set of deliverables with a defined completion point.

Second, a program, defined as a related set of projects or activities managed to produce a level of resource efficiency, can go either way when it comes to its lifetime. A program can be a management entity that finishes when its last remaining component is completed or retired. However, a program, given a different set of circumstances such component content, industry, or organization could continue indefinitely as new projects and activities are added to meet the needs of the enterprise.

Finally, the portfolio if an organization chooses to implement a PPPM perspective has no defined lifetime until senior management decides to end the utilization of a PPPM environment to achieve its business goals or mission. Each planning cycle should bring fresh ideations, analysis, prioritization, and portfolio component selection to continue the business strategic progress. This cycle continues even if the strategic goals of an organization are updated, modified, or enhanced with the portfolio only ceasing to exist if senior management decides to end the organization’s PPPM activities.

With the different lifetimes clarified, understanding how decisions for each level of the PPPM environment can be achieved. As discussed in a previous post, the project’s objective is on the optimization of producing quality (”fit-for-use”) deliverables. It is precisely the finite nature of a project that produces this optimization of effort. If the project did not have a defined schedule, there would be little need for optimization allowing for project planning to be looser and less driven.

Another issue about the finite characteristic of a project’s lifetime is how changes in scope  often wreak havoc with its schedule unless the project’s business sponsor allows for additional time to complete the changes — something that I found in my research period is usually not the norm. This occurs since the amount of scope enhancement (scope creep is another vernacular term for this practice) is usually small and piecemeal allowing the significant scope changes to “sneak up” on the project manager. All scope alternation should be only agreed to if sufficient budget and schedule are added to support their quality completion. It is precisely the project’s finite lifetime that causes scope updates to be such an major impediment to successful outcomes.

I will discuss the lifetime impact on programs and portfolios given their specific temporal characteristics in subsequent posts.

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