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Project Portfolio Management: 5 Best Practices

on 28 August 2019


Posted by Craig Hyslop
Project Portfolio Management 5 Best Practices

Project portfolio management can be a challenging discipline to master. Even experienced project managers sometimes struggle when overseeing dozens of projects simultaneously, instead of just one or two. If you’re looking to refine your project management skills, check out these best practices from experts in the field.

A Project Portfolio Definition

A project portfolio is a collection of related programs and projects within an organisation.

Project portfolio management is the management, oversight, and decision-making surrounding those related programs and projects. The purpose of combining projects into a portfolio and managing them together is to reach one or more strategic objectives as efficiently as possible. (Tweet this!)

Consider this project portfolio management example of a large restaurant group that wants to expand into the Midwest. To navigate the expansion successfully, management will need to consider a number of operational and logistical aspects, such as state and local laws, site identification, and re-optimisation of the restaurant’s supply chain. Each area might warrant multiple projects or programs, which can then be rolled up into a larger portfolio and assigned to a project portfolio manager to see it all through.

5 Best Practices For Project Portfolio Management

1. Define roles.

Alan Zucker, founding principal of Project Management Essentials, says that defining roles for individuals and groups is an important first step. “Many organisations fail to establish expectations in the beginning and it leads to confusion and conflict down the line.”

He calls out three key questions to ask:

  1. What is the role of the portfolio management office?
  2. Who plays which roles in establishing the organisation’s strategic priorities and approves projects that align with the strategy?
  3. Who “owns” the projects and is responsible for those projects meeting their scope, schedule, and cost goals?

2. Rank projects by priority, then by order of execution.

Prioritising projects—designating them as having high, medium, or low importance—is a common practice within organisations. However, Zucker says senior management has a tendency to rank most (or even all) projects as high priority. “This type of system alone doesn’t help allocate scarce financial and human resources appropriately.”

He recommends an additional step of ordinal ranking, whereby projects are listed in order of how they will be executed—first, second, third, and so on. “This forces executives to think about trade-offs and make hard decisions about which projects are most important to the organisation.”

3. Minimise the number of projects.

“Many organisations are more focused on ‘putting planes in the air’ than in actually landing them,” says Zucker. In other words, they focus on starting projects but don’t pay as much attention to following them through to completion.

Rather than starting a lot of projects that may not get to the finish line, Zucker notes that focusing on completing projects results in better outcomes for the organisation. “Minimising the number of simultaneous projects will result in work getting done faster, which means you can more quickly see the value those projects generate.”

Whether your organisation is managing 10 projects or 100, Glasscubes can help you keep them all on track. Start your free trial today.

4. Break down big projects into small, testable experiments.

Kurt Bittner, VP of enterprise solutions at, says that most potential projects consist of a mixture of good and bad ideas. “Separating these into smaller, independently testable experiments—where each one is focused on a single group of users and a single outcome—makes it easy to see which ideas work and which don’t.”

He notes that each experiment articulates who the solution is for, what it will do for them, and how you will know if it succeeds. The results inform subsequent decisions to move ahead with the idea, refine the experiment, or move on to another idea. When you find the ideas that work, you can use them to create a clear path forward on your project. “Iterating this process across all your projects helps build a solid portfolio—whether you’re dealing with IT portfolio management, construction, or another area.”

5. Avoid project favoritism.

John Moss, CEO of English Blinds, says that many project portfolio managers often fall into the trap of favoring certain projects, which can skew the perceived success of each project in the portfolio. “These projects are typically ones the manager is personally invested in, and the manager will likely give them extra time and attention.”

The result: Favored projects are less likely to run into issues or suffer from neglect. However, Moss says that being overly myopic about favored projects can lead to other projects in the portfolio suffering and facing challenges that otherwise might be avoided if given equal attention.

Glasscubes makes project portfolio management easy.

Glasscubes is your go-to collaboration solution for managing multiple projects. From file sharing to messaging to task management, our solution enables your teams to get from point A to point B—again, again, and again. Glasscubes provides a suite of project management tools that enable you to create and assign tasks, perform critical path analyses, develop Gantt charts, and much more.

With Glasscubes, you can:

  • Store and share files in a secure location, complete with automatic version control. You can even create approval workflows and view clear audit trails of user actions.
  • Create customised workspaces for each project team in your portfolio. Team members can share resources and communicate with one another in their specific workspace, and you can access them all for easy oversight.
  • Communicate practically anywhere through threaded discussions on the general message board, on specific files, on assigned tasks, or through instant messenger.

Create a solid portfolio of projects that work together in harmony. Start your free trial of Glasscubes today.


About this author: Craig Hyslop

Craig leads the Glasscubes Customer Success Department, and with over 30 years experience in the field, helping companies achieve maximum success with collaborative technology.