As part of the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) initiative, the South African Bureau is currently defining professional project management standards. As project management takes its rightful place in the business world, as a profession in its own right, the project management structures within corporates are also becoming more robust.

So much so that mature organisations are now seeing their enterprise project offices (EPOs) evolving into project programme portfolio offices (PPPOs), with the emphasis on portfolio monitoring and performance management.

Most projects get the green light because of the benefits they will ultimately deliver, so management buy in is swift. Once the project is completed, and the money has been spent, the promised benefits need to be monitored; and the project manager – having completed the mandate to deliver within budget, on time and according to the required quality – moves on to the next project; leaving the portfolio office (which also monitors project costs) to track the benefits.

To the portfolio office falls the all-important task of measuring and monitoring projects’ return on investment (ROI) and, if the return is not sufficient, asking the hard questions of what went wrong and how can it be fixed?

The portfolio management office plays a crucial role in the project management structure. If there is no defined and concerted focus on portfolio management then the EPO might not add value to the organisation. It’s one thing to have projects reporting up to programme level and in to the EPO, but the fundamental, and all important, focus on benefit measurement and return on investment does not necessarily happen at EPO level.

That’s because the EPO essentially looks after the project life cycle; while the critical investment monitoring happens at PPPO level. It is here that ROI is tracked and fed back into the EPO, otherwise the organisation could be allocating resources to projects without measuring the results. Taking a bird’s eye view of all the organisation’s projects and the subsequent ROI, the PPPO can easily pinpoint problems regarding how the business approaches projects and whether business cases are robust enough.

With an effective PPPO in place, the business is able to tie projects back to the strategic business drivers that gave rise to the project in the first place.

But before you throw your hands in the air at the prospect of yet another structure within the project management hierarchy: the PPPO is not necessarily a separate structure; in fact, in most organisations it would simply be another name for the EPO, because the emphasis would now be on portfolio monitoring and performance management. At the end of the day it’s about putting in place the necessary structures to make sure that companies get the necessary ROI on the projects they undertake and a PPPO – essentially an EPO on steroids – can do just that.

© Tony McManus, McManus Consulting.

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