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PPM projects: If portfolio management works, why is it so rare?

My story this week on the University of Utah’s project and portfolio management (PPM) program stood out from other PPM pieces I’ve reported because, in this case, the portfolio piece of the program got top billing.

The University of Utah categorized its IT initiatives across the university into 11 portfolios, in areas ranging from “architecture and security” to “instructional” and “user experience.” The entire program (which followed a campus-wide IT centralization effort) was completed in 10 months. Now, projects must go through the strategic portfolio process to be approved; it’s not longer a case of “whoever yells the loudest gets their money first.”

As we noted in the story, new reader research on PPM found that only 37% of 304 enterprise organizations define PPM as an enterprise-wide discipline used to select and prioritize investments in different parts of the company, including IT. The others use PPM only in IT (31%); don’t have a PPM practice at all (28%); or have one only outside of IT (5%).

It was also striking how that second “P” in PPM played such a huge role for the Salt Lake City-based university. A lot of organizations use PPM software mainly for project management and prioritization; the “portfolio” aspect doesn’t tend to play a big role. In our survey, 42% used PPM software, and of those, only 30% deemed portfolio management as a “very important” feature in PPM software system selection.

It sounds like this “portfolio first” approach at the University of Utah was a huge success. I’m told that an educational facility doesn’t necessarily view ROI in the kind of dollar terms other organizations do, but that they’re seeing results nonetheless. Resources (i.e. people) are being better utilized and the right projects – benefitting the university as a whole – are being completed in a timelier manner.

So why don’t more organizations focus on portfolio creation and management in PPM software purchases and planning? I’d be interested in hearing your organization’s rationale in the comments section below, or e-mail me.

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