Project Portfolio Manager: a Conductor

Last week I read the article by Antonio Nieto entitled, ” A business guide to project portfolio management“. I do share a lot of the author’s opinion that most executives do not have a clear understanding of what project portfolio management (PPM) is, and the benefits that it can bring to their business. It is essential that the C-level has a clear understanding of the mechanisms to improve their business strategy and make sure that all projects and operations executed throughout the organization are aligned to undertake the strategy. Executives need to recognize the benefits of a strong project portfolio management and become visible sponsors of it. To make easier the understanding of PPM, it seems to me a good idea to explain the similarities between a musical conductor and a project portfolio director, since music and management are passions that many of us shared.

Conductors act as guides to the orchestras and/or choirs they conduct. They choose the works to be performed and study their scores, to which they may make certain adjustments (e.g., regarding tempo, articulation, phrasing, repetitions of sections, and so on), work out their interpretation, and relay their vision to the performers. Similarly, the project portfolio manager guides the projects to be executed in the organization. One of the primary duties of the portfolio manager is to set up a governance model to choose and prioritize the projects and programs to be implemented to carry out organizational goals, and to make sure there is a value generation in each of its operational and strategic investments/improvements. By implementing portfolio management, a project’s or program’s priorities are identified, investment decisions are made, resources are allocated, and the overall performance of the portfolio is monitored. All strategic changes imply adjustments in portfolio components, priorities, and risks undertaken by the organization. The portfolio’s governance model establishes clearly the reasons to execute, to cancel or to postpone a project and determines openly who makes these decisions.

Other duties of the conductor are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble. Analogously, portfolio managers unify and standardize all projects, helping project managers reduce the chance of project failure, helping to manage risks properly, detecting redundancies, and making decisions on projects that are aligned with strategic business goals. They also monitor and control the projects ensemble.

Conductors may also attend to organizational matters, such as scheduling rehearsals, planning a concert season, hearing auditions, selecting members, and promoting their ensemble. Similarly, the portfolio managers update the portfolio’s roadmap and determine the organization’s capacity to execute the portfolio roadmap. Also, it is very important to guarantee that capabilities align with the competitive position, or with the operational effectiveness, that the organization seeks to maximize through PPM.

Some conductors may have a significant public relations role, giving interviews to the local news channel and appearing on television talk shows to promote the upcoming season or particular concerts. In a like manner, portfolio manager‘s duties include portfolio’s communications and reporting the big picture with top performance indicators to stakeholders.

Finally, when we go to a concert our expectations are to have an amazing moment and to have a priceless experience. When implementing portfolio management the organization seeks to have a valuable portfolio through the efficiency, effectiveness, strategic alignment and return on investment of its components.

Enjoy your next concert!

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