In this video, learn the skills and experience a portfolio manager needs, such as how to focus on business skills over project skills and the need to be able to focus on value tracking.
- There are a number of roles critical to making portfolio management successful but the portfolio manager is the single biggest difference maker. You might think a portfolio manager is some kind of super project manager but that's not true. A portfolio manager is a business leader, not a project leader. Projects are the tools by which the portfolio achieves success but those are managed by project managers. The portfolio manager operates at a more strategic level, managing business investments to deliver business results.
A successful portfolio manager is likely to have both business management and project management experience but it's far more important for them to have business skills and judgment. The level of knowledge and project management that a portfolio manager needs can be taught. That business excellence can only come with time and experience. From being part of the annual planning process where proposals are developed and reviewed, to working with business units to ensure benefits are achieved, the portfolio manager is leadership's representative in delivering strategy.
They operate with the authority of the executive team and they're ultimately measured by their ability to deliver the organization's goals and objectives. The vast majority of the portfolio manager's work is based around communications and collaboration. They must work with functional departments on everything from developing ideas to delivering benefits. They align with project management offices, or PMOs, in all parts of the organization to plan and execute projects, and, of course, they work very closely with the program and project managers leading individual initiatives within the portfolio.
On a day to day basis, the portfolio manager is involved in monitoring portfolio performance and assessing variances. This requires many discussions with business areas and project teams around the impact of problems, the ability to recover, the need for any corrective actions, etc. They'll also be reviewing the outcomes of their decisions, ensuring the corrections are actually working. The portfolio manager will meet with leadership regularly. These meetings will center around changes that are being considered to the business goals and the ability to adjust the portfolio in response.
The portfolio manager must be able to assess how such changes could be made, along with the implications, and the ability to deliver planned and current projects. Organizationally, the portfolio manager may report to a chief strategy officer or similar. Often, it's part of a strategy office. This may be combined with an enterprise PMO or EPMO, as the roles are very closely aligned. If your organization doesn't have a dedicated strategy function, then reporting to a general management position is fine, the chief financial officer or CFO, chief operating officer, COO, or similar.
The role must be senior enough to have credibility and influence. It should also not report to a single line of business, a chief information officer or CIO within IT, for example, as it needs credibility in all functional areas. The portfolio manager has one of the most important roles in any business. While the best portfolio manager can't guarantee success, choosing the wrong person for the role goes a very long way to committing the business to failure.
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