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Slide Notes

Contribution to a collective work entitled "Portfolio Management: A Strategic Approach"
by Amaury Aubrée-Dauchez

This deck is a teaser to the book "Portfolio Management: A Strategic Approach" by Ginger Levin and John Wyzalek. http://goo.gl/s7kM4T
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Effective Communication in Strategic Portfolio Management

Published on Nov 18, 2015

Even in a Portfolio, Programme or Project Management context, communication is unique; as such it is not an option.


Strategic portfolio management

Through Effective Communication
Contribution to a collective work entitled "Portfolio Management: A Strategic Approach"
by Amaury Aubrée-Dauchez

This deck is a teaser to the book "Portfolio Management: A Strategic Approach" by Ginger Levin and John Wyzalek. http://goo.gl/s7kM4T
Keep sharing.

Get the pulse

Strategic Portfolios vs Communication
Source (next 3 slides): PMI's Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report. The High Cost of Low Performance. The Essential Role of Communications (p. 2). Project Management Institute, May 2013


Among those organisations considered highly effective communicators, 80 percent of projects meet original goals, versus only 52 percent at their minimally effective counterparts.


US$135 million is at risk for every US$1 billion invested in the project portfolio

56 % at risk

due to ineffective communication 
Further research on the importance of effective communications uncovers that 56 percent (US$75 million of that US$135 million) is at risk due to ineffective communications
Photo by Ame Otoko

Social glue keeping organisation tied together

According to Locker (2001), experts consider communication to be a key process underlying all aspects of organisational management.

Contemporary scholars have referred to organisational communication as “the social glue… that continues to keep the organisation tied together” (Roberts, 1984) and “the essence of organisation” (Weick, 1987).

Writing many years earlier, Chester (1938) said, “The structure, extensiveness and scope of the organisation are almost entirely determined by communication techniques”.


Changing Concepts & Processes
- Portfolio Management Becomes More Strategic
- Communication: from linearity to simultaneity
- Embedded Complexity
Photo by kevin dooley

Rise as a business discipline

  • Propagation of Markowitz’s portfolio theory
  • Growing focus on cost visibility
  • Firm-wide accountability and governance
Many factors impacted the rise of portfolio management as a business discipline including
- the propagation of Markowitz’s portfolio theory (1952)
- a growing focus on cost visibility following various financial crises, corporate scandals and project failures, and
- the importance given firm-wide to accountability and governance relying on compliance and standardization mechanisms.

Portfolio management attempts to answer the ‘Catch 22’ problem according to which strategy without action is only a daydream, but action without strategy is a nightmare.

IT Portfolio Management

  • Perception for many years
  • Outputs & Benefits on support side
  • CIO responsible for oversight
For many years, discipline was rather perceived just as information technology (IT) portfolio management with outputs and benefits belonging to the support side of the organization and the Chief Information Officer (CIO) responsible for the oversight

CxO start steering

  • Change day-to-day on company’s agendas
  • Technology changing interrelations
  • Methodologies and supporting platforms
More recently, other members of the Chief Executive Officer’s team (CxOs) have started to take the lead on portfolio steering:

1. change is day-to-day on company’s agendas; it has a bigger stake than before and corporate mistakes have a much lower level of acceptance.

2. technology itself is changing the nature of the relations between employees, managers, consumers, and partners with traditional border lines is getting fuzzier: operations and support, internal and external, clients and shareholders.

3. Methodologies and supporting platforms are more extensive at bridging the gap between strategy and operational execution.
Photo by jdlasica


The first major model for communication was introduced by Shannon and Weaver (1949) for Bell Laboratories. The original model was designed to mirror the functioning of radio and telephone technologies and consisted of three primary parts: sender, channel, and receiver.

In later extensions of such linear model (Berlo, 1960), communication becomes social interaction where at least two interacting agents share a common set of signs and rules.

In that respect, collaboration i.e. working with each other to do tasks and to achieve shared goals (Collins English Dictionary, 2012) becomes tightly imbricated with communication.


The basic premise of the transactional model of communication is that individuals are simultaneously engaging in the sending and receiving of messages. Stacey (1995) indicates that effective management focuses on ever-changing agendas of strategic issues. These agendas consist of multiple challenges, stretching aspirations and ambiguous issues. When managers deal with the issues on their strategic agendas, they are performing a real-time learning activity.

sweet spot

Balance Starfish & Spider
Effective portfolio management must find an ever-moving balance between structured and unstructured flows of information. Brafman and Beckstrom (2008, The Starfish and the Spider) explained that the decentralized “sweet spot” is the point along the centralized-decentralized continuum that yields the best competitive position. The organization must enable enough decentralization for creativity, but requires sufficient structure and controls to ensure consistency and compliance.
Photo by ecstaticist

Embedded complexity

  • Cross-cultural difference
  • Diversity and gender mainstreaming
  • New work practices
- Only a few companies have documented strategies for communicating with employees across cultures, and not many more require that corporate messages be customized for consumption in other cultures

- Diversity and gender mainstreaming are the public policy concept of assessing the different implications for women and men of any planned policy action, including legislation and programs, in all areas and levels.

- Shifts in company structure lead toward greater and freer communication and sharing of information, outsourcing, offshoring, global teams, mobile workforce, flexible work arrangements, less hierarchical organizations, and the influx of the Millennial generation
Photo by cobalt123


Supporting Platforms
The takeaway: according to Rich (2011), project management became the first commercial software program which ran on a computer using a “stored program”


  • 1957 Critical Path Method
  • 60s. Program Evaluation Technique
  • 70s. Precedence technique
The early project management systems were limited in their capabilities and, by today's standards, were difficult to use.

In May 1957, Remington Rand Corp. and DuPont Corp. started a joint venture to develop the Critical Path Method (CPM) mathematical technique for managing plant maintenance projects which allowed DuPont to save 25% on their plant shutdowns. This technique was popular but expensive and was later dropped by DuPont after a management change took place; it lost traction but came back even overtaking the Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) developed by the US Navy until the “Precedence” technique used by many scheduling systems was developed in the 1970s.
Photo by kenmainr

From Gannt to gamification

  • Bottom Up
  • Top Down
  • Integrated
  • Agile & Social
- Bottom-up: With the acceleration of micro-computing in the 1970s and 1980s, organizations started to manage projects on personal computers with individuals or groups gathering in separate files summary information on progress, risk and issues.

- Top down: alongside of formalization of portfolio management practice, platforms started to emerge in the late 1990s to provide a top-down approach to managing, tracking, and reporting on enterprise strategies, projects, portfolios, processes, resources, and results.

- Integrated: in order to overcome the shortfalls of the unidirectional solutions and sometimes in parallel to the development of top-down solutions, integrated platforms have been made available on the market around year 2000.

- Agile & Social: communication and collaboration are much more than meeting and talking about work; it is about connecting workers to each other and to information whenever they need it, wherever they are. They have embraced Mobile First principles (Wroblewski, 2011) and social network user experience, they provide agile PM feature out of the box and they extend portfolio management to an end-to-end organization work lifecycle.
Photo by Thomás

Untitled Slide

Source Apigee (2013)


Is key to Strategic Portfolio Management
Ongoing and well-targeted communication is a key requirement for maintaining stakeholder confidence in and support for the objectives to be achieved and the approaches being implemented.

The challenges are that manual project requests through different tools make it difficult to stay on top of opportunities, squeaky wheels demand attention, but distract from more important priorities, and manually collecting the status of a portfolio of projects is like “herding cats”.

Gartner (2013) reports that PPM will evolve to cover the project lifecycle from bright idea to post project review. Because projects move businesses and products forward, increased attention to request and service desk management have become more important to the end-to-end project portfolio management model.
Photo by bcymet


  • Recognize maturity levels
  • Standardize & simplify comm processes
  • Connect & engage with people
  • Increase visibility & collaboration
The Ancient Greek aphorism "know thyself" indicates that each organization must become conscious of where it stands in terms of communication around portfolio management in order to be in a position to move to the next maturity level, if deemed necessary and affordable.

The challenge for stakeholders is not obtaining more information, but obtaining the right information. The system put in place must allow people to access, discuss and share reliable and up-to-date information.

The communication system deployed shall reduce the information overload by cutting out excess tools and connecting collaboration with work whether partners are or not within corporate fences; in a nutshell, more context, less meetings.

An effective portfolio management communication system shall provide all levels of the organization with visibility and insight into the truth about workloads, dependencies and when things will really be done.
Photo by Ravages


As such Communication is not an option
Communication is unique; as such, it is not an option.

Somehow communication transcends its environment by allowing collaborators to address strategy, performance, governance and risks topics aligning operations and portfolios of programs and projects to achieve overarching business objectives.
Photo by Mark Philpott


Portfolio Management: A Strategic Approach (Best Practices and Advances in Program Management Series) by Ginger Levin (Editor), John Wyzalek (Editor)

Presenting information that is current with The Standard for Portfolio Management, Third Edition (2013), this book supplies in-depth treatment of the five domains and identifies best practices to ensure the organization has a balanced portfolio that is critical to organizational success. This book is an ideal reference for those pursuing the new portfolio management credential from the Project Management Institute (PMI®). It is also suitable as a reference guide for executives and practitioners in the field and as a textbook for universities offering courses on portfolio management.

Series: Best Practices and Advances in Program Management Series (Book 17)
Publisher: Auerbach Publications (October 15, 2014)
ISBN-13: 978-1482251043 ISBN-10: 1482251043

A deck by Amaury Aubrée-Dauchez