I work for outsourcing software company and has been tasked to develop a program for cooperation with one of our customer.

At this point we have different projects with the customer.

On our understanding the customer’s projects structure looks like this:

-> Portfolio

                -> SubProtfolio 1

                                -> SubPortfolio 1.1

                                                -> Program 1.1.1

                                                                >Project 1…N

                                                -> Program 1.1.2

                                                                >Project 1…N

                                                -> Project 1.1.1

                                -> SubPortfolio 1.2

                                -> Program 1.1

                                -> Project 1.1

-> Program 1

-> Program 2

The problem is that historically I was in charge of management SubPortfolio 1 just a Project Manager of separate projects, since from the customer side we have one person who was a sponsor and product manager. It was good to have one person managing many projects since knowledge of relation between different projects provides better/faster decision making process. Now the cooperation is slightly growing (however the same single sponsor). We added two more PMs, but we still work on the project basis, leaving portfolio/program level without proper attention. My management (not without reason) see the following potential problems:

  1. The cooperation is not very scalable since I still keep a lot of knowledge across SubPortfolio 1

  2. There are no active sales/development within SubPortfolio 1, since all PMs are bothered with their projects objectives

  3. Some sub-programs may not get proper attention from our team

  4. Teams and PMs may not be aware of each other influence

  5. There are/could be different standards of quality for different projects for the same customer

  6. On the other hand: PMs are complaining about absence of common knowledge base and historical information about cooperation with the customer

  7. Account managers need the delivery unit of company provide a high quality and be ready to the ongoing changes on customer side

  8. Support. We also are supporting some projects we implemented for the customer, and this is not streamlined enough. Support may influence other active development activities.

So now I’m tasked to implement a program for SubPortfolio 1 to mitigate the risks outlined above.

Looking at the PMI Program Management Standard, I see that program is intended to bring some benefits to the organization and includes projects and program activities.

I understand that creating a program would be great if we had projects for one product for example, so that we program could bring some benefits.

So the more I think about this I, start seeing it as a portfolio management. However how I can manage customer’s portfolio. I don’t have authority to prioritize, shuffle projects, etc.

So my question is how such cases are handled in your organizations or were handled in your practice?

  • How large is your organization? – Michael Hogan May 14 '15 at 4:35
  • I'm really unclear what you're asking. Are you asking how to structure the organization or are you asking for recommendations to overcome specific challenges? It might be worth breaking this large question into manageable pieces. – Michael Hogan May 14 '15 at 4:38
  • "I don’t have authority to prioritize, shuffle projects, etc." Then what's your question, and why is it your problem? – Todd A. Jacobs Oct 21 '15 at 1:43

Most of the risks demand a common project infrastructure like

  • Common lessons learned database
  • Regular PM meetings to share news and information
  • Common quality guidelines
  • etc.

Those aspects could be provided by some kind of PMO. But most of what you wrote makes me feel, you need something to connect the different projects by means of project management and not of strategy alignment.

Because of that, I think a program management would fit best for you.

You will be able to simplify the PMs life by providing project connecting infrastructure, common goals, guidelines, reportings, and templates.

As you already said, you don't have the possibility to effectively influence the portfolio (management) of your customer.

Nevertheless, your company offers specific portfolios. And aligning those by a portfolio management to your company's strategy might be something your company could benefit from. Defining the goals for a program to improve the success of several projects within one of your portfolios could be something to start with.

I'm looking forward to some critical comments on this interesting topic...

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