IT GovernanceProject Portfolio Management

5 Core Skill Areas for a Portfolio Director

If people working hard were enough to keep a business afloat, then “workhorse” would be the only quality that mattered in an employee. But the reality is that people need to be working hard on the right activities if the business is to thrive. Toward that end, project and program portfolio management is critical. In a post for the PM Perspectives Blog, Lindsay Scott shares five areas where a portfolio director should have competency:

  1. Business management
  2. Portfolio management best practices
  3. Change management
  4. Stakeholder management
  5. General leadership

Jack of All Trades

Maybe the most important ability of portfolio directors is to ensure projects align with strategy. As such, portfolio directors must develop at least a basic comprehension of operations across the business. One might even think of it as a “CEO Jr.” role, considering how much juggling of strategy, finance, and resourcing occurs. That being said, portfolio directors still need a strong foundation in established portfolio management best practices. But the combination of business knowledge and portfolio experience will enable directors to make more practical, fitted recommendations.

As strategy blossoms, changes must be made, and then change management enters the picture. Change management can often be the difference between strategy realized and strategy collapsed like a cake that never rises. Thus, portfolio directors need to grasp its principles well. Good change management will also go a long way toward managing stakeholder expectations and attitudes. When change is well-managed, people’s protests are typically not as vocal.

Lastly, about general leadership, Scott says this:

Portfolio directors are leaders – they’re leading the change in an organisation. They’re often managing their own immediate team of portfolio office as well as matrix management responsibilities for scores of people within the business. They’re servant leaders to one audience, direct leader to another…

Portfolio management has its own office politics – people with pet projects, departments which ring-fence scarce resources, programme and project practitioners working on the ground. All of these are within the sphere of influence for the portfolio director – and each group looking for different forms of leadership.

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