Strategic Project Portfolio Management [Book Review]

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It took me a while to get my hands on Simon Moore’s book, Strategic Project Portfolio Management, but I’m rather glad I did.

For a start, it’s beautiful. I read a lot, and I notice fonts, layout, box copy, but in this book, most of all the lovely tables. Praising a book because it is pretty is probably shallow, but it does matter for the reader experience. And the content isn’t bad, either.

Choosing projects for the best returns

Moore’s book looks at how project management offices should choose and prioritize projects in order to give businesses the best returns. It sounds simple – we all know we should do it, but it’s hard to know where to start for a new PMO.

This book is very practical (another excellent point – I love practical books that tell you how, not just waffle about theory). It covers the whole lifecycle from finding ideas for projects, through the prioritization process and planning for the most productive organization possible.

Estimating for success

Maybe best of all, Moore talks about range-based estimates – a topic I’m very interested in. Moore explains that estimates are biased towards the initial values because people don’t adjust their estimates again after making that initial decision. He writes that research:

suggest[s] that in project management, the initial estimate you come to, even if it is determined in a very basic manner, even randomly, has a powerful impact on future estimates due to insufficient adjustment from this starting value. This means that the initial estimate should be delayed if at all possible, or given as a broad range, and the problem of insufficient adjustment should be given real attention by management to ensure that estimates of key factors such as the portfolio budget really do evolve over time to reflect true values. (p. 13)

This makes the case for range-based estimates, but the book is far more wide ranging than this. It’s everything a novice PMO Manager needs to know to support her project managers at work.

One of the other concepts Moore gives time to is the idea of only capturing the data you need. He recommends being pragmatic with monitoring. Why force project managers to record a whole lot of figures that you then do nothing with?

He also points out that the purpose of reporting is to help people make better decisions on the data – otherwise it’s a waste of time.

Book shelf

Practical advice I’ll refer to again

The only point I disagreed with was that late on in the book, when Moore is discussing adaptive project management, he describes Wikipedia as a project.

“Some projects work well without initial planning or organization,” he writes, citing Wikipedia as an example because “there is no planning involved in specifying the articles submitted.”

I wouldn’t call Wikipedia a project – it’s a web-based community initiative, but given that projects are defined (in my world) by having a start, a middle and an end, Wikipedia doesn’t qualify. However, this section is less than a page, so Moore is forgiven.

I did like the ‘10 Things to Do’ and ‘10 Things to Avoid’ chapters – again, practical, solid advice for newbie PMOs and those who know they could be better but don’t know how.

Reading this was a pleasure; I’m sure I’ll refer to it again in the future – and if you work in a PMO, you should too.

This book review first appeared in 2016.

Strategic Project Portfolio Management [Book Review]
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If you work in a PMO this is one book that you won't want to miss. Find out what I thought of Simon Moore's Strategic Project Portfolio Management. In summary: you should have a copy!


Author: Elizabeth Harrin