Project Management Institute

Present perfect


Give organizations the gift that keeps on giving—a portfolio that generates wide-reaching value.


Portfolio managers are in the gift-giving business. After all, it truly is a gift when a portfolio realizes its intended benefits and the organization receives value.

While giving a present to an organization isn't as easy as giving a gift to a loved one, there are striking similarities. The two often begin with a “wish list” of what is needed or desired by others. Gifts for family and friends may have a specific style, size and color. For our organizations, the requests are typically for strategic results, product quality or ROI. In both instances, we're aiming for customer acceptance—assurance the recipient appreciates the present.


Yet, when it comes to portfolios, customer acceptance can sometimes seem like a moving target. Even when you allocate significant time, effort and resources to the portfolio using best practices, results may not turn out as expected. That's because stakeholders often have varying perspectives on what constitutes a successful portfolio deliverable.

But if we give the wrong store-bought gift to a family member, he or she can return it for an exchange or refund. If a portfolio “gift” isn't what was expected, there's no return policy.


Portfolio managers must ensure the outcome is wanted and appreciated by executives, customers and all other stakeholders. Such a task, of course, takes considerable more time than asking loved ones for their wish lists.

Read more about PMI's new Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)® credential at

For executives, it begins with communication. I prefer the intimacy of in-person discussions, which help build trust among all parties involved. I ask executives about their needs, address their questions and provide updates on the portfolio. What they request—oftentimes increased revenue, growth in customer market share or development of a new product—becomes the guideposts for the portfolio.

Then, portfolio managers must be constantly vigilant and provide proper oversight via regularly scheduled status updates, benefits realization reviews, risk assessments and, of course, more communication to ensure the portfolio is headed the right way. These check-ins monitor a variety of metrics that can measure strategic alignment, resource requirements and risk appetite.

The breadth of metrics ensures more executives are satisfied with the portfolio. For example, the CEO wants to know the success of high-priority initiatives in the market while the CFO wants information on the cost and expected ROI. A multitude of metrics also lets stakeholders see the portfolio is providing the appropriate balance to obtain the best results possible for their organization.

These numbers not only help executives understand the power of the portfolio, but they also help the portfolio manager ensure the right work is being completed. As U.S. business consultant Tom Peters says, “What gets measured gets done.”

Whether giving the perfect gift to our organization or a significant other, we always hope the results of our efforts will be treasured. With the right combination of skills, attention and approaches, we can produce gifts from our portfolios that can be extensively used, provide significant value and be remembered for years to come. PM

img Teresa (Terri) Knudson, PMP, PgMP, is the director of the enterprise portfolio management office at the Mayo Clinic, a PMI Global Executive Council member, Rochester, Minnesota, USA. She can be reached at
This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.




Related Content