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Project Management vs. Project Portfolio Management

Navigating the world of project management can feel like being lost in a labyrinth of buzzwords and methodologies. Two terms that often cause confusion are ‘project management' and 'Project Portfolio Management.' As an IT leader or project manager, understanding these terms is crucial for your organization's success.

Project Management: Achieving Goals One Project at a Time

Traditional project management is all about guiding a single, unique project from inception to completion. This approach is concerned with achieving specific, short-term goals, often within a set timeline and budget. Here are the key features of traditional project management:

  • Single Project Focus: Each project is managed individually, with a clear beginning and end.
  • Goal-Oriented: The primary aim is to achieve the project's objectives, whether developing a new product, improving a process, or launching a marketing campaign.
  • Efficiency: It's about executing projects right, ensuring they're completed on time, within budget, and to the required quality standards.

Project Portfolio Management: Seeing the Bigger Picture

On the other hand, Project Portfolio Management (PPM) takes a broader view. It's about balancing and managing multiple projects at once, each contributing to the long-term strategic objectives of the organization. Here are the main characteristics of project portfolio management:

  • Multiple Project Management: Rather than focusing on individual projects, this approach manages a collection of projects or programs within a business or organization.
  • Strategic Alignment: The emphasis is on achieving long-term organizational goals, ensuring that every project aligns with the company's strategic vision.
  • Prioritization: It's about executing the right projects, and prioritizing resources and efforts on projects that offer the most significant potential benefits or strategic value.

To put it simply, while traditional project management ensures your project is done right, Project Portfolio Management ensures you are doing the right projects.

Choosing the Right Approach

Understanding these differences can help you choose the right approach for your organization. If you're dealing with a single, unique project, traditional project management methods might be the best fit. However, if you're juggling multiple projects that contribute to long-term objectives, project portfolio management may be the way forward. Remember, the goal is not to choose between traditional project management and project portfolio management but to understand how each can contribute to your organization's success. In the end, it's all about delivering value - to your customers, your stakeholders and your organization.

A Case Study: The Positive Impact of PPM

Kern Family Health Care, a Medi-Cal managed care health plan serving residents of Kern County, California, uses TeamDynamix PPM to manage all projects within the organization. With a simple and intuitive user interface, TeamDynamix makes it easy for project managers to evaluate project requests, approve and prioritize initiatives, assign resources and track and report on progress.

TeamDynamix helps EPMO staff keep projects on course, establish clear expectations, and allocate resources more effectively. “With TeamDynamix, I always have a source of truth on project data,” LaVonne Banks, director of Kern Health Systems’ enterprise project management office (EPMO), said. When implemented correctly PPM can be immensely valuable for maximizing success and profitability in any organization.

This is the case at Kern where TeamDynamix PPM has brought greater transparency to the project management process. It also saves Banks and her staff a great deal of time when they want to understand the status of projects and report this to organizational leaders. “I love the platform’s reporting features,” she says. “They’re super easy to use. Being able to pull reports and quickly see real-time data is wonderful.”

Another key benefit of TeamDynamix is that it helps EPMO staff get out ahead of potential issues before they become full-blown problems. While some challenges are beyond the control of project managers, having greater insight makes it more likely that projects will be completed on time and under budget.

“We can quickly identify resource constraints and make adjustments when unexpected circumstances arise,” Banks says. “Because we can identify these issues earlier, we have a better chance of staying on top of resource management.”

Better transparency leads to more accountability and, ultimately, a higher success rate on projects.

When implemented successfully, PPM can bring many benefits to an organization. It ensures better visibility, better resource allocation and improved prioritization, allowing organizations to optimize returns on investment and achieve their strategic goals.