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More Suitable, Comprehensive Alternatives to This
on 17 November 2010
This book is part of the Microsoft Executive Leadership Series which consists of a number of publications that have been released over the last few years. It sets out as its aims to tie in the theory and the technology, primarily though not exclusively for an executive audience.
This implies that there is a link, direct or otherwise in the development or adoption of project and portfolio management with technology, something I will come back to later.
Being aimed at an executive audience it is probably not directly targeting the majority of PPSO SIG members. However for any of us who have a portfolio or even a programme office role the content should be of relevance.
While the author does provide some useful inputs and identifies some valuable key points throughout the book it fails in a number of significant ways.
The overall structure set out for the book is to look at the benefits of Project Portfolio Management, the strategic imperative and in later chapters to look at implementation and to develop some areas in more detail with the final chapter looking at future trends in project and portfolio management.
There are Case Studies included in most chapters though these are presented as rather abstract examples and are not fully exploited in supporting the chapter's content. One useful inclusion at the end of each chapter is that of Key Questions which in many cases provide a useful challenge to the reader in their organisation.
While the structure set out in the chapter headings appears rational, the content in each either does not support this or meet the expectations set by it. In Chapter 5 - Ten Things to Do, the author recognises "Everything stems from the creation of business goals". Unfortunately the book starts by looking in detail at ways and key points for capturing new ideas (for projects, innovations or improvements). While much text is spent aligning these to strategic business goals in Chapter 2 I couldn't help thinking that the cart had been put before the horse in establishing the relationship between the strategic objectives of an organisation and the investments and initiatives required to achieve them. There is little else in the book that gives the reader much further insight into the criteria and dimensions that can or should be used in the prioritisation and selection of a project portfolio. This is probably where any Strategic context for the book's content ends.
In Chapter 3 - The Importance of Planning one of the biggest failings of this book becomes very apparent. The author confuses, mixes and fails to distinguish between the disciplines of project management and that of portfolio management, thereby failing to address either effectively. This is something which continues throughout the remainder of book as reference is made to each in a seemingly random way.
From this point onwards much of the content is devoted to more detailed project management techniques covering planning, costing and reporting with very limited reference or context to portfolio management.
In the early chapters there are a few, rather tenuous mentions and links to the use of technology. In later chapters the emphasis changes, as though written by a different person or for a different purpose with significant focus on systems implementation. Had this been done effectively it could perhaps be forgiven in the series context in which the book is published but no input or guidance is provided for identifying the criteria that should be considered when selecting a suitable system, or of the appropriate organisational maturity for when this may be appropriate.
More disturbingly for me were the suggestions in the final chapter that organisational process will need to adapt to reflect changes in technology. Unfortunately the emphasis of the input is on changes and developments within technology and these being of primary importance, with little or no context as to how these may be effectively adopted within project or portfolio management. The importance of exploiting technology where it can provide and add value will undoubtedly continue and we should not exclude the use of it from project or portfolio management. What I suggest is important is that we do not see the technology as the end point, but as an enabler that we can use to be both more effective and efficient in both these disciplines.
There are some trivial sections on the use of certain technologies and in some parts the reader could be forgiven for thinking the author may have forgotten the title of the book as he has included sections unashamedly devoted to technologies without any or limited reference to their application in project or portfolio management.
In the later parts of the book the use of terminology of system, process and tools without any clear distinction as to how it is being used creates further confusion.
Although Chapter 11 - Towards Adaptive Project Management was not written by the author it is as equally out place in a book of this title as much of the authors own content and is little more than a description of some project planning tools & techniques and project management methodologies.
The book overall is very poorly written and structured and while reading it I was reminded of something a fellow PPSO SIG member had said to me some time ago - "If I had more time I would have written less". Applying this principle to this review would have significantly reduced the length of it, but probably rendered it unsuitable for publication!
The vast majority of the content is not appropriate or relevant to the title. While there could be the suspicion that it has just been poorly titled I am not convinced what it actually is - it is neither a good project management nor a good portfolio management book as there are too many significant omissions for either of these.
With the level of detail included on managing the delivery of projects it is certainly not appropriate for the executive level audience it claims to target. For this level of audience something more akin to the OGC Portfolio Management Pocket Guide may be far more relevant.
For project managers and PPSO SIG members I suggest there is no end of far more suitable and comprehensive alternatives for this to be considered of worth or additive.