A new standard for portfolio management has been published – but who should be using it, and how will it help?
Steven Fahrenkrog, Project Leader for ISO 21504:2015 Guidance on portfolio management explains the difference between projects, portfolios, and programmes:
'A project is perhaps the most common of the three. It refers to work with a defined beginning and end that results in a clear deliverable, anything from a new house or software to an upgrade, like increasing the ability to produce more cars on an assembly line.
'Programmes are groups of projects, and related work, that are managed together. The programme’s benefits are delivered by all the projects under its scope and tied to one or more of the organisation's objectives.
'Portfolios are a collection of projects, programmes, and related work, which are tied to a group of organisational objectives or strategic objectives. Usually, we would expect all of an organisation’s work to be accounted for within one or more portfolio.'
So why an ISO standard? Miles Shepherd, chair of ISO/TC 258, the committee that developed the standard, said an international standard was needed to draw attention to global best practice.
'ISO brings together subject matter experts from countries around the world, so that they can agree and put together the best guidance. Standards give both credibility and confidence. If you feel that your organisation is struggling to manage and coordinate all its work or, if you simply need help to account for everything your organisation is doing and see whether it contributes to meeting its objectives, then ISO 21504 is for you.
'What’s unique about the standard is that it will help you make sure that you are ready to implement a portfolio, as well as manage it.'
President of the Project Management Institute of New Zealand (PMI NZ), Helen Telford, said PMI NZ firmly supports the development and release of ISO 21504: Guidance on portfolio management.
'As the profession of project management matures it is documents like this, other ISO standards such as ISO 21500 Guidance on project management, and The PMBOK® Guide that provide sources of best practice within the profession. As organisations look to improve the delivery of portfolios, programmes, and projects they can turn to, and draw best practice from, standards such as ISO 21504. Capturing, documenting, and making readily available to organisations and practitioners sources of best practice can only serve to improve delivery of, and success rates of, projects throughout New Zealand.'
ISO 21504 is part of a wider family of standards for project, programme and portfolio managers, including ISO 21500 on project management and ISO 21503 on programme management (under development).