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Portfolio management – Interview with Ipek Sahra Özgüler

By Simon Buehring on 20 Mar 2020

Portfolio management

Portfolio management is often thought of as one step up from programme management, and 2 steps up from project management. Learn about portfolio management in this interview with Ipek Sahra Ozguler, a project portfolio manager at TAV IT, a core technology provider and systems integration company specialising in aviation.

A great read for anyone wanting to learn more about portfolio management from someone who has been there and done it themselves.

portfolio management definition - mindmap

Please explain your definition of portfolio management

I want to explain the definition of portfolio management given in the Standard for Portfolio Management (2013) from the PMI. In PMI’ s view, portfolio management is the coordinated management of one or more portfolios, a component collection of programs, projects, or operations, to achieve organizational strategies.

According to this standard, the three process groups are defined as follows: Defining, Aligning, Authorizing and Controlling. In addition, there are five knowledge areas: Portfolio Strategic Management, Portfolio Governance Management, Portfolio Performance Management, Portfolio Communication Management and Portfolio Risk Management. The knowledge areas explain what is important in portfolio management. The outputs of the portfolio management processes are: the Portfolio Strategic Plan, Portfolio Charter, Portfolio Roadmap, Portfolio Management Plan, Portfolio, Portfolio Performance Management Plan, Portfolio Communication Management Plan, Portfolio Risk Management Plan and Portfolio Reports.

Why did you select portfolio management as a profession?

When I was working as a project manager, my main responsibility was to deliver the project objectives on time and within budget. During this time I realized that delivering a project on time and within budget and meeting the project objectives are not adequate for organizations. Delivering the right projects however, on time and within budget is important for them.

Organizations have to use their limited resources (time, money, people) as efficiently as possible by allocating them to the right projects in order to achieve the organization’s strategic objectives. A key question is how to achieve this? Portfolio management is the answer. It is a bridge. This bridge exists to connect the organization’s strategic objectives both to projects and programs and also to operations. After discovering this fact, I decided to choose portfolio management as my profession.

What are the main responsibilities of a portfolio manager?

As a portfolio manager, my main responsibility is to move the organization to the future by executing the organization’s strategy. A portfolio manager ensures the organization is doing the right work by following a portfolio management process. Doing the right work means making sure we are achieving the organization’s strategy and objectives.

In addition, a portfolio manager gives guidance on identifying, evaluating, selecting, prioritizing and defining portfolios. The role also establishes and maintains portfolio management processes and then follows these processes.

Another key aspect to the role is to ensure all the different portfolio components (projects, programs, operations) are aligned with the strategic objectives. The portfolio manager also monitors the performance of portfolios, manages strategic changes, communications and risks, and produces portfolio reports which are used by executives to make business decisions. The portfolio manager also manages the relationships between projects, programs and operations.

What do you see as the main differences between portfolio management, program management and project management?

The perspective is different. The perspective of project management and program management is “doing work right” but the perspective of portfolio management is “doing the right work.”

What is the future of portfolio management?

The world has changed very rapidly in the last 50 years – the technology and business environment has changed as well as people’s relationships with them. The world is getting more complex and unpredictable. If organizations want to continue to do business in the future they have to determine where the organization is going, develop strategies for adapting to the changing world, and then implement these strategies effectively.

In addition, organizations have to be able to reduce risks and be able to increase the return on investment compared with their competitors. But how? The answer is simple. As I previously stated, the answer lies with portfolio management. Portfolio management is a key integrator between the future and the present. The portfolio shows where the organization is going. The managers should focus on strategic goals. Portfolio management processes should be standardized and followed. Organizations need to look at the big picture. If an organization wants to benefit from portfolio management, a common understanding amongst senior management needs to be developed.

Could you give me more detail about the connection between portfolio management and strategic management?

Before answering this question, I should explain what is meant by strategy. Johnson and Scoles stated the definition of strategy as follows: “strategy is the direction and scope of an organization over the long term”. Dr. Vladimir Kyint stated the definition of strategic management as “a system of finding, formulating and developing a doctrine that will ensure long term success if followed faithfully.”

As I mentioned before, portfolio management is a key integrator between the present and the future. Portfolio components such as projects, programs and operations represent the present. Strategy is about the future. Strategic management enables us to realize the future.

If someone is thinking about moving into portfolio management for their career, what advice would you give to them?

Only two words. Think big. If someone wants to change his or her career path and wants to become a portfolio manager and to be a key integrator between the present and the future then first of all they need to develop a mindset which enables them to see the bigger picture.

Ipek Sahra Özgüler, a project portfolio manager in TAV IT PMO, has more than 13 years' experience in various areas such as portfolio management, program management, project management, software management, business analysis. She has managed a wide-variety of projects across manufacturing, defence, FMCG (Cola Cola), telecommunication, audit (Deloitte), ICT and aviation sectors and has gained broader insights.

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