Single Portfolio View: Unlock confident decision-making with real-time holistic information

In this blog, you’ll learn why having a single portfolio view matters as:

  • A holistic view: A single Portfolio View is a powerful visualisation of your Portfolio health;
  • A risk and performance map: A Single Portfolio View simplifies everyone’s sense-making process in your organisation;
  • An organisation adaptation enabler: The setup and mindset will compound the impact of this aid on the effective management of your Portfolio;
  • A business alignment control: Used well, it brings deep alignment around an always-current understanding of the Portfolio and its alignment with the leadership’s vision and strategy.

What if you had a map to support your portfolio decision-making, showing only relevant information at each appropriate zoom level? 

This is the essence of a Single Portfolio View. It collates all your portfolio data and simply represents its health and value generation. It clearly illustrates the state of your full pipeline of work and its flow efficiency, thereby enabling you to make the hard choices confidently : Pivot or drop? Experiment or optimise?

Let’s look at the benefits of this tool.


Why create a Single Portfolio View?

Your portfolio health, and the information within it will guide many of the decisions your business needs to make. Imagine going through the pain of making sense of all the information related to the health of a portfolio of work. Indeed, your job may well involve going through just that pain. The information is of high volume, routed via different channels, and stored across various artefacts or in different formats, and not all information is of the same quality. Managing all the moving parts within your portfolio might feel like a daunting task that you might not be looking forward to.

Yet, you still need to make the appropriate decisions related to its strategy, orchestration, or implementation. Ideally, you want to consider all important aspects of the portfolio at once:

  • Doing the right thing: strategy and alignment;
  • Doing it at the right time: business context and tracking delivery progress;
  • Doing it the right way: customer experience;
  • Doing it successfully: assessing efficiency and effectiveness to deliver the right thing, evaluating employee engagement and your culture.

As a sense-making tool, a Single Portfolio View’s primary purpose is to bring clarity about your Portfolio’s health: it gives the right people the right information at the right time to be successful. It supports them in making the appropriate decisions related to their jobs.

Regardless of your organisation’s type of delivery model, implementing a Single Portfolio View is highly beneficial at all layers as it provides:

  • A single and near real-time view: It enables you to react faster to any issues confidently by bringing a common and cost-effective real-time map of the work throughout the pipeline. It shows the work’s historical flow and how healthy your delivery systems are. This aligns everyone around a common understanding of the current and forecasted demand, and the effort required to enable the business vision and goals. It also helps identify areas for improvement and opportunities for innovation.
  • A governance view: It enables leaders to focus on impactful portfolio management activities by supporting Senior Leadership and governance roles (ePMO, PMO, etc.) to make important decisions, whether about managing demand, prioritisation (funding or capacity) or improvement (culture, identifying bottlenecks and their impact on the entire flow).
  • A management view: It paints a true picture to leaders who can have confidence in the data, however confronting it might look. It supports you in designing experiments and gauging your impact on the current flow of work wherever you sit in the organisation. All dependencies, risks, and issues are mapped out. They’re accessible for all to see. Everyone works off the same information.


What if an organisation doesn’t use a Single Portfolio View?

Instead of a Single Portfolio View, our observations are that most organisations have multiple separate views of different aspects of their portfolio. This results in having to use a large amount of their Portfolio Management capacity to perform manual information management tasks collecting and distributing status reports and other updates to the detriment of more valuable activities.

This often entails:

  • Unnecessary cognitive load: people at all layers spend time making sense of all the information at their disposal, which diverts them from valuable portfolio management activities;
  • Unnecessary manual work: people at all layers spend time collating and updating information with heavy upfront analysis and manual maintenance, which diverts them from valuable work;
  • Risk to the organisation: partial information of sometimes of poor quality (coverage, currency, accuracy) resulting in misalignment or inaccuracies and ultimately low confidence, trust, and exposure to high risks like reputational damage.


How best to use a Portfolio View?

In short, a Portfolio View is a visual aid using different lenses to make sense of a collection of initiatives aligned with a business goal (strategic initiatives, programs, projects, epics, etc.). This single view enables you to evaluate how well your Portfolio is coming to life and prospering.

It will support sense-making at every layer of your organisation. Different filters might be applied to all the meaningful units of information required to measure the portfolio health: 

  • Culture: do I have a resilient and adaptive organisation?
  • Strategy: do I get the best outcomes for my organisation?
  • Work: Is the work focused on implementing my strategic goals to deliver maximum value?
  • Information: Is my portfolio performing? Do I measure its key aspects the best way?

As a visual aid, it’s also a powerful tool to align the understanding of all stakeholders on the portfolio priorities and your initiatives’ health based on unbiased data. It embodies the principles of transparency and collaboration. 

This map, the Portfolio View, will support all involved in the definition, orchestration, and delivery of the portfolio outcomes. It’s a simple way to collate a snapshot of the current state across the entire cross-section of your portfolio.


Who uses it?

Everyone. The Single Portfolio View gives a sense of place in the overall portfolio effort. In short, it allows:

  • Leaders to focus on strategy. Leaders are confident they’re across all important information. They lead powerful conversations with their board members and shareholders, who trust them as capable leaders. The Single Portfolio View gives them the key and always current information about their Portfolios’ health, as well as business and capabilities gaps and opportunities. 
  • Managers to orchestrate and implement a business strategy into reality. They are confident that the effort invested produces the right outcomes, aligned with their company’s vision and business strategy. As the interface between the abstract strategy and its concrete outcomes, they need to be across all the layers of the Portfolio to validate its health against alignment, progress, roadblocks, and risks. This transparency supports Managers for insightful conversations, enabling Teams of Teams and Teams to deliver their best. 
  • Teams to implement their manager’s orchestration guidance into outcomes. It gives them a holistic and systematic view of the work and their place in the entire Portfolio, thereby enabling a powerful adaptive culture. The view supports the team to build the best solutions that meet the Portfolio objectives: they know that every delivery unit uses and maintains the very same Portfolio Health record information. 
  • Individuals to build a deep sense of place. The view enables everyone to know where they sit in the overall Portfolio landscape and how best to contribute to its success. This is especially true for new joiners. It also reduces the time spent manually building reports: the information is aggregated automatically.

Last but not least, everyone uses the very same information as part of their work.


Portfolio view antipattern

When embedded in a set of delivery practices with a growth mindset, this Single Portfolio View moves the focus away from a manufacturing tradition of maintaining Portfolio delivery and performance to fostering Portfolio continuous health checks and relevance. 

However, the intent with which this tool is used might shift the benefits away towards more controlling behaviours. It requires buy-in from all layers of management and teams involved in the Portfolio of work. This is why we often observe that Teams and Teams of Teams are the first units of the portfolio to reap the benefits of the Single Portfolio View. Scaling up requires your organisation to align with the best intent to fully realise its powerful benefits.


In conclusion

A Single Portfolio View is a powerful tool that brings clarity, a shared understanding and fosters critical strategic conversations. Because it summarises all aspects of your Portfolio, it makes the complexity of keeping in mind all the moving parts in your Portfolio simpler: it’s now all visible in a single frame. However, it might require initial support to unlock its potential appropriately.