Sustainable Innovation through Portfolio, Program, and Project Management
Brian Grafsgaard, PMP, PgMP
Sustainable innovation requires that the organization develop an innovation
management ecosystem to manage the entire innovation process,
from defining the problem (empathy), ideating solutions to the problem
(creativity), developing and implementing the solution (execution), to realizing
the resulting benefits through adoption. Phillips (2012, p. 60) elaborates
on this life cycle and defines the corresponding activities including:
- Spotting trends to understand potential future needs and opportunities,
- Gathering customer insights, needs, and jobs to be done,
- Generating ideas based on these inputs,
- Managing, developing, and evaluating ideas,
- Prototyping and piloting ideas,
- Selecting the best ideas to commercialize,
- Converting ideas into new products and services,
- Launching new products and services.
This ecosystem may have its underpinnings in a new product development
phase gate methodology or another methodology. The ideal solution has to
cover the entire spectrum and provide an integrated approach from beginning
to end, the fuzzy front end through adoption and continuous improvement.
Many innovation experts recommend that an idea management solution
be put in place and that ideas be managed like a portfolio. The result is
that idea managementproblem identification (empathy), idea generation
(creativity), and idea screening (high-level business case)and the idea
portfolio become part of the overall innovation management ecosystem,
integrated with portfolio management and program/project management
to create an "innovation value chain," as defined by Williams (2011).
The organization must also develop its portfolio, program, and project
management capabilities in order to sustain innovation. Portfolio, program,
and project management integrate with idea management and each
other to add value to the innovation process, from organizational strategy
to the discrete work packages and deliverables that are ultimately required.
Program management effectively addresses the change, ambiguity,
uncertainty, and risk inherent in the innovation process. Project management
also addresses the change, uncertainty, and risk, but at a different
level. Project management also integrates with program management to
produce the outcomes that contribute to the program’s intended benefits.
Both of these capabilities integrate with change management to ensure that
the program’s outcomes and benefits can be adopted and sustained. And,
finally, portfolio management integrates with program management to
bridge the gap between organizational strategy and execution to ensure the
right ideas are being pursued, and resources are being allocated to them.
Program management, coupled with portfolio management
and project management, enables the innovation process and
how these capabilities integrate to create value and help eliminate the barriers
- Program management effectively addresses the change, ambiguity,
uncertainty, and risk inherent in the innovation process.
- Project management integrates with program management to produce
the outcomes that contribute to the program’s intended benefits.
- Both capabilities integrate with change management to foster
- Portfolio management integrates with program management to
bridge the gap between organizational strategy and execution and
ensure that the right ideas are being pursued.
- Portfolio management also ensures that the proper resources are
being allocated (although the program manager still has to procure
Some of the benefits of a sustainable innovation management ecosystem, as defined
during an interview with Markgraf (e-mail communication, February 22,
2012), include the benefits of a mature program management capability:
- Provide a consistent, repeatable process to take a concept from idea to
adoption, resulting in more effective and efficient innovation initiatives.
- Help create and enable a sustainable technical competitive advantage
that increases growth and productivity.
- Ensure the technology plan supports the organization’s strategies
and provides competitive advantage.
- Identify opportunities to optimize the company’s investments at the
enterprise level using efficient, effective processes.
- Provide an opportunity to create a "single culture" in sharing knowledge
and perspectives across the enterprise.
- Promote the sharing of strategy information between the organizational
domains and foster the sharing of ideas.
- Encourage a close relationship between innovators and program/
product development to improve the visibility of new innovations
that further enable strategy, capabilities, and program success.
- Promote technical excellence and innovation in the products, services,
and capabilities developed for external customers.
- Encourage and recognize people that contribute to the success of
programs through innovative solutions.
- Partner with suppliers on the use or development of technologies that
together provide an outcome that normally could not be achieved.
- Promote trade studies as part of the program’s research and development
(R&D) cycle to identify and select the best use of technology
- Set high expectations as program managers that encourage people to
meet challenging goals and require innovative solutions to achieve
- Act as a bridge between business development, R&D, sales and marketing,
company needs, and supplier capabilities.
Markgraf, S., Senior Manager, Program Management Office, Boeing Commercial Aviation,
The Boeing Company (e- mail interview, 22 February 2012).
Phillips, J. (2012). Relentless innovation: What works, what doesn’t and what that means for
your business. New York, NY: McGraw- Hill.
Williams, P. R. (2011). Is phase gate the right tool for the job? Next practices in innovation
management. De Pere, WI: American Institute for Innovation Excellence (AIIE).
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