Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is set to be one of the hot IT topics for 2012. As a concept, it may sound like stating the obvious – ‘ focusing on selecting and managing a set of projects to meet a specific set of business objectives’ – but as I bet many IT directors and CIOs would agree, the reality is that this often does not happen in an efficient way.

Other factors get in the way and original purpose gets lost in their midst. Therefore, turning the spotlight on which projects to prioritise, particularly as IT becomes increasingly complex, is logical.

PPM is also evolving. According to Gartner, PPM is beginning to evolve from just managing projects to managing value and change within the business, to support strategies that focus on people not technologies. Indeed, PPM is a great example of how the IT function can be better aligned with the business as a whole.

Here are my top five reasons why PPM is going to matter to the IT department in 2012:

  1.  Increase IT’s value and alignment with the business

IT departments that focus on integrating IT more into the portfolio management process can help blur the lines of separation, be part of the value discussion and be viewed as a partner to the business.

  1.  Improve the flow of ideas and work in progress

IT’s earlier involvement in the lifecycle will contribute to better decisions and choices made with the business. It will improve visibility into necessary investments and resources required to meet demand and will allow a more transparent environment for how things get done.

  1.  Advance the quality of ideas and not just the outcome

Understanding the demands of the business will drive IT directors/CIOs to take a closer look at what is possible and will help them judge how well IT can or can’t execute on delivering a given project to a “right first time” level of quality.

  1.  Build trust and integrity into the process

Traditional portfolio management models are plagued by disconnects between business sponsors and IT. While this is similar to solving the alignment issue, I believe the difference is that an IT director or CIO who gets involved earlier in the portfolio management process and embedded more will also help craft a working model that has much better checkpoints and gateways for decision-making. This will result in a framework with more integrity and less bureaucracy.

  1.  Establish the IT department’s role as strategic one once more

With so much being written about the value of the IT function each year, those who look at portfolio management as a lifecycle that permeates the whole business have an opportunity to be more strategic and insightful. They can position themselves as the custodians of technology and advancement, instead of just being viewed a cost centre.

Of course, there is a whole raft of tools out there to help get the job done, with more and more vendors getting on board the PPM bandwagon. However, as I’ve hopefully illustrated in this brief article, successful PPM is about people – their involvement, their attitude, their leadership – not technology, or at least, not technology on its own.

Visionary CIOs or IT directors who ‘get’ PPM have a chance to change the IT department’s image for once and for all, to help drive value or enable change that has impact across an organisation. I have high hopes for PPM in 2012.