Concepts and Vocabulary for a P3M Data Model

Control of Portfolio, Program and Project Needs Data

To oversee change requires two things. In fact it isn’t change we should single out; it’s governance – full stop.

Change is just a part of the whole. The whole is governance. Governance is the care of assets. Typically the care by some people of the assets of others. The care of assets should be led and managed with equal diligence and competence through both routine cyclic operations and through episodes of change.

Those two things we need are:

  1. A model of how the world works and
  2. Data that we can analyse into being information that is suitable for decision making.

Jump to Definitions and Jump to Data Model below.

Perhaps they are both one thing. Is data the result of measuring and information the result of putting data into the model and tracing the linkages to give foresight?

It troubles me that our ability to lead and manage change is particularly poor. It troubles me thaht we know this and have not fixed it.

I trace poor performance to the use of poor models commonly published in well known standards and text books. Our poor track record proves the old models – and I include ‘agile’ in the list – are falling short. The text books were never correct but the errors were previously unobservable and less significant than today’s volatile, uncertain, complex (emergent) and ambiguous (VUCA) world makes them.

It troubles me that we have better models; they just are not well known or commonly used. The P3M Data Club is building a better model by integrating what ts member’s know about the governance of portfolios, programs and projects. That knowledge spans project data but also – and more importantly – the morale and social aspects of change, the linkages between Main board, Portfolio selection (Investment Committee) and Program Governance (Portfolio (sic) progress oversight).

Business demand has always been for ‘agility’. The rise of VUCA pressures increases the stress on ‘not-quiet-right’ solutions whose historic weakness wasn’t a survival threat but is now increasingly a thrive/ survive distinguishing factor.

In some fields such as software new approaches are available. Capital A Agile has responded to the VUCA needs. Increasingly people know and apply “Agile” outside software to any product development areas; Its still (just) a better output delivery engine. We still need better outcome and benefit delivery for performance improvements in governance over assets.

Currently organisational lifespans are shrinking. Those leadership and management patterns of the past are unequal to the challenges of today. Better chances  of survival and the potential to thrive need ‘good’ data for decision making.

The question then is who makes what decisions?, when?, with what data?, supplied through what procedures?, from what sources?, via what analysis and synthesis? Leading to what actions?, by whom?, in what roles/ competencies/ authorities? – The total is a P3m Data Model.

For justification, explanation and a lead-in to pragmatic guidance see >>>The #FlatEarth post here<<<).

P3M Data Club

A band of Portfolio, Program and Project management consultants have for some weeks recently (Q1-2019) been building a data model to help improve the ability of organisations to capture and interpret project data for program, portfolio and governance needs. They ‘inhabit’ a linked in group (>>>Here<<<).

A thumbnail of aims and activities is, “If we had a common data-model then tools – software and dashboards and analytical engines – would be able to interact; plug and play! If we had the right data with the right relationships, then creating ‘management-information’ would be a repeatable, reliable process subject to continuous process improvement and development. The data relationships would become more widely understood and delivery of change (and oversight of all assets and benefits from organisational activity will improve). So who are the stakeholders? Their roles? The forums they meet in? The decisions they make? Based on what information? Derived from what data?”

Below is some of my thinking that contributes to the debate and model building.

Other contributors are most welcome


A List of Definitions derived from the arguments in >>>#FlatEarth<<< (Return to top#)

The description of our reason for being – Why this pool of capital exists – e.g. Feed the homeless
What guides our style and decision making – What we hold to be ‘right’ – e.g. Be swift, Be cautious, Be fair, Grab opportunity
Our CURRENT target(s) derived from Mission plus Values plus Marketplace circumstances.
When vision matches operational capability, no change is required. When vision and operational capability have gaps, changes (program/s) is/are required.
Vision should be expressed with statements of the form of Benefit-Tests –  “As <leader’s role> I see and hear <behaviours> in <context> on <date> at <location> that tell me we have arrived at benefits flowing” – This is a hypothesis in Effect and Cause written in hindsight terms.
A fuller description is
Objective and Goal
Words to avoid as they have too much baggage and confusion with vision:
A decision making under uncertainty structure that leads or directs a collection of resources to transform the organisation’s current pattern of integrated asset use. It is (should normally be) comprised of at least one social engineering workstream and zero or more technical engineering workstreams and one or more workstreams that bring the integrated whole into routine operations (sun and moon based cadence).
NB this is NOT the common ‘geocentric’ #flatEarth textbook definition.
A decision making under uncertainty structure that manages a collection of resources to acquire or create or adapt (and possibly but rarely bring into day-to-day use) one or more changes to an organisation’s collection of assets. See Capital
A role/person/committee (chair) that expresses a vision of what is to be achieved and applies resources to the pursuit of that vision. In so doing, they create accountability in themselves and responsibility in all those people with time and skill who declare they have the will to contribute to achieving the vision. Will or motivation arises because people see a benefit to themselves.
A role/person who oversees repeated execution of defined procedures. In a change context they facilitate a group of people to debate how to decompose (or backcast) a received vision into descriptions of operational behaviours local to their responsibilities, decompose behaviours to the enabling social and technical prerequisites and then use received resources to achieve the resulting Tipping-Points and Milestone and Benefit-flows.
(Operational Management or Operational Leadership)
The leader/manager or supervisor who integrates and adjusts social and technical enablers into Business as usual habits that maximise achievement of organisational values and mission. Initial integration creates the pre-conditions for benefit-flows. Adjustment optimises the benefit-flows; for example for maximum effectiveness or highest efficiency.
Tipping Point
A recognisable (binary: is/isn’t) point at which social and technical enablers are provably in place and integration commences. Each separately meets its creation/acquisition milestone ‘Definition of Done’.
           A largely operational concept aimed at achieving the most output for the least input.
  1. Note that ‘local optimisation’ as driven by poorly defined incentive schemes typically degrades the overall ROCE/EBITDA and so is NOT in the equity owner’s best interests which favour Global Optimisation.
  2. In project and program environments flexibility in the face of emergent challenges is a critical success factor. Flexibility typically requires resources assigned in readiness to react so not currently generating a visible benefits-flow. Thus ensuring survival looks inefficient – until an adaptive challenge arrives.
The description of a transformation in universal ‘always applies’ terms. E.g. ‘Sugar dissolves in tea’/’Projects are authorised before commitment’.
The anthropomorphic, local description of HOW a process is implemented by reference to triggers, timings, roles, authorisations, e.g. ‘Using a dry tea-spoon…’ or ‘Unwrap each lump…’/’Draft a Mandate on template M-1 and submit to the investment committee secretariat by the 12th of the month’.
The point at which the results of people’s efforts demonstrably match the definition of done.
Definition of Done
A comprehensive, agreed, balanced (etc) set of tests that confirm what was asked for has been completed. DoD attempts to be holistic of the recipient’s view point and not just stop at a supplier’s limited ‘Conforms to Specification (so pay the bill!)’
(DoD is beyond just Verification. Compare with Acceptance and Validation).
The confirmation that an agreed obligation has been met. Typically on Validation that a result is Fit for Purpose.
The successful confirmation that a result – final or intermediate – matches its specification or ‘Conforms to Specification’.
The condition created in a requester to respond to the needs of those they represent (equity owners and employees) when decisions and or resources are needed to achieve the targets that they set. Accountability is ‘for the achievement of a self-defined target. Accountability rests in one person. In ‘corporate’ structures (committees) the SPA is the chairperson.
The condition created in a contributor to achieving a target when they confirm will, skill and time to contribute. A primary aspect of responsibility is to escalate instructions to act to the Accountable person when the target/vision is under threat or has opportunities from the current combination of constraints.

A limit beyond which it is not possible or not allowed to proceed. Some constraints come from the laws of physics others from regulation, others from opinion, culture and habit.
Constraints are irrelevant when they do not impinge on each other. When two or more concurrent constraints are contradictory then one or other HAS to be changed if mutually acceptable success is to be achieved.
The detection and handling of mutually incompatible concurrent constraints is handled by the escalation aspect of the issue management process and is one of the sponsor’s key roles.

Something believed and relied upon when decision making about the future (so typically within planning activities) that is taken to be true, real or certain and for which no evidence is available and which if an error of belief will materially invalidate the plan.
The life-span of an assumption is from discovery to either confirmation, denial or expiration of the conclusions based on it. The life-cycle of an assumption is 1) to be identified and 2) to be shared 3) to underpin one or more decisions until 4) one of the above three outcomes. The duties associated with an assumption are that everyone who comes in contact with it must a) declare if they can translate it to fact or fiction and if not then b) share with all other stakeholders they have access to and impose the same obligations
Accuracy of Estimates
An expression of whether final measurements will match prior predictions. All estimates should be accurate at all times – the price of accuracy is precision. It is the providers duty to ensure estimates are always accurate. It is the recipients challenge to determine if the precision is sufficient for their needs for Decision Making Under Uncertainty.
Precision of Estimates
The degree of variation an estimate contains within its range. Typically accurate estimates start out imprecise.
Basis of Estimate
The factors, relationships, historic-empirical facts used to predict some future quantity.
It is the BoE not the generated range that matters (A helio-centric observation ignored in most ‘geocentric’ writings)  BECAUSE a BoE is a dynamic collection of elements. At any point in time the BoE generates a CURRENT range of values.
The twin objectives of a BoE are to generate stable values with a range matched to the leader’s and manager’s needs for Decision Making Under Uncertainty. Matched needs include speed with which the estimate is produced, the range required for accuracy and the stability of the accurate range.
NOTE: it is common that many BoE elements are under the influence of Leaders (Target setters) Managers (Workstream supervisors) and Social/ Technical ‘engineers’.
The sum total of all assets at our disposal – the most important being our people and their shared understanding of how to interact to generate benefits. We should also discuss ‘contract’, ’employment’, ‘equity’, ‘debt’ ‘balance sheet’ etc – i.e. equity, people’s efforts and debt. Together three sources of Capital and the rewards for capital’s use – Wages, Dividends and Interest.
Expression of positive utility (? This is a poor definition – Maybe Utility – The subjective assessment of a current or future state. Where utility is positive the states is regarded as beneficial
What is given up in exchange for or pursuit of some benefit.
The surplus of benefit after costs. Often difficult to assess as the majority of costs and benefits related to a current or future state of operations are seen differently, contributed to differently and received differently by different people.
An enabled but unexploited potential benefit stream.


Data Model (Return to Top)

  • An organisation has one or more Assets
    • Assets are listed in the Balance sheet defined and managed by the CFO
    • Assets may be Plant and machinery, Systems, Relationships and Reputation, People…
  • An organisation has one of more in-flows and one or more out-flows. In-flows normally include raw materials, labour and benefits and outflows include wages, costs and products
    • In-flows and out-flows are listed in the organisations management accounts, variously called Income and Expenditure or Profit and Loss
      NOTE where ‘material’ in- and out- flows are not listed in the management accounts some other form of reporting to equity owners must be in operation
  • An organisation has one or more portfolios
  • A Portfolio has one or more Operational work-streams plus zero or more Programs of change
  • A Program has zero or more technical work streams and one* or more social work-streams (it might seem imaginable that zero is possible, for example when infrastructure is replaced without any social-behavioural change such as launderette switching electricity supplier but there is still a behaviour change by someone – eg which bank account is set as the target for automated payments)
  • A work-stream has one or more inflows and one or more outflows and uses one or more assets
    • Where more than one asset is involved then assets have zero or more interactions with each other assets and a minimum of one interaction in total
    • A work-stream creates zero or more operational outcomes and zero or more changes to the organisation’s state
      • Note the minimum affect of a work-stream is an operational output or an organisational state change
  • An asset contributes to one or more work-streams* (use as a a risk-mitigation where the asset appears idle because it stands in readiness for an uncertain event is still a work-stream – although an unusual one)
  • A change oriented work-stream has one or more phases or stages or releases or sprints or work-packages or…
  • A phase/ stage etc creates one or more deliverable (physical or intangible…) or integrates two or more deliverables
  • A deliverable has one or more acceptance criteria or Definition of Done
    • A deliverable has states – Work not started, Work in Progress, Ready for Test, Awaiting Rework, Ready for Integration, Delivered, In beneficial use, Retired or scrapped
    • A deliverable moves through its life-span as a result of transformations defined first in a Development Life-Cycle then in a Service Level (or similar) Agreement
  • Acceptance criteria define one or more tests with a binary outcome of passed-failed. Pass-Fail may be assessed by a one or more scales with individual and aggregate minimum/ maximum acceptable values
  • A work-stream has an agreed baseline
    • A baseline has states – Agreed/ Subject to change
  • This list is incomplete