Building an effective portfolio team- Whom to recruit

Building an effective portfolio team- Whom to recruit

If you already defined the scope of your portfolio, it’s now time to identify the initial portfolio team members. Let’s assume that you want to include both a reactive and proactive portfolio management strategy. That means you’ll need to be able to handle outside requests for resources, plus actively investigate new problems and opportunities.

Here’s a four-step process for narrowing in on the best candidates.


Step 1) Evaluate your current situation

In your current organization, who…

  • Controls the budget? (ie. who decides how to spend the money)
  • Manages the budget? (ie. who tracks revenues and expenses)
  • Is held accountable for organizational performance by outside stakeholders?
  • Has broad knowledge about the organization, such as the business model, processes, technology stack, or customers?
  • Keeps up with the trends in your industry? Potential future shifts?
  • Can represent the groups executing the work?
  • Has the skills and knowledge to create a business case, explore potential solution options, and validate if a solution is on track to provide the desired value?
  • Could help the group continuously evaluate how they’re working and improve their portfolio management approach?
  • Is currently a source of new ideas for changes?
  • Is currently not involved in discussions about changes but in charge of a large portion of the organization’s resources?


Step 2) Scan for representation coverage

Now that you have some idea of who is currently involved in portfolio allocation, use these prompts to identify who to include going forward and where there may still be gaps.

People with knowledge and interest in the big picture (both future vision and current state)

They can provide insight into the impact of delaying a change. Along with guidance on interim states for the enterprise as it evolves toward the vision.

  • Business representatives who can speak to the business architecture and strategy.
  • Technical representatives who can speak to the technical architecture and strategy.
  • Customer experience representatives who can speak to the customer perspective and experience strategy.
  • Operations, customer service, or call center representatives. Anyone directly involved in making sure the current business model runs smoothly who can speak to the current challenges.
  • Policy experts who can speak to the impact of upcoming legislation.
  • Representatives from the teams executing the work, who can speak to large investments they need to improve their work.
  • People who can facilitate productive conversations among the multiple viewpoints.


People who can provide insight into the cost or time required to implement the change

They have the deepest knowledge about what it really takes to turn dreams into reality.

  • Managers who are tracking resource allocation.
  • Architects, team members on the ground, and change leaders who can speak to the complexity of delivering a change.
  • Managers who can speak to the budget and burn rate.


People who have authority to make budgetary decisions and are accountable for the results

They are accountable for how the money is spent and the ultimate results the portfolio delivers.

  • Executives. They may ask everyone for input, but they can determine how decisions are made and who can make which types of financial decisions.
  • Tends to include the most senior person within the scope of the portfolio such as the CEO or the director of the technical or business unit.
  • You may have different people accountable for different price points or outcomes. For example, maybe everyone can spend money up to a certain dollar amount, but larger investments require CEO approval.


People who can help speed up the flow of work so that you’re frequently learning or delivering value

They support the enterprise by facilitating the portfolio management process and removing roadblocks to getting work done.

  • Analysts who can do a high pass of research to identify which people to pull in for further information.
  • People who will manage the backlog and track notes.
  • Data analysts who can help stakeholders find the data or collect the data they need to make better decisions.
  • People who can facilitate discussions about alternative funding, allocation, or sequencing scenarios to make decisions about portfolio investments as a whole.


Step 3) Gravitate toward specific personality types

If you have a choice, lean toward Mobilizer personalities for your initial team. There are three main types.

  • Go-Getters- Will drive work forward. They will do the work or find and motivate other people who will.
  • Teachers- Will help communicate the process and vision in a compelling way. They are especially helpful during the portfolio startup phase and when onboarding new members or stakeholders.
  • Skeptics- Will help identify potential obstacles ahead of time and push the group to continuously adapt and improve. They will advocate for small wins and continuous justification of activities, encouraging the operation to stay lean and delivering value.


Watch out for a team with too many commentators or listeners who aren’t willing to analyze, complete the work, or provide constructive feedback. Having at least one mobilizer personality representing each perspective (business, technical, customer) is the best way to build an effective portfolio team. Otherwise, the portfolio can become lop-sided, with more initiatives related to the stronger areas. Or worse, portfolio team members can end up frustrated and jaded, causing the team to slide into burnout or inertia.

You will probably have people who can span multiple areas listed above, which is great. If not, you might need to get creative with matrixed roles to provide a variety of perspectives when appropriate, without the team ballooning beyond a productive size. Around 6-7 core members is a good target. That core group can consult with others as needed.


Step 4) Decide on part-time or full-time

Should you lean toward matrixed or full-time roles?

The benefit of matrixed roles, who contribute to the portfolio team alongside their other work, is that they have on the ground insights from the rest of their job. If they’re on an execution team, they can also help drive a project forward from conception to delivery. However, people who work on both strategic and tactical work may often be pulled into tactical priorities, leaving little time for strategy.

In contrast, full-time roles have more time to dig into analysis and design and bond as a team. Full-time roles are especially important if you’re at the beginning of a complex transformation and need to figure out what to change, why, and how you’ll structure the funding. The more complex your enterprise, the more valuable full-time roles are. They’ll be able to spend more time reviewing the agency and external market to identify problems and opportunities. If you can afford it, go with a few full-time members and invite other roles to participate. Otherwise, make sure that matrixed roles have enough time to step back out to the strategic perspective to evaluate the enterprise from a higher level.


By the end of this exercise, you’ll have a list of core portfolio team members and optional or occasional invitees. You can always adjust the team over time, but this core team will be able to add value quickly.

If you’d like custom guidance for your organization, creating a transition plan is part of what we offer to clients building out their portfolio. Check out our services and book a consult here if you’re interested in learning more.

Does the group of people making portfolio decisions in your organization include these perspectives? Which one(s) are you missing?

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