UK: Portfolio Management for e-Government

Last Updated: 7 August 2003
Article by Ivan Hall

"The fundamental question in today’s turbulent business environment is how does an enterprise select the right business and technology investments, and then turn those investments into tangible results."

Michael Poehner, Chief Executive Officer,
Fujitsu Consulting
[an extract from "The Information Paradox"1]

The possibilities are infinite but it’s winners that Government needs now. How do Government organisations ensure they are picking the winners? And once picked, how do they ensure they stay the course?


The benefits from e-Government are significant both in terms of improved service delivery and improved performance. Picking e-Government programmes that will turn out to be winners, however, is more of a lottery. There is competition between projects, investment resources are scarce and anticipated benefits are sometimes less than tangible. Added to this, Government’s track record of delivering significant IT-related projects makes for poor reading. Some commentators consider there are high profile projects that should never have got to the starting gate.

So how can Government organisations align their investments with their e-Government strategies? How do they differentiate between alternative (and apparently worthy) e-Government projects? And how do they build a balanced portfolio, a justifiable e-Government Delivery Programme, that maximises benefits for customers, staff and other stakeholders?

Portfolio Management can help address all these issues, this article describes how.

The e-Government story so far

Government always recognised that the drive towards e-Government would encounter some significant risks. In response to these risks, most Government organisations have established e-Government strategies that align their aims and objectives with their formative change plans.

These strategies and plans have certainly clarified e-Government thinking. However, they have also brought a myriad of competing possibilities for change, often with technology as the common enabler. The resulting problem is that there are now more ideas for potential investments than capability and resources to execute them. This means that priorities have to be determined and choices made. But how do you do that when:

  • Change is contextual. Simply repeating the good practice of others does not guarantee the same level of benefits will be attained
  • Circumstances change too. Benefits that are expected from an investment today may not be there tomorrow. You can’t assume that benefits are "locked in"
  • Human factors can be major inhibitors. People have a limited capacity for change and significant investment is needed to attain (and maintain) their commitment
  • Prioritising investments on pure political considerations can be bad news. There’s no room for pet projects or an environment where "decibels produce decisions"!
  • Investments for a short-term financial return are often ineffective. But a longer-term financial return (invest to save for example) can provide much-needed focus
  • There is a blurring of boundaries between Government sectors. This can, however, provide opportunities to "push the envelope" and to pool resources, capabilities and infrastructure.

Fundamental change is afoot

Building on existing strategies and learning experiences, the task currently facing Government organisations is to establish a robust e-Government Delivery Programme (eGDP) that delivers on their e-strategy commitments; is adequately resourced; and demonstrates a justifiable return on investment. A credible eGDP will not only demonstrate the relationships between drivers, enablers and beneficial outcomes at a programme/project level, but will also track interdependencies between programmes.

Building and gaining commitment to such an eGDP can, however, be challenging. So far, most Government organisations have focused their strategic developments on the electronic provision of information. This has proved relatively straightforward, as developments have tended to be stand-alone and have used existing capabilities and proven technologies. The trail between drivers and outcomes has also been relatively easy to follow.

It’s the next phase of the programme that will be much more demanding. If benefits are to be optimised and risks contained, fundamental changes - business, organisational and technological – will be essential. What’s needed now is:

  • A mindset of business transformation directed to the needs of customers, staff and other stakeholders
  • A focus on e-enabling higher volume services and maximising take up
  • The use of common building blocks that provide cost effective support and reuse
  • A commitment to risk management rather than avoidance
  • Genuine collaboration between Government and partners in the public, commercial and voluntary sectors.

According to Forester Research, 86% of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) have experienced reductions in their IT budgets. And prioritisation tops their list of concerns.

At Meta Group, Industry analysts estimate that effective portfolio management of investment programmes can reduce costs by 30-40%.

The Big Issues

The right mindset, focus and commitment are all key e-Government enablers. Inevitably there are blockers and some hard choices down the line; for example, how do you:

  • Do more with less – investment choices that make the budget go further?
  • Compare and contrast programmes that deliver "apples" and "pears" - each with a similar perceived value?
  • Create symbiotic partnerships between organisations that have differing objectives, capabilities and priorities?
  • Reconcile tensions between minimising risks and maximising Return on Investment (RoI)?
  • Persuade senior managers to redistribute budgets across "silos" for the common good?
  • Coordinate related projects into "programme hybrids" that better address the priority needs of stakeholders?
  • Articulate robust business cases to internal and external investors and to programme "monitors" such as OGC?

The answer to these questions lies with a robust methodology that clearly defines, differentiates and prioritises optional programmes and that establishes a balanced portfolio of investments.

These are the essences of Portfolio Management.

Portfolio Management – What is it again?

Portfolio Management is a proactive approach that helps organisations to make better investment choices. It helps to prioritise and select programmes and projects for inclusion in a portfolio of high(er) value investments.

Some case studies from the USA …

A large telecommunications company has used Portfolio Management to enable almost 30% of its $70m portfolio to be "taken off the table" and made available for higher value investments.

The US Federal Government’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is using Portfolio Management to manage its top 24 e-Government initiatives.

The Inland Revenue Service (IRS) has used Portfolio Management to prioritise its current portfolio after recent budget cuts.

In a UK e-Government context, the portfolio will be the eGDP, a justifiable programme of technology-enabled change.

But how do I make it work for me?

The key to successful implementation is a holistic approach that covers all key aspects of the enterprise. Portfolio Management for e-Government is like any other fundamental change initiative, it must address the different facets of the organisation, including the business strategy, people, culture and tools:

Business strategy

Existing e-Government strategies will provide the baseline for decision-making and help establish the appropriate balance and shape of the portfolio, including the time horizon on benefits – short, medium or long-term returns. They should also articulate the organisation’s propensity for managed "risk taking".


Portfolio Management requires no change in organisational structures only the clarification of certain roles and responsibilities. Two key enablers are an Investment Board, a forum of senior executives, to make the ultimate investment decisions; and a Support Operation that facilitates the creation of consistent and comparable business cases. Many Government organisations have these already although maybe under other titles.


For most organisations, the implementation of Portfolio Management constitutes a significant cultural change, a mindset where benefits realisation is uppermost in all investment decisions.

A New Way of Thinking


In the past, Portfolio Management has been carried out using custom-developed spreadsheets. However, these tend to have long development lead-times, high maintenance overheads and a reliance on experts. They are also relatively unsophisticated in their data analysis capabilities.

Nowadays there are specialist software tools that offer "industrial strength" Portfolio Management solutions. Such tools fall into two main types - those that are extensions of project management tools and others that take a more top-down approach with a perspective of executive decision making.

The latter is considered a more effective approach for e-Government, particularly, as it:

  • Delivers much-needed flexibility to meet the more dynamic e-Government environment
  • Provides powerful visualisations that enable communication with and commitment from stakeholders.

Portfolio Management - What are the outputs?

Typical outputs from one of the more effective Portfolio Management tools2 are below. These consist of a Benefits Roadmap and a Sample Portfolio.

Benefits Roadmap

A Benefits Roadmap can show at a glance how the individual components of an eGDP fit together. It will contain a combination of initiatives, assumptions and contributions and how these link together to provide beneficial outcomes.

Benefits Roadmap

The key benefits of such a roadmap are that:

  • It translates a web of expressed requirements into a relatively simple picture that can be used to facilitate consensus with partners and funders
  • It can be flexed to meet alternative views and changing circumstances
  • It can be articulated at a whole (eGDP) programme, sub-programme or individual project level.

Sample Portfolio

Once relevant roadmaps have been completed, the tools can be used to help determine choices between alternative e-Government investments and/or enable the more effective allocation of resources.

The process involves an iterative Benefits/Risks Assessment of proposed investments based on four themes and underpinning questions

  • Alignment - Are we doing the right things?
  • Integration - Are we doing them the right way?
  • Efficiency - Are we getting them done well?
  • Realisation - Are we getting the benefits?

Based on the answer to these four "Are’s3", the eGDP can be expressed on one or more graphical representations to determine which combination of programmes/projects provide the required balance of value and risk. Actions can then be taken as appropriate, including those difficult decisions where there is a need to stop or redirect previously approved investments.

A Winning Formula

The vast majority of managers of eGDPs will be faced with the dilemma of too many choices, too few resources and too many instances of intangible benefits. Portfolio Management can’t make choices for executives, nor can it conjure up additional money or staff with the capacity to make change happen.

Portfolio Management does provide an effective governance approach and a robust toolset to enable the assessment, justification and communication of the most difficult investment decisions. For Government, effective Portfolio Management is a powerful tool that can help executives to focus on eGDP investments that deliver the greatest value and to make better-informed choices on where investments are to be made.

1 "The Information Paradox" written by John Thorp and Fujitsu Consulting’s Centre for Strategic Leadership, McGraw-Hill Ryerson

2 For example, the Enterprise Value Management toolset from Fujitsu Consulting

3 Each of the "Are's" are shown as a segment with a square and are colour coded

The content of this article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on in that way. Specific advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.