Multi-stakeholder perspectives of value in project portfolios

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This study explores multiple stakeholders’ perspectives on the value delivered by project portfolios and reveals a new way of understanding value. When organisations invest in projects, they expect to create value. From a project portfolio perspective, a key goal of project portfolio management (PPM) is to maximise this value across the project portfolio for the organisation. It is easy to agree that value is an important concept, yet it is hard for scholars and practitioners to agree on what it entails. Value is an especially challenging area due to its subjective, intangible and emotional aspects. The value generated by projects has long been understood to be more than just the direct financial value. Yet, financial and tangible value appears to be the dominant way that a project portfolio value is viewed. Research highlights the complexities of project and portfolio ‘value’ due to the multiple and sometimes contradictory expectations demanded by different stakeholders who participate in and influence the ways that PPM decisions incorporate value. While researchers are extending the understanding of value for project portfolio environments, PPM research into the complex and multi-faceted aspects of value is still quite limited. To better understand value, the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders is important as value is perceived in different ways by different stakeholders. This thesis is a collection of six published papers that bring together the theoretical concepts of value, stakeholder theory and sensemaking in a research investigation about value in multi-stakeholder project portfolio environments. The research sheds light on the overarching question: ‘How is value understood in practice by different stakeholders in different project portfolio contexts?’ By studying how value is expressed, understood and used to influence decisions in multi-stakeholder PPM environments, the research reveals deeper insights into the wide range of value perspectives at play in project portfolios. The study includes a diverse group of organisations from the public, private (profit) and non-profit sectors in its exploration of project portfolio value. The exploratory research follows a pragmatic mindset and incorporates sensemaking concepts in the research design. It comprises two overlapping qualitative methodologies incorporating multiple case studies and a series of expert panels. The findings demonstrate how an understanding of value is built from many micro-constructs of value emanating from a variety of stakeholders. Sensemaking concepts applied to the study reveal how stakeholder perceptions of value are based on time and space, and are dynamic and non-linear in nature. As a result of the investigations, a typology of multi-stakeholder value perspectives that aims to improve PPM decision-making is derived from the findings and presented in this thesis. This study contributes a novel way to draw together deep concepts that are subjective, difficult to categorise and often ignored, by providing qualitative researchers with an alternative approach that is empirical and multi-method. The two-fold approach of case studies and expert panels incorporates a structured and orderly yet flexible research process that includes verification strategies. The research provides a new theoretical contribution by broadening the way value is viewed in multi-project environments, specifically PPM. Through its investigation of value concepts in multi-stakeholder portfolio environments, this research contributes to theory by integrating stakeholder theory and sensemaking concepts and extending the relevance and application of sensemaking to PPM research methods and practice. This thesis contributes a fresh way of thinking about value in project portfolios through the development of a typology of value perspectives and explores the implications of that typology for practice. The typology could prompt organisations to consider a wider range of stakeholder perspectives, and as a result improve the quality of decision-making by encouraging organisations to derive relevant value lenses and language at different organisational levels and in different stakeholder contexts.
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