A Framework for Project Portfolio Strategic Planning by Utilizing Thematic Analysis Method

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Project & Construction Management, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran.

2 Prof., Department of Political Science, Faculty of Law and Political Science, University of Tehran, Tehran, Ira.

3 Assistant Prof., Department of Project & Construction, Faculty of Art, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran.


Objective: As project portfolio strategic planning (PPSP) is a strategic action in project-based organizations, its execution needs to be followed by structured stages. Via identifying the effective elements on (PPSP), especially the missed elements in previous models, the present study aimed to propose a step-based framework for execution.
Methods: This research utilized thematic analysis to identify the related themes from the literature. The themes were then analyzed by forming a thematic network. Next, by conducting interviews with 12 selected experts, using the snowball method, the obtained findings were reviewed and verified by the Delphi process. A framework for PPSP was developed based on the organizing themes and again verified by experts, repeating the Delphi process. The process was eventually completed by presenting a framework.
Results: This study identified 12 basic themes, 4 organizing themes, and one global theme for PPSP. Based on the organizing themes, key elements of PPSP included: 1) Necessity of scenario-based approach in PPSP, 2) Determining divergent visions for future of portfolios, 3) Drawing the portfolio changes path from past to present and future in the form of a roadmap, and 4) Monitoring and analyzing both changes in scenarios and portfolio status simultaneously as a basis for portfolio preplanning.
Conclusion: Based on the key elements of PPSP and other findings of this research a "conceptual", "process-based" and "descriptive-prescriptive" framework for PPSP was offered and its conduction was explained in six steps: 1) Documenting project portfolio history, 2) Documenting project portfolio current status, 3) Determining project portfolio visions in different scenarios, 4) Preparing a roadmap to move from current status towards vision status, 5) Assessing realization of scenarios, and 6) Monitoring, analyzing, and preplanning the portfolio.


Aghazadeh, H. (2003). Comparative study of strategic planning models. Tadbir Journal. 140, 67-73. (in Persian)
Ahmadi, K. (2015). Organizational Future Study. Tehran, Trmeh. (in Persian)
Amaral, A., & Araujo, M. (2009). Project portfolio management phases: A technique for strategy alignment. World academy of science, Engeneering and Technology, 3(10), 1919-1927.
Amer, M., Daim, T. U., & Jetter, A. (2013). A review of scenario planning. Futures, 46, 23-40.
Anderson, R. (2007). Thematic content analysis: Descriptive presentation of qualitative data. Williams: Wellknowing Consulting Services. (http://rosemarieanderson.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/ThematicContentAnalysis.pdf)
Archer, N. P., & Ghasemzadeh, F. (1999). An integrated framework for project portfolio selection. International Journal of Project Management, 17(4), 207-216.
Attride-Stirling, J. (2001). Thematic networks: an analytic tool for qualitative research. Qualitative research, 1(3), 385-405.
Bai, L., & Du, Q. (2018). Co-evolution efficacy of project portfolio based on strategic orientation. RAIRO-Operations Research, 52(2), 645-659.
Banuls, V. A., López, C., Turoff, M., & Tejedor, F. (2017). Predicting the impact of multiple risks on project performance: a scenario-based approach. Project Management Journal, 48(5), 95-114.
Berg, B. L. (2004). Methods for the social sciences. Pearson Education Inc, United States of America.
Berkhout, F., & Hertin, J. (2002). Foresight futures scenarios: developing and applying a participative strategic planning tool. Greener Management International, (37), 37-52.
Bishop, P., Hines, A., & Collins, T. (2007). The current state of scenario development: an overview of techniques. Foresight.
Boyatzis, R. E. (1998). Transforming qualitative information: Thematic analysis and code development. Sage.
Bramwell, L., & Hykawy, E. (1999). The Delphi technique: a possible tool for predicting future events in nursing education. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research Archive.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in psychology, 3(2), 77-101.
Bresciani, S., & Eppler, M. J. (2010, July). Choosing knowledge visualizations to augment cognition: The managers' view. In 2010 14th International Conference Information Visualisation (pp. 355-360). IEEE.
Canbaz, B., & Marle, F. (2016). Construction of project portfolio considering efficiency, strategic effectiveness, balance and project interdependencies. International Journal of Project Organisation and Management, 8(2), 103-126.
Chi, H. X., Nguyen, P. H., Heidsyam, Y., Yasid, A., Yasin, M., & AkmalulUlya, M. (2013). A General Resource Portfolio Planning Model for SMEs under Deterministic Demand Assumptions. SISFO Vol 4 No 5, 4.
Clegg, S., Killen, C. P., Biesenthal, C., & Sankaran, S. (2018). Practices, projects and portfolios: Current research trends and new directions. International Journal of Project Management, 36(5), 762-772.
Cooper, R. G., & Edgett, S. J. (2001). Portfolio management for new products: picking the winners. Product Development Institute, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada.
Cooper, R. G., Edgett, S. J., & Kleinschmidt, E. J. (2002). Portfolio management: fundamental to new product success. The PDMA toolbook for new product development, 1, 331-364.
Cooper, R. G., Edgett, S. J., & Kleinschmidt, E. J. (2006). Portfolio Management for New Product Development. Stage-Gate Inc. and Product Development Institute Inc.
Daneshmand, A., Nazemi, S., Motahari, M. (2016).  Prioritizing organization’s quality management projects starting with customer expectations. Industrial Management Journal. 8 (1), 23-42 (in Persian)
David, F. R. (2010), 13th edition. Strategic management concepts and cases. Pearson College Div.
Dorri, B., Asadi, B., Mazaheri, S. (2015). A project portfolio selection model with project interaction & resources interdependency consideration using artificial neural networks. Industrial Management Journal. 7 (1), 21-42 (in Persian)
Dutra, C. C., Ribeiro, J. L. D., & de Carvalho, M. M. (2014). An economic–probabilistic model for project selection and prioritization. International Journal of Project Management, 32(6), 1042-1055.
Eckert, C. M., & Stacey, M. K. (2010). What is a process model? Reflections on the epistemology of design process models. In Modelling and management of engineering processes (pp. 3-14). Springer, London.
Elbok, G., & Berrado, A. (2018, October). Categorizing projects for portfolio selection using clustering techniques. In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Intelligent Systems: Theories and Applications (pp. 1-5).
Farley, C. L. (2005). Midwifery’s research heritage: A Delphi survey of midwife scholars. Journal of midwifery & women's health, 50(2), 122-128.
Ferreira, L. M. D., Arantes, A., & Kharlamov, A. A. (2015). Development of a purchasing portfolio model for the construction industry: an empirical study. Production Planning & Control, 26(5), 377-392.
Filippov, S., Mooi, H., & van der Weg, R. (2010). The strategic role of project portfolio management: Evidence from the Netherlands. In Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Innovation & Management (pp. 648-659).
Gall, M.D., Gall, J.P. & Borg, W.R. (2006), 8th edition. Educational research: An introduction. Pearson.
Ghasemzadeh, F., & Archer, N. P. (2000). Project portfolio selection through decision support. Decision support systems, 29(1), 73-88.
Gorard, S. (2001). Quantitative methods in educational research: The role of numbers made easy. A&C Black.
Gutjahr, W. J., Katzensteiner, S., Reiter, P., Stummer, C., & Denk, M. (2010). Multi-objective decision analysis for competence-oriented project portfolio selection. European Journal of Operational Research, 205(3), 670-679.
Hafeznia, M.R. (2020). An introduction to the research method in humanities. Tehran, Samt. (in Persian)
Hamidi, N., Valafar, M. (2015). Selection of Organizational Strategic Projects via GPD Method. Industrial Management Journal. 7 (2), 259-284 (in Persian)
Heiman, GW. (2002). Research methods in Psychology, 3rd edit. New York; Houghton Mifflin Comp.
Holloway, I., & Wheeler, S. (2002). Qualitative research in nursing. Wiley-Blackwell.
Hunger, J.D. & Wheelen, T.L (2010), 5th ed. Essentials of strategic management. Pearson.
Hyvari, I. (2014). Project portfolio management in a company strategy implementation, a case study. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 119, 229-236.
Inayatullah, S. (2008). Six pillars: futures thinking for transforming. Foresight.
ISO. (2015). Project, programme and portfolio management: Guidance on portfolio management (ISO 21504). Switzerland; The International Organization for Standardization.
Iversen, J. S. (2006). Futures thinking methodologies and options for education.
Kaiser, M. G., El Arbi, F., & Ahlemann, F. (2015). Successful project portfolio management beyond project selection techniques: Understanding the role of structural alignment. International journal of project management, 33(1), 126-139.
Kasprzyk, J. R., Reed, P. M., Characklis, G. W., & Kirsch, B. R. (2012). Many-objective de Novo water supply portfolio planning under deep uncertainty. Environmental Modelling & Software, 34, 87-104.
Keller, T., & Tergan, S. O. (2005). Visualizing knowledge and information: An introduction. In Knowledge and information visualization (pp. 1-23). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
Kendall, G. I., & Rollins, S. C. (2003). Advanced project portfolio management and the PMO: multiplying ROI at warp speed. J. Ross Publishing.
Kester, L., Hultink, E. J., & Lauche, K. (2009). Portfolio decision-making genres: A case study. Journal of engineering and technology management, 26(4), 327-341.
Khalili-Damghani, K., & Sadi-Nezhad, S. (2013). Strategic framework for sustainable project portfolio selection and evaluation. International Journal of Sustainable Strategic Management, 4(1), 66-82.
Killen, C. P. (2013). Evaluation of project interdependency visualizations through decision scenario experimentation. International Journal of Project Management, 31(6), 804-816.
Killen, C. P., & Kjaer, C. (2012). Understanding project interdependencies: The role of visual representation, culture and process. International Journal of Project Management, 30(5), 554-566.
Killen, C. P., Jugdev, K., Drouin, N., & Petit, Y. (2012). Advancing project and portfolio management research: Applying strategic management theories. International journal of project management, 30(5), 525-538.
King, N., & Brooks, J. M. (2016). Template analysis for business and management students. Sage.
Kippenberger, T. (1999). Variations on a theme. The Antidote.
Koehler, D. J., & Harvey, N. (Eds.). (2008). Blackwell handbook of judgment and decision making. John Wiley & Sons.
Kohlborn, T., Fielt, E., Korthaus, A., & Rosemann, M. (2009). Towards a service portfolio management framework. In Proceedings of the twentieth Australasian Conference on Information Systems Understanding shared services: an exploration of the IS literature (pp. 1-10). Monash University.
Kopmann, J., Kock, A., Killen, C. P., & Gemünden, H. G. (2017). The role of project portfolio management in fostering both deliberate and emergent strategy. International Journal of Project Management, 35(4), 557-570.
Lashkarbolouki, M., Khodadadhoseini, S.H., Hoseini, S.M., Hamidizadeh, M.R. (2012). Designing consistant strategic process model utilizing a hybrid approach. Strategic Management Thought, 6(2), 21-151. (in Persian)
Leontiades, M. (1983). The importance of integrating marketing planning with corporate planning. Journal of Business Research, 11(4), 457-473.
Maguire, M., & Delahunt, B. (2017). Doing a thematic analysis: A practical, step-by-step guide for learning and teaching scholars. All Ireland Journal of Higher Education, 9(3).
Markowitz, H. (1952). Portfolio selection. The journal of finance, Volume 7.1, pp. 77-91.
Markowitz, H. M. (1999). The early history of portfolio theory: 1600–1960. Financial analysts journal, 55(4), 5-16.
Martinsuo, M. (2013). Project portfolio management in practice and in context. International journal of project management, 31(6), 794-803.
Martinsuo, M., & Geraldi, J. (2020). Management of project portfolios: Relationships of project portfolios with their contexts. International Journal of Project Management, 38(7), 441-453.
Martinsuo, M., & Killen, C. P. (2014). Value management in project portfolios: Identifying and assessing strategic value. Project Management Journal, 45(5), 56-70.
Meskendahl, S. (2010). The influence of business strategy on project portfolio management and its success—A conceptual framework. International Journal of Project Management, 28(8), 807-817.
Mietzner, D., & Reger, G. (2005). Advantages and disadvantages of scenario approaches for strategic foresight. International Journal of Technology Intelligence and Planning, 1(2), 220-239.
Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Sage.
Miller, M. H. (2000). The history of finance: an eyewitness account. Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, 13(2), 8-14.
Mintzberg, H. (1978). Patterns in strategy formation. Management science, 24(9), 934-948.
Mirbagheri, R., Roshangarzadeh, R., & Yakhchali, S. H. (2017). New Model for Portfolio selection; based on Future approach (SFMADM). 7th International Conference on Innovations in Engineering and Technology (ICIET-2017)
Mohaghar, A., Jafarnejad, A. Golabchi, M., Jabarzadeh, Y. (2013).  Identifying Functions of Parent Organization: A Case Study in Project-Based Organizations of the Construction Industry. Industrial Management Journal, 5 (2), 141-154. (in Persian)
Mohaghar, A., Mehregan, M., Azar, A., Motahari, N. (2014). Designing a model for selecting construction projects in public sector. Industrial Management Journal, 6 (4), 831-847.
(in Persian)
Montee, D. R., Sullivan, T. J., & Dejong, C. R. (2002). Applied Social Research Wadworth. Thomson Learning.
Morris, P. W., & Pinto, J. K. (2007). The Wiley guide to project, program, and portfolio management (Vol. 3). John Wiley & Sons.
Morse, J. M. (2005). What is qualitative research?
Muller, R., Martinsuo, M., & Blomquist, T. (2008). Project portfolio control and portfolio management performance in different contexts. Project management journal, 39(3), 28-42.
Newman, W.L. (2001) Social Research Methods. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Nippa, M., Pidun, U., & Rubner, H. (2011). Corporate portfolio management: Appraising four decades of academic research. Academy of Management Perspectives, 25(4), 50-66.
OGC. (2011). Management of Portfolios (MoP). TSO (The Stationery Office)
Pennypacker, J., & Sepate, P. (2002). Project portfolio management and the strategic project office. Portfolio Knowledge, 2, 1-2.
Petro, Y., & Gardiner, P. (2015). An investigation of the influence of organizational design on project portfolio success, effectiveness and business efficiency for project-based organizations. International Journal of Project Management, 33(8), 1717-1729.
Pillkahn, U. (2008). Using trends and scenarios as tools for strategy development: shaping the future of your enterprise. John Wiley & Sons.
PMI. (2017). A Guide to the Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide): 6th edition. Project Management Institute, Inc.
PMI. (2017). The Standard for portfolio management: 4th edition. Project Management Institute, Inc.
Porter, M. E. (1998). Competitive strategy. Free Press.
Pourahmadi, K., Nouri, S., & Yaghoubi, S. (2015). A scenario based project portfolio selection. Management Science Letters, 5(9), 883-888.
Rad, F. H., & Rowzan, S. M. (2018). Designing a hybrid system dynamic model for analyzing the impact of strategic alignment on project portfolio selection. Simulation Modelling Practice and Theory, 89, 175-194.
Rafiee, M., & Kianfar, F. (2011). A scenario tree approach to multi-period project selection problem using real-option valuation method. The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology, 56(1-4), 411-420.
Reilly, F. K., & Brown, K. C. (2011). Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management (Text Only). Cengage Learning.
Rezaee Nik, E., Molavi, F. (2015). A multi- objective project portfolio selection and scheduling problem under uncertainty. Industrial Management Journal. 7 (3), 469-488 (in Persian)
Salling, K. B., Leleur, S., & Skougaard, B. Z. (2010, July). Reference scenario forecasting: A new approach to transport project assessment. In Proc. 10th World Conf. on Transport Research (WCTR), Lisbon.
Sankaran, S., Müller, R., & Drouin, N. (Eds.). (2017). Cambridge handbook of organizational project management. Cambridge University Press.
Sarmad, Z. Bazargan, A. Hejazi, E. (2020). Research methods in behavioural sciences. Tehran, Agah. (in Persian)
Sarno, R., & Herdiyanti, A. (2010). A service portfolio for an enterprise resource planning. International Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, 10(3), 144-156.
Schwenker, B. Wulf, T. (2013). Scenario-based Strategic Planning: Developing Strategies in an Uncertain World. Springer Gabler
Segev, E. (1995). Corporate strategy: Portfolio models. International Thomson.
Sharpe, B., & Van der Heijden, K. (Eds.). (2007). Scenarios for Success: Turning Insights in to Action. John Wiley & Sons.
Sheikh, R., Azari, M. (2015). project portfolio optimization considering project interactions using teaching-learning optimization alghorithm. Industrial Management Journal. 7 (3), 511-532 (in Persian)
Shenhar, A. J., Dvir, D., Levy, O., & Maltz, A. C. (2001). Project success: a multidimensional strategic concept. Long range planning, 34(6), 699-725.
Shenhar, A. J., Milosevic, D., Dvir, D., & Thamhain, H. (2007, September). Linking project management to business strategy. Project Management Institute.
Shojaei, A., & Flood, I. (2017). Extending the Portfolio and Strategic Planning Horizon by Stochastic Forecasting of Unknown Future Projects. In The Seventh International Conference on Advanced Communications and Computation, INFOCOMP (Vol. 2017, pp. 64-69).
Teece, D. J. (2007). Explicating dynamic capabilities: the nature and microfoundations of (sustainable) enterprise performance. Strategic management journal, 28(13), 1319-1350.
Teece, D. J. (2018). Dynamic capabilities as (workable) management systems theory. Journal of Management & Organization, 24(3), 359-368.
Vallati, M., Chrpa, L., & Kitchin, D. (2015). Portfolio-based planning: State of the art, common practice and open challenges. AI Communications, 28(4), 717-733.
Van den Broecke, E., De Hertogh, S., & Vereecke, A. (2005). Implementing strategy in turbulent environments: a role for program and portfolio management. Presented in PMI Global Congress 2005 - North America
Vergne, J. P., & Durand, R. (2010). The missing link between the theory and empirics of path dependence: conceptual clarification, testability issue, and methodological implications. Journal of Management Studies, 47(4), 736-759.
Vilkkumaa, E., Liesiö, J., Salo, A., & Ilmola-Sheppard, L. (2018). Scenario-based portfolio model for building robust and proactive strategies. European journal of operational research, 266(1), 205-220.
Vom Brocke, J. (2007). Service portfolio measurement: Evaluating financial performance of service-oriented business processes. International Journal of Web Services Research (IJWSR), 4(2), 1-32.
Ware, C. (2021). Visual Thinking for Information Design. Morgan Kaufmann.
Young, M., & Conboy, K. (2013). Contemporary project portfolio management: Reflections on the development of an Australian Competency Standard for Project Portfolio Management. International Journal of Project Management, 31(8), 1089-1100.
Zhang, P., Yang, K., Dou, Y., & Jiang, J. (2016). Scenario-based approach for project portfolio selection in army engineering and manufacturing development. Journal of systems Engineering and Electronics, 27(1), 166-176.
Zhu, L., & Fan, Y. (2010). Optimization of China's generating portfolio and policy implications based on portfolio theory. Energy, 35(3), 1391-1402.