Project Portfolio Matrix

I think that every organization has a matrix that they use regarding what classifies and quantifies the range of success for a project and/or client prospect. During our review of Chap 2, we didn’t dive deep into the project portfolio matrix, but when I reviewed it I immediately thought of the BCG Growth-Share matrix and how it can be applied in so many facets of business. This is the second time that I’ve seen this matrix, or variation, reference in my MBA career. First time was in MKT 555, and now MGT 598. I initially didn’t think that either class would reference this kind of tool, and I was surprised to see a variation of the BCG matrix highlighted in our class lecture notes.

It’s fascinating to see how other organizations and industries apply this type of portfolio planning model as a starting point for targets and/or projects to pursue or reject. The matrix simplifies how risk and project types are viewed and assessed.  Below is a high level breakdown of the BCG matrix correlated with the Project Portfolio matrix:

Market Growth Rate / Technical Feasibilty High 


Stars (Bread/Butter) Question Mark (Pearl)
Dog (White Elephant) Cash Cow (Oyster)
Low                                                                                     High

Relative Market Share / NPV

  •  Stars aka Bread-and-Butter – yield the highest NPV but also consume large amounts of cash because of innovative technology
  • Question mark aka Pearl – can potentially be a “problem child” because of the amount of cash needed to support the opportunities to become a star
  • Cash Cow aka Oyster – Innovative breakthroughs with high payoff
  • Dogs aka White Elephant – reflecting promise at one time, but has little future potential

The chapter 2 case study was a perfect exercise to touch on measuring the success of projects based on the stated “must” and “want” criteria and how projects are selected. Each project could easily fit into the Project Portfolio matrix to determine which category each selection would fall under.  The class exercised revealed that there was a tendency to kill off those projects that did not fulfill the “must” objectives, i.e. “Raffle For Life” and “Build Your Own Box”. These projects would likely fall into the white elephant or dog category. Whereas another project, “Singing for Smiles”, was determined to be a bread-and-butter or star project.

I personally found that my own assessment was very optimistic in comparison to the class results and the original case results. I didn’t think about outside factors like, rain or college kids loving Halo competitions. The only dog/white elephant that I identified was “Hold’ Em Fo Hunger”, based on my personal preference and bias. It was a nice learning experience to incorporate the knowledge and perspective of my teammates to make a collective decision on the projects we thought would be successful.

How do you or your organization plan and select projects? If you do not have a matrix set in place would the matrices above improve how you/your organization currently selects projects? If you are not a part of the planning/selection process at your organization, what process did you follow in selecting a team project for this class?

2 thoughts on “Project Portfolio Matrix

  1. Although I have not used this portfolio matrix at my current organization or during the course of this class, I used this portfolio matrix for one of my previous M.B.A. courses to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo.

    In the end, I identified the following branches within theCoca-Cola Company and PepsiCo as the stars, dogs, question marks and cash cows.

    Coca-Cola Company:
    Question Marks: high growth, low market share: Fanta, Mountain Dew
    Stars: high growth, high market share: Thumbs Up, Sprite, Maaza
    Cash Cows: low growth, high market share: Limca, Coca-Cola
    Dogs: low growth, low market share: Diet Coke, Minute Maid
    Question Marks: high growth, low market share: Tropicana, Mountain Dew
    Stars: high growth, high market share: Gatorade, Aquafina, Propel
    Cash Cows: low growth, high market share: Pepsi
    Dogs: low growth, low market share: Sierra Mist

  2. Thanks for the comment Mary! Did you find the matrix more useful/beneficial than performing a SWOT analysis?

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