The Critical Role of Chief Portfolio Officer in Governing a Network of Partner Organizations in the Emerging “Collaboratist Economy”


By Dr Pieter Steyn
South Africa


Dr Brane Semolic


In order to be competitive organizations are progressively adopting strategies that focus on their core business. They consequently build their internal capacities based on core competencies, while partnering with other organizations for non-core components that constitute their final products and/or services. In this way a virtual network of partner organizations is formed with the purpose of timeously providing high quality products and/or services at the lowest possible cost. This approach is regardless of whether an organisation utilises a project driven, non-project driven, or hybrid (a combination of the two) business model, and calls for high levels of coordination, integration, and collaboration in the network of partners to achieve synergy.

The trend holds many economic advantages. It leads to growth in large and small partner organizations, but importantly also stimulates the creation of small and medium sized enterprises, which augers well for job creation and economic growth. Importantly, wealth is shared on the basis of competencies. Moreover, it inspires what the current authors describe as, “collaboratism” in an emerging “collaboratist economy”, and constitutes tempering of the current capitalist economy. These terms are not to be confused with the so-called “collaborative economy”, which is a sharing concept related to marketing. Instead, “collaboratism” is a leadership, management, and governance system related to partner organizations operating in a virtual network business model to create, produce, and deliver products and/or services to customers in the marketplace. The system is characterised by an initiating organization acting as the principal partner in the virtual network of participating organizations, and founded on project-, programme-, and portfolio management principles.

Effective and efficient leadership, management, and governance of modern day organizations are profoundly important success factors for optimal strategic performance. How to achieve this has remained a complex challenge for executives and senior management of organizations in the private and public sectors. Steyn (2001) argues for programme management to move beyond its original function of managing cross-functional portfolios of projects by including the supply chain, the processes of which should likewise be shaped cross-functionally. With the dawning of the new millennium it became clear that globalization and the information age were impacting heavily on the way organizations were organized and managed. Accelerated information flow inspired change, requiring management decisions to be made more frequently and speedily, accompanied by increasing levels of coordination and integration. This made it imperative that new business models, supported by innovative governance and creative organizational structures, be devised to mitigate the complexity and associated risks. Moreover, Semolic (2010) stresses that the innovative governance and creative organizational structures should be combined with a virtual network of partner organizations to ensure collaboration and synergy.

To achieve ultimate success, the current authors regard superior strategic leadership as being of paramount importance. It constitutes the most profound tactic that modern day organizations can utilize to become highly competitive and achieve superior productive performance. Consequently, managing organizations through projects and programmes became the integrative implementation link between corporate strategy, business strategy, and operations strategy. External to the organization the marketplace gradually experienced an increase in volatility. Organizations could no longer rely solely on prescriptive strategies such as profit maximization, but had to progressively rely more on emergent approaches to strategy development and implementation. With the speed of change impacting every organization, the operational environment dissolved into a series of events which frequently orchestrated chaos and confusion.

Consequently, traditional organizational forms and ways of managing them were becoming obsolete. This posed a profound leadership, management, and governance challenge. Changes in the external environmental dimensions such as economic outlook, sociocultural issues, politics, ecology and technologies, also impacted more heavily on the way modern organizations should be governed. Improved technologies probably had the greatest impact. This applied particularly in the area of information technology, which motivated organizations to re-engineer their systems, structures, business processes, and cultures. Moreover, it required that the knowledge, skills and behaviour of the human resources component in the organization be continuously improved to maintain a competitive advantage, coupled with effective and efficient knowledge management in superior governance systems.

The current authors argue that the emerging “collaboratist economy” requires a move away from rigid approaches to leadership, management, governance, and cumbersome traditional organization forms. These impede the flow of information and managerial decision-making. Moreover, leadership and management in traditional (or classic) organizations often lack strategic purpose and customer focus. Building on the platform of an accelerated technological revolution, the wave of innovation, entrepreneurial bio-engineering and knowledge explosion means that leaders and managers have to cope with an ever increasing culture of risk and complexity. Having to lead and manage in this emergent situation of risk and complexity, governance and organizational structures are compelled to undergo transformation and change at an accelerated pace.


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About the Authors

pmwj43-Feb2016-Steyn-PHOTOProf Dr Pieter Steyn

Founder, Director, Principal
Cranefield College of Project and Programme Management
Pretoria & Western Cape, South Africa


Dr Pieter Steyn
is Founder and Principal of Cranefield College of Project and Programme Management, a South African Council on Higher Education / Department of Education accredited and registered Private Higher Education Institution. The Institution offers an Advanced Certificate, Advanced Diploma, Postgraduate Diploma, Master’s degree, and PhD in project and programme-based leadership and management. Professor Steyn holds the degrees BSc (Eng), MBA, and PhD in management, and is a registered Professional Engineer.

He was formerly professor in the Department of Management, University of South Africa and Pretoria University Business School. He founded the Production Management Institute of South Africa, and in 1979 pioneered Project Management as a university subject at the post-graduate level at the University of South Africa.

Dr Steyn founded consulting engineering firm Steyn & Van Rensburg (SVR). Projects by SVR include First National Bank Head Office (Bank City), Standard Bank Head Office, Mandela Square Shopping Centre (in Johannesburg) as also, Game City- and The Wheel Shopping Centres (in Durban). He, inter alia, chaired the Commission of Enquiry into the Swaziland Civil Service; and acted as Programme Manager for the Strategic Transformation of the Gauteng Government’s Welfare Department and Corporate Core.

Pieter co-authored the “International Handbook of Production and Operations Management,” (Cassell, London, 1989, ed. Ray Wild) and is the author of many articles and papers on leadership and management. He is a member of the Association of Business Leadership, Industrial Engineering Institute, Engineering Association of South Africa, and Project Management South Africa (PMSA); and a former member of the Research Management Board of IPMA. He serves on the Editorial Board of the PM World Journal. Pieter is also Director of the De Doornkraal Wine Estate in Riversdale, Western Cape.

Professor Steyn can be contacted at [email protected] For information about Cranefield College, visit http://www.cranefield.ac.za/.

To view other works by Pieter Steyn, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-pieter-steyn/


pmwj43-Feb2016-Steyn-SEMOLIC PHOTOProf. Brane Semolic, PhD

Head of LENS Living Lab –
International living laboratory
Celje, Slovenia



Brane Semolic
, PhD, is currently head of LENS Living Lab – international R&D living laboratory and visiting professor at Cranefield College in South Africa. He is retired professor, University of Maribor, Slovenia.  He is President of the Experts Council of Project Management Association of Slovenia (ZPM), and former Chair of the IPMA (International Project Management Association) Research Management Board.  He is also a member of the EU Enterprise Policy Group – Professional Chamber and Issue Manager of the SIG (Special Interest Group) Project Management in EU program NETLIPSE (Knowledge Management of Large Infrastructure Projects).  Brane Semolic has a BSc in Mechanical Engineering (technology), and a BSc, M.Sc. and Ph.D.in Economics and Business Administration (project management and informatics) from the University of Maribor.

Professor Semolic has 35 years of working experience as an expert, researcher, consultant, manager and project manager in industry and for the Slovene government.  He spent four year as Counselor to the Ministry of Science and Technology, Republic of Slovenia (1990 – 1994) and has been a member of the International Association for Project Management (IPMA) since 1982.  He was previously a Professor at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of  Electronics and Computer Sciences, Faculty of Civil Engineering, and Faculty of Logistics (University of Maribor); Dean of GEA College (Global Entrepreneurship Academy) in Ljubljana;  Lecturer in the “European Project Manager” postgraduate education program (joint program with University of Bremen); Co-founder of  the EU education program  “European Master in Project Management”; IPMA Vice president (international events and R&D); President of the Slovenian Project management Association (ZPM); First IPMA foreign assessor in the PM Certification Program in Serbia and Montenegro; Project manager of the 14th  IPMA (International Project Management Association) world congress in 1998; and President of scientific committee of 1st joint ICEC & IPMA Global Congress on Project Management and Cost Engineering in 2006.

He has published more than 400 works on project management and other topics.  He was awarded as ICEC (International Cost Engineering Council) Distinguished International Fellow in 2008.   Professor Semolic is also an academic advisor for the PM World Journal. He can be contacted at [email protected].   Additional information about the LENS Living Lab can be found at http://www.3-lab.eu/ .