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Corporate portfolio management in the public sector

Saša Baškarada (Defence Science and Technology Group Melbourne, Fishermans Bend, Australia)
Brian Hanlon (Defence Science and Technology Group Melbourne, Fishermans Bend, Australia)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 14 May 2018




Although corporate portfolio management (CPM) has been a popular tool for strategic management of multi-business portfolios in the private sector since the late 1960s, it has received limited attention in the public sector. Accordingly, empirical research on the use of CMP in government organizations is virtually non-existent. The purpose of this paper is to partially fill that gap in the literature by highlighting and discussing some of the key points that public sector organizations may need to consider when adopting CPM.


Rather than deductively proposing and testing narrowly specified hypotheses, this study aims to answer a broad research question, namely: What are the key points that public sector organizations may need to consider when adopting CMP? Hence, the study adopts the qualitative interpretive research paradigm. The findings are based on empirical research conducted in a large Australian publicly funded research organization. Potential application of CPM was iteratively and incrementally explored with a reference group comprising 15 middle management representatives and several members of the senior leadership group over the course of one year.


Assessment criteria traditionally used in CPM (e.g. growth potential and market share) are generally not applicable in public sector organizations. This paper suggests that government organizations should instead consider past performance and future potential of individual business units, which may be operationalized via capability (a function of human capital and associated resources/infrastructure) and delivery (a function of the demand for, and the impact of, relevant business units). The paper also highlights the importance of organization-wide consultation, evidence-based decision making, and contestability.


From a practical perspective, the paper may assist public sector organizations with adapting and applying CPM. From a theoretical perspective, the paper highlights an important and relatively neglected research problem, and suggests several avenues for future research.



Baškarada, S. and Hanlon, B. (2018), "Corporate portfolio management in the public sector", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 37 No. 4, pp. 333-340.



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