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Assessing ACS’s Society Program Portfolio Management process

by Joseph Heppert, Chair, Society Committee on Budget and Finance
October 26, 2019 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 97, ISSUE 42


Credit: Courtesy of Joseph Heppert
Joseph Heppert

This year marks the fourth anniversary of the American Chemical Society’s Society Program Portfolio Management (SPPM) process, which ensures that the society’s established programs and newly launched ones achieve their desired outcomes, support ACS’s strategic goals, and provide value to the membership, profession, and general public.

The Society Committee on Budget and Finance (B&F), with the support of the ACS Board chair and executive director and CEO, has begun gathering feedback on how the SPPM process has performed.

Background. SPPM is a partnership between ACS governance and staff that recognizes changing strategic environments and priorities. SPPM considers new concepts, prioritizes new program funding requests, and reviews ongoing programs. This includes the potential modification, expansion, downsizing, or cessation of a program.

By comparison, in 2019, the portfolio redistributions identified through the SPPM process amounted to $1.9 million, or more than 9% of the society programs reviewed.

The annual process involves independent assessments for society program groupings within the Divisions of Education, Membership and Society Services, and Scientific Advancement and the Office of External Affairs and Communications. The assessments are conducted by the B&F Subcommittee on Program Review, a group of six B&F members with broad experience across ACS governance, and are based on individual program review documents prepared for each of the program groupings. The program review document contains goals, objectives, measures of success, and actual performance. The assessment evaluates programs in a number of dimensions and uses both qualitative and quantitative measures.

SPPM is a multifaceted, complex, and time-intensive process, but the effort has resulted in positive impacts on society programs and identified opportunities for improvement or revision within the process itself.

SPPM assessment. At every fall meeting of B&F, the executive director reports the cumulative financial impact of the processes included in the SPPM process. In 2016, the SPPM process redistributed only $160,000 worth of funding among society programs. This amount was just over 1% of the society programs reviewed. By comparison, in 2019, the portfolio redistributions identified through the SPPM process amounted to $1.9 million, or more than 9% of the society programs reviewed. Programs have also shown tighter alignment with ACS’s strategic goals and performance metrics.

Yet opportunities for improvement exist. The program review subcommittee acknowledged that the strategic value delivered to ACS is probably not commensurate with the time and effort the current process requires. This imbalance prompted a conversation within the subcommittee centered on increasing the strategic impact on ACS funding decisions derived from the SPPM process and especially focusing on the program review process.

Key takeaways. The program review subcommittee has received input from key stakeholder groups on the SPPM processes and the value derived from them. These stakeholder groups include ACS leadership, members of the program review subcommittee, the chair of the program funding request subcommittee, and society program leadership. Interviews were conducted before the fall national meeting, and feedback was received, distilled, and shared with the members of the program review subcommittee during the ACS national meeting in San Diego.

Key takeaways from this first step of this review process include the following:

The SPPM process should improve the strategic alignment of ACS programs to ACS strategy and goals, increase the influence of the SPPM process on ACS program funding decisions, and effectively drive budget reductions or eliminations for nonstrategic or nonperforming program initiatives.

The program review and program funding subcommittees should consider using similar, if not the same, evaluative tools and processes.

Timing of the program review and program funding processes should allow for consideration of all documents by B&F members involved in both subcommittees that conduct these processes.

A working group with all stakeholder groups represented has been established to develop and confirm processes to achieve significant impacts.

Step 2 of the review process has begun with the goal of constructing a revised, dynamic SPPM process that delivers strategic and effective review of ongoing and proposed programs more efficiently. Simply put, impact should increase, while labor intensity should decrease.

We are working to develop a proposal for this revised SPPM process and will share it with B&F and the ACS Board at the ACS Board meeting in December. We anticipate the implementation of these revised SPPM processes throughout 2020.

If you have questions related to this information or the SPPM process in general, please contact me through the B&F feedback email at or at

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.



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