Agile Project Portfolio Management: Let Your Business Benefit from the Scaled Agile Framework

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Project portfolio management can be tough: budget, time, and people are limited while conflicts, dependencies, and issues seem to be limitless. First, we’ve realized the power of structure and order. We’ve used it to tame the beast. Later came Agile to help us overcome the obstacles and succeed in our business endeavors. It taught us, that “…to succeed in the long term, focus on the middle term.” © Geoffrey Moore Let’s review the traditional approach vs. the Lean-Agile (SAFe) approach below:

Lean Agile Approach PPM Express

Portfolio Level Agile and Value Streams

Agile portfolio management is one of the five core competencies of the Agile enterprise. It aligns strategy and execution. It applies Agile and systems thinking to strategy, portfolio operations, and governance.

Such collaborations give enterprises the ability to execute existing commitments reliably and better enable innovation. The Agile approach is building on the foundation of the four other core competencies.

The portfolio-level Agile approach contains the principles, practices, and roles needed to initiate and govern a set of development Value Streams.

Agile portfolio management aligns enterprise strategy to portfolio execution by organizing the flow of value through one or more value streams. It assures that the value streams are focused on the portfolio that meets its strategic objectives.

Scaled Agile Framework Portfolio Framework (SAFe) methodology is an industry-standard framework for helping organizations scale Agile and Lean practices to an enterprise level. A SAFe portfolio is a single instance of the framework that manages a set of value streams for a specific business domain. Each value stream delivers a set of software and system solutions that help the enterprise meet its business strategy.

Each SAFe portfolio has a two-way connection to the enterprise. In the small-to-midsize enterprise, one SAFe portfolio can typically govern the entire technical solution set. In larger enterprises (more than 500 to 1,000 practitioners), there can be multiple SAFe portfolios, typically one for each line of business.

There are two kinds of SAFe portfolios:

The first establishes the strategic themes for the portfolio that guide it through ever-changing business objectives.

The second provides a constant flow of feedback from the portfolio back to the enterprise stakeholders. This includes:

  • The current state of the portfolio’s solutions
  • Value stream key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Qualitative assessments of the current solution’s fitness for purpose
  • Assessments of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats present across the portfolio

Highlights of the Scaled Agile Framework Portfolio Include:

  1. Lean Budgets – Lean budgeting allows fast and empowered decision-making, with appropriate financial control and accountability provided through Guardrails.
  2. Value Streams – Every value stream must fund the people and resources necessary to build Solutions that deliver value to the business or customer. Each is a long-lived series of steps (system definition, development, and deployment) that build and deploy systems that provide a continuous flow of value.
  3. Portfolio Canvas – The Portfolio Canvas defines and describes the purpose of a SAFe portfolio. This canvas is an instantiation of the Business Model Canvas made popular by its creator Alexander Osterwalder.

Why SAFe Portfolio Management?

The reason for using Scaled Agile Framework Portfolio Management elements is straightforward: traditional approaches to portfolio management inhibit the flow of value and innovation in the enterprise. They were not designed for a global economy and the impact of digital disruption. This new reality puts pressure on enterprises to work with a higher degree of uncertainty yet deliver innovative solutions much faster.

Despite this new reality, many legacy portfolio practices remain. Typically, these include:

  • Rigid budgeting cycles
  • Perpetual overload of demand versus capacity
  • Iron-triangle “strangulation”

Also, when portfolio management is unfamiliar with software capitalization in Agile, it often impedes the transformation to Lean-Agile approaches. Portfolio management approaches must be modernized to support the new Lean-Agile way of working.

How PPM Express Helps Enterprises Transform Classical Portfolios to SAFe Portfolios

Many enterprises have discovered that centralized decision-making enabled by flexible software can move the enterprise closer to Lean-Agile excellence.

As a result, many organizations are better served by redesigning the traditional PMO roles and PPM approaches to become Agile. Combining the traditional PMO to have specialized skills and knowledge, with Agile, management is extremely useful in changing ways of working.

Moreover, this approach has proven itself as a great way of getting things done. Working with a correct PPM toolkit designed to enhance the PMO’s reach and influence is a key to a far more productive business process.

For the process of transforming the traditional approach to an Agile approach, your toolbox must be:

  • Scalable – suiting for both – small teams and large workforce,
  • Flexible – adaptable to “old-school” ways as well as Agile methods,
  • Provide transparency and interconnectedness – give both a “bird’s eye view” of the portfolio, and an “in-depth view” of a single project.

In case you are struggling with “Traditional to Agile” transformation, or just feel inspired to do so, PPM Express is the tool to adopt. PPM Express is a SaaS platform that enables an organization with a full portfolio and project visibility by aggregating project-related information across groups, portfolios, and systems.

It is a lightweight portfolio management tool that suits the immediate needs of teams and business entities starting with 20 people to the extent of large companies with hundreds to thousands of employees. It is perfect for SAFe portfolio management thanks to its:

  • Ease of use and intuitive interface that connects all project data — terms, budgets, performance indicators — into one wholesome picture.
  • Advanced customization options that make it extremely adaptable to any market segment or business landscape.
  • Ability to make both long-term and short-term reports. It is designed specifically to accommodate the need of PMOs and executives for portfolio transparency and flexibility.
  • “Budget section” to budget and finally Release section that allows adding release dates for your portfolio.
  • Data synchronization option that allows setting up both perpetual synchronization and a specific synchronization schedule.
  • Transparent and scalable Configurable tables (to see only the basic stats for each portfolio as well as an overall timeline) and Dashboard that includes portfolio details (viewing and editing), a summary with a “progress bar,” and a Status section with summaries for all current portfolios.
Agile Project Portfolio Management: Let Your Business Benefit from the Scaled Agile Framework
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