Manage an Agile Portfolio

Improve project oversight without imposing old-school command-and-control.


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Your Challenge

  • Agile renders traditional project portfolio metrics useless. The main steering lever used to be end dates; with Agile, the main lever is scope.
  • Executives and business stakeholders still expect traditional commitments and deadlines, not “sprints” and “velocity.”
  • Project portfolio management (PPM) could barely stay current with traditional projects on a quarterly basis - the challenge is even greater with Agile projects that change every two weeks.
  • Further complicating things, Agile will not completely replace traditional or waterfall projects. Most portfolios include a mix of projects.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • The traditional portfolio has defined success based on the quality of prediction: who will deliver what, when, and at what cost? The long-term value of the work was less important than the accuracy of those predications.
  • Project agility should help drive business agility, assuming that the portfolio is itself Agile.
  • Portfolio management and project management are separate concerns. The portfolio management methodology needs to interface with projects (and vice versa) but they have distinct goals, terminology, and methodology.

Impact and Result

  • Increase frequency of current reporting to at least biweekly using an Agile Portfolio Dashboard.
  • Tailor the process to your organization with either an “engaged” or “abstracted” approach. The engaged approach requires stakeholders to frequently interact with project teams to manage and refine scope. The abstracted approach is more traditional, with projects steered largely through high-level budgeting and resource allocation.

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Get to Action

  1. Make the case for managing an Agile portfolio

    Determine the value of building an Agile portfolio and make a go/no-go decision.

  2. Assess the current state of the project portfolio

    Assess the value of an Agile portfolio and prepare to develop one suited to your organization.

  3. Establish a strategy and SOP for Agile portfolio management

    Engage stakeholders and teams to define Agile portfolio processes that suit their needs and preferences.

  4. Build and implement an Agile portfolio dashboard

    Develop processes and tools to facilitate visibility required for effective, agile decision making.

  5. Manage and optimize the Agile project portfolio

    Use and continuously improve the Agile portfolio to realize greater value and make more strategically effective decisions.

Guided Implementation icon Guided Implementation

This guided implementation is a five call advisory process.

  • Call #1: Scoping call to determine timing and personnel

    Confirm this is the best blueprint for your project. Set a time frame and other expectations for the guided implementation.

  • Call #2: Assess current state

    Define your current state based on PPM and Agile maturity. Assess the value of an Agile portfolio and prepare to develop one suited to your organization.

  • Call #3: Establish a strategy and SOP for Agile PPM

    Define key inputs, outputs, and metrics such as sprint value. Develop terms of engagement between the PMO, stakeholders, and project teams.

  • Call #4: Build an Agile portfolio dashboard

    Determine the “who, what, where, when, and how” of reporting project and portfolio status to various stakeholders.

  • Call #5: Optimize the Agile project portfolio

    Measure and build on success in the form of frequency of current reporting, average sprint value, and reclaimed capacity.

Onsite Workshop

Module 1: Assess the Current State of the Project Portfolio

The Purpose

  • Customize the Agile Portfolio development process to your organization.
  • Align different types of projects within a unified portfolio.
  • Estimate the value to help make the case for developing an Agile Portfolio.
  • Define the best roles and engagement strategies for individual stakeholders as you transition to an Agile Portfolio. 

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Ensure sustainable adoption and success of the Agile Portfolio.
  • Bolster the business case for building an Agile Portfolio.
  • Increase stakeholder and team buy-in.

Activities: Outputs:
1.1 Conduct an audit of project methodologies in use
1.2 Conduct an Agile Portfolio Profile Assessment by comparing Agile, Traditional, and Unstructured projects
  • Map of the composition of the project portfolio
1.3 Review the portfolio profile to begin formulating a target level of project heterogeneity and stakeholder engagement
1.4 Identify gaps and levers for aligning different types of projects within a unified portfolio
  • Analysis of project agility and PPM formality
1.5 Estimate the potential value of the Agile Portfolio
1.6 Create a stakeholder map
  • A stakeholder map
1.7 Document the current decision-making paradigm

Module 2: Establish a Strategy and SOP for Agile Portfolio Management

The Purpose

  • Improve stakeholder satisfaction by defining and reconciling stakeholder needs, preferences, and expectations.
  • Maximize stakeholder buy-in and alignment around unified portfolio metrics and processes. 

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Improved stakeholder satisfaction.
  • Maximized stakeholder buy-in and alignment.

Activities: Outputs:
2.1 Define the purpose and goals of the Agile Portfolio based on drivers of business & portfolio agility
2.2 Review & discuss stakeholder requirements and from the Agile Portfolio
  • Agile Portfolio Stakeholder Survey
2.3 Reconcile stakeholder requirements with current state to prioritize gaps & levers
2.4 Develop a universal scorecard
2.5 Define inputs, outputs, and other supporting processes
2.6 Formalize and agree on standard terms and definitions of your portfolio methodology
2.7 Formalize key roles and responsibilities
2.8 Identify potential sources of resistance and support
  • Agile Portfolio Communications Plan Template

Module 3: Build and Implement an Agile Portfolio Dashboard

The Purpose

  • Objectively and transparently approve, reject, and prioritize projects.
  • Prioritize work to start and stop on a sprint-by-sprint basis.
  • Maintain high frequency of accurate reporting.
  • Assess and report the realization of project benefits.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Improve timeliness and accuracy of project portfolio reporting.
  • Make better, faster decisions about when to start and stop work on different projects.
  • Increase stakeholder satisfaction.

Activities: Outputs:
3.1 Review the value scorecard and confirm stakeholder approval
3.2 Test the scorecard by evaluating a list of proposed projects
3.3 Review project value before deciding whether to approve or reject them for the project backlog
3.4 Use the sprint value and need scores to prioritize work to start/stop in individual sprints
3.5 Decide what to start/stop for an individual sprint based on results of the Sprint Prioritization
3.6 Develop a management dashboard for reporting on the organization’s capacity for more projects
  • Sprint Prioritization Dashboard
  • Project Portfolio Capacity Dashboard
3.7 Develop a benefits dashboard for monitoring the long-term attainment of value
  • Project Value Dashboard
  • Agile Portfolio Benefits Dashboard

Module 4: Manage and Optimize the Agile Project Portfolio

The Purpose

  • Measure success of the Agile Portfolio.
  • Identify opportunities to improve Agile Portfolio processes and dashboard.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Increase average sprint value.
  • Continue to reclaim project capacity.

Activities: Outputs:
4.1 Validate the Agile Portfolio Strategy and SOP using scenarios based on active or planned projects in the portfolio
4.2 Review measured value estimates from Step 1 to complete to the Agile Portfolio Scorecard
  • Agile Portfolio Scorecard

Workshop Icon Book Your Workshop

Onsite Workshops offer an easy way to accelerate your project. If you are unable to do the project yourself, and a Guided Implementation isn’t enough, we offer low-cost onsite delivery of our Project Workshops. We take you through every phase of your project and ensure that you have a road map in place to complete your project successfully.

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  • Missing comment
    Memduh Eroglu | 02-05-2015

    Charts in following documents seem to display [CELLRANGE] as a label instead of the Project/Sprint names. Am I missing a step to have the proper labels displayed on these charts?

    Agile Portfolio Requirements: Sheets 4, 5 and 8
    Agile Portfolio Sprint Prioritization Tool: Sheets 3,4,5 and 6

    • 432c05244a845caaca3b276adb15a11e comment
      Info-Tech Research Group | 02-06-2015

      Thank you for catching those errors.
      I spoke with our Excel tool specialist and he said that this is an issue with how charts work in different versions of Excel.
      Unfortunately, there’s no simple fix to solve the problem. Our specialist has relabeled everything, but any changes you make won’t actually take effect. You’ll need to use a macro to relabel the charts once you’ve entered in all your data. Instructions can be found here [] and the tool has been restructured to work the way the macro needs it to work.

      • Missing comment
        Memduh Eroglu | 02-06-2015

        I followed the instructions in Microsoft article and macro relabeled the chart perfectly!
        Thank you very much for your prompt response.

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Search Code: 74687
Published: April 21, 2014
Last Revised: October 3, 2014

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