Agile Portfolio Management Q & A

Author: Tom Raper

In our recent webinar, Agile Portfolio Management in Action, we talked about Agile Portfolio Management and presented to a number of project managers that were interested in this concept but wanted to know exactly how to incorporate Agile into their PMO and where to get started. We started off by reiterating some of the benefits of going through this and debunking a few of the misconceptions. We also talked about what it means, exactly, to be more Agile at the portfolio level (rather than project level) and how it is possible to start on your Agile journey without feeling like you’re boiling the ocean.

In the course of the event we received some insightful questions and I’d like to share those with a larger audience since some of these we have heard before and know they are on project managers minds.

Q: Does Agile project management reduce more risk than wave/waterfall project management?


A: Unfortunately risks probably don’t care which project methodology you are leveraging. You may still have risks that arise even with the best planning.  However, when running things in an Agile method you may be able to address them quicker or adapt to changes required with less complication. In traditional project management you may have waited to the end of a delivery or milestone to capture success criteria and delay your knowledge of the risks. Discovering and highlighting your risks quicker in the process along with a willingness to change, cancel, or modify your plans sooner, is what makes Agile, agile. 

 Q: Does Agile Portfolio Management apply to the user stories, features or back logs vs. the entire project?


A: At the portfolio level, Agile management is tied to the entire project as well as a group of projects that may be covering the delivery of some value. Although you may have stories and features you deliver throughout the project lifecycle, it is very likely that some of the items you wanted to deliver, or features you intended to provide, won’t make it into a project. Therefore, you have an inherent backlog that makes it into the next project or set of projects. 

Q: How does Agile project management compare with respect to budget management? 


A: Budgets are still an inherent part of a project whether agile or not. You will still have natural labor and non-labor costs associated to the work being performed. You may find that budgets need to be more flexible and may fluctuate more based on changes in the work being performed. You may be faced with situations where you need to cut budget and re-evaluate what is being delivered. Determining what parts of your portfolio are cut, adjusted, or altered to address budget changes are part of typical agile thought process. Identifying what you can deliver within your constraints and leaving other items as backlog. The alternative is building a budget with enough buffer in it to allow for fluctuations up or down as changes in what you are delivering are made.

Q: Do you see a diminishing role for traditional project managers as agile becomes increasingly prominent? 


A: How may they be rolled into an agile portfolio approach? Project management is still required for any form of project. You cannot have a group of resources all doing their own thing without some guidance, direction, or overseeing the desired outcomes. Agile teams still have a scrum master to oversee what is being produced by the team. Project managers can play an even more prominent role in Agile Portfolio Management by maintaining the vision of what is being done across the projects underway, not just within a single project.

There were a number of other questions and comments during the presentation, which you can view on-demand. We also walked through how KeyedIn supports specific areas of Agile Portfolio Management and how our project portfolio management solution can help get teams started on their Agile journey.