Ask the Expert: Andy Jordan - Agile Portfolio Management Edition

Author: Rachel Hentges

On a recent KeyedIn webinar, Agile Portfolio Management - The Secret Sauce to Sustainable Business Growth, featuring guest presenter and  industry expert, Andy Jordan, we received some burning questions from attendees regarding the topic of agile portfolio management. 

The webinar discussed the transformation of project management offices from tactical or task driven portfolios to more strategic approaches with defined business goals. Organizations were failing to live up to expectations and change was taking too long to implement. According to Andy Jordan, it’s time to think differently. 

Andy suggests organizations should start to become strategically focused on driving long term value with a top down approach to prioritizing innovation and time to solution. With a more strategic approach, organizations can embrace agile portfolio management elements that will allow them to adapt quicker to change based on a strategically driven objectives and requirements. Leveraging technology to initiate an agile portfolio management approach, organizations gain greater confidence in their ability to deliver value and ultimately improve financial performance. By doing this, organizations are transforming their business to enable improved customer satisfaction, internal operations and more efficient and effective execution.

As the discussion of agile portfolio management occurred, attendees of the webinar had burning questions that they sought Andy Jordan’s expertise in answering.

Here are those burning questions answered by Andy Jordan himself: 

1. What is the best practice for resource planning?

Organizations need to take a more strategic approach to resource planning.  They need to consider that there are resource impacts on operational areas when projects deliver – increased demands on sales, marketing, professional services and customer service when a product launches for example.  They also need to recognize that changes to resource demands – whether in project areas or operations, take time to be met. While a software developer may be available the next day, key subject matter experts with niche skills may take weeks or months to secure.  And if training is needed to update skills profiles that also takes time. Organizations must take a longer view of resource planning and management – considering likely demand and supply as much as a year out and developing plans to address gaps.

2. How do I get buy-in from Sr. Management?

The key to getting senior management buy in is to talk in the language they care about.  They don’t want to hear about projects, they want to hear about how their business is improving so talk to them in terms of how changes to portfolio, program and project management will improve the return on investment, increase the likelihood that goals will be met, etc.  Tying the project outputs with the required business outcomes and then explaining issues and opportunities in terms of those outcomes will ensure that leadership hear the message.

 3. How do you suggest the best way to manage portfolios when they are client contract work that has to be delivered? Ex. Everything has to be resourced and delivered

The concept of agile portfolio management works just as well for services organizations – those for whom every external project is supported by a contract.  The only difference is that the considerations of the right type of project, what opportunities to prioritize, etc. has to happen earlier in the process. That has to become part of customer relationship management (CRM) to ensure that the right opportunities are targeted, the right RFPs responded to, etc.  Staying focused on areas where you have the best ability and avoiding projects that have historically lost money will help prioritize the right work. And of course you need a software solution that can give you that insight. Also recognize that services organizations still have a lot of internal projects that are no different than any other organization.

4. How do you best leverage resources when operating in a persistent team structure?

Persistent or permanent teams offer the opportunity for greater team stability, and that’s an important concept of agile project delivery.  But there are limits to the value of that. While the team can self-organize and manage their workload to optimize the amount of work they can deliver in any given period, there comes a point when the benefits of that stability end.  The team becomes too comfortable and improvements slow down or stop. In that situation, bringing in fresh ideas to the team by changing out one person is a good idea. Not only does that help to improve the performance of the team it lets the individual who moves out of the team join another part of the business and help that area to grow and develop more rapidly by sharing his or her experience.

5. Can you say more about the evolution of project management to product management? Does it still involve grouping initiatives into areas that align or make sense? How do you market initiatives and gain buy in to the naysayers that are afraid to change? What if the leadership doesn't think strategically?

This evolution is currently very limited – some software development initiatives where the ability to continuously release functionality into a production environment is beneficial.  This results in a continuously evolving product that can move ahead all the time instead of through periodic releases. How that work aligns with other projects is up to the individual organization to decide – at the end of the day it’s just another approach to delivering work and if it’s not important enough to the strategic success of the business it won’t be funded.  In terms of marketing, the continuous delivery is a feature that can be marketed in itself – no wait for upgrades for example. And if leadership don’t support the concept then you can continue to deliver using projects as always, but recognize that more visionary competitors may take advantage.

Still have burning questions on agile portfolio management? Follow KeyedIn on LinkedIn for more information related to this hot topic and many others in the project management industry.

Want to learn more about this industry expert - Check out Andy Jordan on LinkedIn.