Getting Started with Agile Portfolio Management

Author: Tom Raper
Tom Raper, our excellent Director of Product Solutions, had the opportunity to present a session at the PMO Symposium earlier this month. Following is a summary of Tom’s presentation. You can also read more about our key PMO Symposium takeaways.  
If you are still debating implementing Agile portfolio management, you’re in good company. Plenty of organizations are still on the fence about embracing Agile methodologies. Agile portfolio management isn’t a gimmick, a fad or a case of sales-driven fear of missing out (FOMO). It’s a strategic decision to transform your organization through better business practices. Not convinced? Let’s take a closer look at the why. 
First, Agile will help your organization start managing your portfolio to maximize business value by fully integrating project management into your operations and turning it from a reporting function to a management and delivery function. Second, Agile portfolio management helps your organization become adaptable and light on its feet. If you’re not Agile in today’s lightning-quick market, you may be (barely) keeping up instead of leading the pack. Agility helps you deliver products faster, innovate more creatively and stay ahead of the competition. Third, Agile portfolio management helps your organization create business value by keeping you informed at all times. No more sunk investments, no lagging productivity. 
Feeling more confident about the why? Let’s get to the how. 
Adopt a Product Delivery Strategy
The first step when getting started with Agile portfolio management is to embrace a product delivery strategy. What does that mean? It means your organization operates like a high-performance winner. Work nimbly, deliver swiftly, innovate constantly and always work with a customer-focused mindset. 
Activate the Four Key Areas of Agile Portfolio Management
A solid Agile portfolio management strategy must rely on four key elements: innovation, resourcing, integration and measurement. 
Innovation: Continuously evaluate your projects and investments with a prioritized backlog to ensure the most valuable projects are being worked at any given time. Focus on what is important and not the next best thing - use data to drive directional changes and value-based scoring. 
Resourcing: Always invest in areas that have best chance of success. This requires that you adapt time, money and resources to be as Agile as your overall management strategy. Be prepared to shift your resources quickly and do so as often as is required. Monitor performance and address variances on a real-time basis. Always focus on projects and initiatives that create and drive value and innovation.
Integration: Siloed information leads to siloed (and ineffective) decisions. Identify which systems own which data elements. Evaluate how information needs to be exchanged and the proper frequency of updates. Also decide what triggers an exchange of information. The trick to effective integration is that is must be applied to all strategic initiatives at all times. Your PMO should translate the needs of leadership to action, while also providing data that allows them to adapt mid-deliverable. 
Measurement: Start with high-level estimates that identify basic level of effort and planning over simple time frames. Factor in planning rates for resources or roles, and don’t forget to include additional costs and expenses that may impact the overall budget and total cost of doing a project. Also incorporate a process for change requests, updated budgets and the possibility that a change may require you to re-evaluate why you are doing the project in the first place. Make sure to evaluate the budget versus actual along the way to avoid cost overruns. Finally, set key performance indicators to show progress and adopt an Agile BI tool to facilitate gathering data. 
If you are able to embrace Agile portfolio management, success will come more often and at less cost. Your organization will have greater confidence to deliver and opportunities to take on more than you once expected. And, ultimately, your company will be equipped for better alignment of optimal investments. By following these tips for getting started with Agile portfolio management can help you start successfully so you can grow successfully.