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Review: AgilePfM – Agile Portfolio Management

agilepfm_coverThe Agile Business Consortium has given detailed insights in the Portfolio Innovation Hub as part of their Agile Business Change Framework by publishing the book AgilePfM – Agile Portfolio Management (Editorial team: Barbara Roberts, Peter Coesmans, Peter Measey and Steve Messenger).

This pocketbook focuses on management of a single portfolio and is divided in 13 chapters (a supplementary Complex Agile Portfolio publication will follow).

AgilePfM is centered on six core behaviors:

  1. Focus on the creation of value
  2. Review the portfolio continuously
  3. Involve the right people to shape and manage the portfolio
  4. Clearly and continuously demonstrate that the portfolio is delivering optimum value
  5. Encourage innovation and creativity
  6. Encourage collaboration and empowerment

Besides the explanation behind the behaviors we get an overview of different organizational challenges and corresponding agile portfolio management guidance.

AgilePfM use some basic concepts of an innovation hub, an agile portfolio process, maturity of the initiatives within the portfolio as well as horizons for an agile portfolio. See the attached AgilePfM Quick Reference Card.

AgilePfM (QRC, 171213) v1.0To download: AgilePfM (QRC, 171213) v1.0

The portfolio process is divided in four steps:

  • Step 1 – Confirm portfolio drivers
  • Step 2 – Confirm portfolio foundations
  • Step 3 – Deliver the change
  • Step 4 – Keep it current – Reassessing strategy and portfolio alignment

Without a strategy, it makes no sense. The VMOST (Vision, Mission, Objectives, Strategy, Tactics) is explained as well as some points to consider when creating and managing an agile strategy. For effective agile portfolios, the following rules should be considered:

  1. If it’s in the portfolio, it must be in the strategy
  2. If there is no strategy, STOP! DO NOT proceed without one
  3. Constantly review the portfolio and adjust when required. No one-off exercise!
  4. Concentrate prioritizing, blending, balancing on the near-term horizon

Initiatives can be divided based on their maturity within the portfolio:

  • Unformed, nebulous ideas
  • (Future) immature, starting to have some shape
  • (Future) ready, clearer and prioritized
  • Current, value being created
  • Completed, value being tracked
  • Reality, value delivered to the organization

In a separate chapter, several areas of consideration are given to help you formulate an idea generation process (defined and communicated method, respectful and open-minded evaluation of every idea and an idea must be treated as any other initiative)

The expected context of the rolling wave portfolio plan is dynamic and will change as events occur, both inside and outside the portfolio. The portfolio considers three horizons:

  • Longer-term horizon (from a few months to several years)
  • Near-term horizon (typically a few months)
  • Today (snapshot view).

A separate chapter explores the budgeting dilemma and what agile budgeting means including the relation between portfolio and budget and how budgeting aligns with the six core behaviors. Agile portfolio management emphasizes the importance of the delivery of value

Several roles can be distinguished in the portfolio innovation hub. In the model, we see two groups: The influencers, stakeholders and beneficiaries and on the other hand the core change participants.

The first group delivers the business change and innovation leadership for the portfolio and strategy and for each individual initiative the business change ownership as well as the change coordination. Often known as the portfolio board. Idea generation can come from anyone in the organization.

The core change participants deliver change support, change co-ordination, change analysis and expert guidance. This group can be seen as the portfolio management team or portfolio office.

Effective agile portfolio governance ensures the portfolio remains aligned to the overarching strategy and goals of the organization. The following principles will help to achieve this:

  • Ensure value drives priority (do the right things)
  • Never compromise quality (Do the things right)
  • Decide with the initiatives, don’t manage them
  • Give clear considered direction
  • Stay informed

Conclusion: When we think of portfolio management we often think of more traditional portfolio management as described in Management of Portfolios (MoP, AXELOS) or the Standard for Portfolio Management (PMI). When we look at agile portfolio management we find some guidance in the portfolio SAFe configuration and Disciplined Agile (DA). AgilePfM offers a combination of both worlds. The concepts of initiative maturity and rolling wave planning horizons make sense. The rules and behaviors are a combination of the more traditional and the agile ways of working. I miss the set-up of a portfolio Kanban board to visualize and manage the flow (by using WIP limits). This is absolutely a pocketbook that is worth reading.

To order: AgilePfM – Agile Portfolio Management

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