agile portfolio management is hard!

agile portfolio management is hard!If your company is like ours, you’ve implemented agile development, partly because your teams crave the freedom and flexibility to work the way they want. But you’ve probably noticed that the larger your company grows, the harder it is to keep track of all the ongoing initiatives – their status and progress, who’s working on what, and what teams and projects depend on each other. So you’re in a bit of a predicament: project leaders need visibility in order to make decisions, without limiting the autonomy of teams. 

Agile portfolio management tools like Portfolio for Jira can help you make sense of what’s going on across your teams and projects. If you’re asking yourself any of these five questions, consider giving it a try.

1) What are teams actually working on and how do they contribute to the company’s goals?

fivesigns-blog-transparent-1When you have multiple teams working across multiple projects, it becomes hard to get visibility into what everyone is working on. And when you don’t know what everyone is working on, it’s impossible to see if you’re prioritizing the right set of investments across the portfolio. Imagine how complex this becomes as you move from 10 teams to 50 teams and then to 100+ teams.

An agile portfolio management tool will give you aggregated visibility across all teams, allow you to set business goals, and track progress toward them to make sure you execute on your strategy. It will also give everyone else on your team that same visibility so you can make sure everyone stays aligned and shares the same priorities.

 2) How can we track dependencies between teams and projects?

Tfivesigns-blog-transparent-2racking dependencies is relatively simple when you have one or a few teams but as the number of teams and projects grows, so does the number of dependencies. You start to get dependencies where teams rely on other teams, dependencies that affect multiple teams and projects and not to mention the constant changes that happen as things shift and evolve when projects progress. It’s paramount that you can take a birds eye view of all dependencies at any time, and that these dependencies update in real-time as things change. 

An agile portfolio management tool will give you visibility across all these teams and projects and allows you to plan, manage and track dependencies at the story, epic and initiative level – so no surprises come up late in the development cycle that could have been easily avoided.

3 ) When can we deliver and are we are on track to hit our release dates?

fivesigns-blog-transparent-3“When can we deliver” is probably the most common question that every stakeholder will ask, and the hardest to answer with any certainty. Without this level of visibility, it’s impossible to know whether teams can actually deliver against commitments, and even if you have a forecast, things change and you need to ensure your forecast is changing too.

If you feel like you’re flying blind to when you can actually release, or you’re doubting the forecasted release dates because you don’t trust the data, an agile portfolio management tool can help. It will dynamically forecast realistic release dates so you know when you can deliver and will allow you to optimize your schedule in real-time so you can see potential bottlenecks and react early, before they become a problem.

 4) Who is on the critical path for the release, and where are the bottlenecks?

fivesigns-blog-transparent-4You need to know the weakest link in your schedule. Is it the overall capacity, or specialized skill sets that your projects require? Do dependencies between work items mean that if one piece slips, everything slips? You also need to understand the impact if team members go on vacation, or need to take sick leave. At a higher level, management teams need to know if projects have the resources they need to deliver on their goals and want to be able to shift resources to fund new initiatives and see what the impact on the portfolio plan is.

An agile portfolio management tool will help you plan more accurately by letting you manage team availabilities and skill sets so you can avoid bottlenecks and ensure the right people are available when needed.

5) Why are we spending hours creating status and progress reports?

Wfivesigns-blog-transparent-5hen program managers are spending hours burried in spreadsheets and Gantt charts trying to create status and progress reports for management teams, it’s a sign that something needs to change. Keeping a (disconnected) schedule up-to-date, potentially retro-fitting it to what’s actually happening in the teams, running after people asking them for the latest update is practically a full-time job – especially if you’re working across a variety of tools –€“ and is a common problem among growing companies.

An agile portfolio management tool that is directly connected to your teams work, and updates with changes and progress in real-time, will remove the pain and time associated with preparing progress reports for management.

Get visibility across all teams and projects with an agile portfolio management tool

When you need answers to the above questions, it’s time to start looking for an agile portfolio management tool that will help you balance team autonomy with stakeholder visibility. It’ll come as no surprise that we use Portfolio for Jira, which allows us to plan and forecast with confidence, make data-informed decisions when things change, and keep everyone on the same page. Oh, and with the new live plans labs feature, we can create a Portfolio plan in under a minute (and so can you).

Happy planning! 🙂

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Balancing visibility and autonomy: 5 signs you need an agile portfolio management tool