Centralization as A Guiding Principle for Leveraging Agile Portfolio Management

In order to effectively implement Agile Portfolio Management ‚Äì the process of leveraging Agile principles in portfolio-level decision-making ‚Äì visibility is critical. One of the key concerns about shifting to Agile methods is that the sprint-style deliverables and frequently shifting priorities inherent in Agile are not always exactly compatible with more traditional methods of project or portfolio management. That’s why it is important to acknowledge one of the guiding principles of Agile Portfolio Management: Centralize project and portfolio management, regardless of methodology.

Centralize project and portfolio management, regardless of methodology

Let’s take a moment to address the incredibly complex and demanding job of portfolio managers. In the rapid pace of the digital economy, project and portfolio managers are under constant pressure to balance requests, resources and strategic priorities to deliver more, faster while simultaneously increasing value and customer satisfaction. Last year, Gartner noted that project managers (PMs) are feeling increasing pressure to respond faster and provide better business outcomes. In order to do that, they have to be equipped with the visibility and data needed to make swift, informed decisions. That’s where centralization comes into play.

Why centralize?

Centralization allows your project management office (PMO) to bring all projects, regardless of the specific project type and approval workflow, into a single portfolio, allowing timely and effective decision-making. In the past, a software development team might be executing in an Agile development tool like Jira, while the infrastructure group is running more traditional Waterfall projects – and the PMO has to somehow correlate both initiatives, and a dozen others, into a portfolio report for executives. That meant a lot of meetings, manual effort, phone calls and emails for the PMO. Even a basic function like capacity planning – i.e., can we take on more work – became an operational nightmare. Agile Portfolio Management demands a solution that can centralize all projects into a reporting hub that provides broad visibility, comprehensive, timely reporting and rollup to the portfolio level. In a single view, portfolio and project managers know who is involved in a particular project, what tasks are in flight, and whether planned resources are being fully utilized.

Agile Portfolio Management benefits organizations in another big way. It enables leaders to be more intentional in their project selection and ensure their decisions align with their business goals by keeping an up-to-date, rolling backlog for when priorities shift. That reduces risk, maximizes the use of resources and supports more sound investment overall. Of course, it also delivers greater business value and customer satisfaction.

And, as mentioned earlier, an Agile Portfolio Management approach can encompass traditional Waterfall projects, which is helpful for deliverables that need a linear process or hybrid projects that use traditional and Agile methods. In this case, and arguably more often than not, Agile is best suited at the portfolio level, even if some projects within are traditional. What truly matters is that information is centralized within the PMO, and portfolio leaders can collect data on all projects to drive effective decision-making, capacity planning and a project backlog.

That last benefit — backlog — is particularly important because it allows portfolio managers to keep the work pipeline packed with ready-to-run projects that fill in the value-sapping gaps that are so common to non-centralized methodologies. Think about it like this: When projects are siloed and difficult to access, it means that your PMs might have no idea that valuable resources are stagnating within stalled deliverables instead of flowing into new initiatives. Remember that Gartner article I mentioned a moment ago? A pre-prioritized backlog alleviates those common project management pressures by helping them deliver more value faster. 

Let’s tie this all together. Centralizing your PPM is a key part of incorporating Agile Portfolio Management, because it allows your PMO to gather all of the constantly moving components within your organization under one high-visibility umbrella. All those sprints and milestones that can be so intimidating are harnessed into a single view and joined together with traditional projects in a common reporting infrastructure. That’s better for them, better for you and, most importantly, better for your customers.

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Shawn Dickerson

Shawn Dickerson is Vice President of Marketing for KeyedIn, a company with a range of Cloud-based solutions including KeyedIn Projects for PPM (Project Portfolio Management), Projects for PSA (Professional Services Automation) and KeyedIn Manufacturing for enterprise resource planning (ERP). He brings more than 20 years experience in marketing to the KeyedIn team.