7 December 2017
Monday 4 December saw the European launch of the new Agile Portfolio Management mini book guidance. Whilst the London event mirrored the launches that had taken place in Sydney and Melbourne, the views and responses of our panel of four portfolio experts ensured that this event surfaced new insights, new ideas and generated conversations about the role of Agile portfolios that were uniquely its own.
Consortium Director for Professional Development Barbara Roberts, Programme Manager and Assessor Peter Coesmans, Radtac Founder and Chairman Peter Measey and Pragmatic Agile Evangelist Alex Clark opened up the conversation to the floor and took questions – as the Agile tenet spells out “good ideas can come from anywhere” and feedback and queries were encouraged.
Geof Ellingham, Consortium Chair asked the experts to talk about their key takeaways from the work they’d done towards the new AgilePfM book. Peter Coesmans talked about the concept of “value”. He explained how AgilePfM offers organisations a framework to encourage a genuine focus on value in the near term, so that organisations don’t feel they have to try and concentrate on all initiatives at once. They can put their energy into the immediate value “and just keep the rest in line of sight”.
Alex Clark pointed out that when organisations are considering what projects they are going to do in the future they “only have certainty for what [they] can see in front of them”.
For Peter Measey, the keyword is Agile Business. He urges organisations not to constrain their thinking within functional disciplines and departments such as HR, Marketing or R&D. A more effective route, he suggests, is to think vertically about the business – always focusing on delivering improved value for the customer personas across the organisation. “For me” he emphasises, “it’s the Agile Business Framework”.
For Barbara Roberts, a key learning has been that AgilePfM can either be the next step in maturity, up from Agile projects and Agile programmes, or for an Agile-immature organisation, it can be the first step in moving towards a more Agile way of managing a business, offering small achievable steps.
Linear (Waterfall) projects can be part of an Agile Portfolio
Questions from the audience drew out insights such as organisations being able to have Agile portfolios even where the projects and programmes themselves were a combination of linear and Agile.
Guidance, not prescriptive answers
The panel highlighted that AgilePfM offers guidelines so that professionals ask the right questions to find the best solution for their organisations. It’s not prescriptive – so on the subject of blending and balancing a portfolio, it encourages an exploration of an organisation’s appetite for change, and an assessment of what it can cope with, as part of decisions such as to whether to combine two initiatives into one, or whether to hold back an initiative to avoid delivering too much change at one time.
“AgilePfM,” explains Peter Measey, “is value and principles led.” This makes it more accessible to a wider range of professionals with varying levels of knowledge about Agile techniques. It also empowers people to make the right decisions for their unique business context, rather than “telling people what to do”.
We need a status quo
In being asked about the issues surrounding managing large amounts of change, Barbara Roberts made the critical observation that “we need a status quo. You can’t keep changing everything all of the time. The world is volatile, but we need to make it manageable.”
Peter Coesmans used the analogy of an iPhone update to highlight how humans assimilate change, “iPhone users get an iOS update roughly once a month” he explains, “But no one considers this a change. When you deliver change iteratively and slice by slice, then people can absorb it.” For organisations, this also carries another benefit, in that it reduces risk rather than embarking on a wide ranging transformation that takes effect all at once.
Agile changes organisational culture
For the panel there was no doubt that implementing an Agile portfolio would encourage changes in an organisation’s culture. Core Agile principles are encouraged and enabled by the new portfolio guidance, such as “anyone in the organisation can feed ideas into the portfolio” and “decisions should be made by those with the knowledge and not just the power”.
To round the session off, Geof Ellingham asked the expert panel a final question, “What isn’t in the book that you feel should’ve been?”
“The image of the egg timer innovation hub needs amending” said Barbara Roberts. “It’s not clear that initiatives enter and leave the portfolio. We need to take the black line off the top!”
One for the next iteration…
You can buy the AgilePfM Book here