How to Take Agile to the Program and Portfolio Levels of Your Organization

One of the most persistent myths haunting Agile transformations everywhere is that Agile doesn’t scale. It’s simply not true.

Not only can Agile scale to the full enterprise level, but it must do so to reach its full potential, especially in organizations with multiple teams, multiple projects, and conflicting business priorities. Without scaling effectively, those teams trying to succeed using Agile methodologies are going to run into roadblocks when it comes to strategy, funding, personnel, and a host of other factors that are largely outside their control.

The most effective Agile transformations begin at the lowest level with individual teams, and scale up from there. Let’s assume for a moment that you’ve begun your transformation and you’ve had success in transitioning one or more production teams to an Agile work flow. You’re seeing the benefits from it, but you’re also feeling the friction as leadership’s expectations and management’s methods chafe with the new processes.

Now is the perfect time to begin scaling Agile using the SAFe framework and some specialized tools specifically designed to help with this process.

What is SAFe?

SAFe is a widely recognized formula for scaling Agile from the team/project level up through the program level (overseeing multiple projects and teams) and the portfolio level (overseeing multiple programs and guiding the strategic direction of the Agile organization.)

If you are unfamiliar with SAFe and its basic tenets, we encourage you to research cPrime’s SAFe training and consulting options for help applying this formula to your organization.

How does SAFe scale Agile?

In Agile methods, individual teams may use a Kanban board or similar visual means of tracking work in progress, and a burndown chart to estimate time to completion for each feature-specific sprint. Similarly, managers at the program level can use the same methods to stay abreast of all features in a given product development program, and expected time to completion of the full project. Those at the portfolio level will need to do the same for all programs under their oversight, and match time estimates with financial and personnel requirements and limitations governed by the overall strategy.

By working with larger or smaller segments of the same basic information, everyone in the organization can theoretically communicate with everyone else regarding any aspect of any work in progress or items in the backlog. This smooth and open line of communication facilitates far more efficient and effective project management and quality completion of projects.

How can you keep track of a scaled Agile transformation?

Scaling Agile can and should increase efficiency for any organization that attempts integration, but making it work on paper is far easier than doing so in the “real world”.

All of the communication and real-time updates discussed above require a tremendous amount of coordination and transfer of information on a minute-by-minute basis to truly be efficient. Trying to do so manually, via email or some other routine method, is nearly impossible for most organizations of any size.

However, incorporating a powerful software tool into the mix that is designed specifically to facilitate the scaling of Agile using SAFe methods makes all the difference in the world. It can automatically update all involved stakeholders in real time when anyone with a role in the process – from project team to portfolio oversight – makes or evaluates a change.

We’ve found one of the best tools available for this purpose is the JIRA Agile and JIRA Service Desk suite by Atlassian, which is why we’ve made the effort to qualify as an Atlassian Platinum Expert to assist with implementing and configuring JIRA software to fit your organization’s Agile scaling needs.

With the help of JIRA software and some expert know-how from cPrime’s professional Agile coaches, you’ll be able to see the power of Agile scaled to the program and portfolio levels of your organization in no time.

Ready to take control of your Portfolio?