The Power of Portfolio Level Reporting in Jira Align (Part 3 of 4)

Please note: This is one in a four-part series on the powerful reporting capabilities offered through Jira Align (formerly Agilecraft) by Atlassian. The series will cover Jira Align reports of specific value to agile practitioners at the:

  1. Team Level
  2. Program Level
  3. Portfolio Level
  4. Enterprise Level

Each segment will briefly cover:

  • How Jira Align effectively ties each level into the bigger enterprise picture
  • Which stakeholders are most likely to use the reports available at each level
  • Which Jira Align reports are likely to be most popular at each level and why

Atlassian Jira Align is a cloud-based software specifically designed to effectively scale an organization’s agile practice from the individual development teams to the enterprise level. This offers unmatched visibility into overarching business goals and strategic planning, as well as day-to-day productivity. It unifies every level of the organization so all stakeholders can work from one centralized database.

Successful scaling of agile depends, to a large extent, on that unification. That’s why Jira Align is such an exciting solution to us here at Cprime.

If you’ve never heard of Jira Align, read this primer first, then come back.

How Jira Align Ties The Portfolio Level (Initiatives) Into The Full Enterprise

Part One was focused on the team level, while Part Two discussed the “team of teams” or program level. Moving farther up the pyramid, we come to the portfolio level. If you’ve read the previous articles in this series, you’ll recall these two vital steps in establishing and maintaining agile at scale:

  1. “The strategic initiatives coming down from the executives must be effectively communicated to — and guide the daily activity of — teams.”
  2. “Likewise, all the work-based data the teams generate needs to filter up to stakeholders at each level so decisions can be made, steering can be adjusted, and everyone can verify success is being achieved.”

Just as they did at the program level, leaders at the portfolio level need to facilitate that two-way communication to maintain alignment. Jira Align’s reporting capabilities can make that possible.

Which Stakeholders Will Benefit From Portfolio Level Reporting In Jira Align?

Stakeholders at every level benefit from a smooth interchange of information and having access to the best data at all times. However, the roles likely to spend the most time with the specific portfolio level reports we’ll discuss below include:

  • Portfolio managers
  • Executives
  • Program managers (to a lesser degree)

Rather than focusing on individual stories (like a team) or features developed during one planning increment (like a program manager), the portfolio manager is overseeing an entire solution which may be made up of multiple epics. Each epic is eventually broken down into prioritized features and stories. However, portfolio managers don’t often get that far into the weeds. Instead, their focus is on understanding the large-scale strategic objectives the organization is pursuing, and ensuring the various programs making up their portfolio remain aligned with that vision.

As we look into some specific portfolio level reports, we’ll consider how portfolio managers especially can get the most out of them using Jira Align.

Examples of Popular Portfolio Level Reports in Jira Align

Jira Align contains dozens of preformatted reports that offer as broad or granular a view as required based on what you need to understand. Custom reporting can be set up as well, if specific insights are needed that the available reports don’t offer. But, the following reports are the most popular out-of-the-box reports for effective portfolio management.

For a thorough explanation of all 22 portfolio level reports, check out this Jira Align support documentation.

Investment by strategic theme

The Investment by Theme report effectively connects two vital aspects of the portfolio — budget and effort — to show how those allocations are tied to themes that represent aspects of the larger business strategy. Themes are long-term initiatives that organizations establish at the executive level to accomplish business goals.

Throughout the planning process, epics are created within these themes and are then broken down all the way to the story level. Since epics can span over many planning increments (PIs), it’s possible for the effort and cost of ongoing work to skew from the priority placed on each strategic theme and related work.

This report solves that issue by allowing portfolio managers and executives to select a target PI and program, then view all the work completed, in progress, or planned. The work is displayed in hybrid pie charts showing the percentage of budget and capacity going toward each strategic theme. Progress indicators below break down the individual epics and features being worked during the PI in the priority order previously established.

Jira Align Investment by Theme Report

The Investment by Theme report can help ensure important initiatives get the attention and financial backing they deserve, ultimately ensuring the work being done remains aligned with overarching business strategy.

Investments vs. actuals

The Investments vs. Actuals report takes the same concept and dives even deeper into the budget side of the equation. Specifically, its purpose is to display three main sets of data for quick visual comparison:

  • Established Budget
  • PI Planned Cost
  • Actual PI Cost

Each of these data sets is broken down in pie charts showing percentages for each strategic theme. In many cases, themes are weighted fairly evenly across the full budget while each PI will be focusing more on the most effective use of the teams’ time. So, it’s reasonable for those charts to differ.

However, the Actual chart shows how much money went to each theme in reality once the work was completed. The goal would be for Planned and Actual figures to be closely aligned as large deltas indicate either poor planning/estimating or unforeseen challenges getting the work done.

Since it’s not uncommon for budget to require reallocation in the midst of pursuing long-term strategic themes, this report provides a valuable historical record of which themes have tended to remain under budget and which may be taking more than their fair share. That way, when reallocation is needed, a portfolio manager can make educated decisions based on the data, with the least possible impact on each theme’s successful completion.

Epic progress by state/step

Pulling back from the past and future visibility for a moment, the Epic Progress by State report provides a highly visual snapshot of work in progress (WIP) at the portfolio and program levels. Both epics and stand-alone features are broken down by their current state (started, in progress, ready, etc.) and process step (assigned, in development, in review, etc.)

JiraAlign Epic Progress by Step Report

This can quickly and effectively highlight risks and bottlenecks that could be overlooked at the team level over the course of a PI. The chart is especially useful for portfolio managers and program managers (or release train engineers) for predicting when WIP will be completed, offering a high-level understanding of whether the work for a PI is on track. Users can filter the report by PI, program, release vehicle, theme group, and Scrum Masters/product owners.

Work tree reports

We covered the Work Tree report in detail in the program level reporting article, but wanted to include it here as well because it’s just as important and valuable to portfolio managers. The five reports included within the Work Tree are:

  • Strategy
  • Top Down View (from Epic)
  • Bottom Up View (from Story)
  • Team
  • Theme Group

Perhaps more than any other single report, the Work Tree really highlights how Jira Align shines through its unmatched aggregation of data from all levels of the organization. In the Work Tree reports, roll-up and roll-down hierarchies of past, current, and future work across an entire portfolio are displayed across PIs. Parent/child relationships are clearly mapped out from the theme level all the way down to individual stories, showing how the progress of each is impacting the rest of the organization’s progress. WIP is updated in near real-time, so adjustments can be made on the fly as needed.

This thorough visibility into the data is priceless for portfolio managers who want a comprehensive perspective. That would include all the WIP that falls into their portfolio, as well as what’s already planned for the future. Beyond the obvious benefits for managing WIP, planning for the future, and understanding historical trends, the Work Tree reports also provide portfolio managers with quick, accurate, and easily digestible status updates for executives with just a few clicks.

In the last installment of this series, we’ll explore the most popular executive level reports available within Jira Align. If you’d like to learn more about how Jira Align can help your organization, we’d love to hear from you.

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Sneha Crews, Solutions Engineer
Sneha Crews, Solutions Engineer