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Aligning Your Agile Portfolio With Organizational Strategy

Previously, we discussed the building blocks of organizational strategy: the mission statement, the vision statement, and the strategic objectives.

But having that foundation laid doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to be working on the right things at the right times to meet those objectives and fulfill that mission and vision. To tie your Agile portfolio to the organizational strategy effectively and ensure the organization is accomplishing what it needs to within an Agile framework, one more document is necessary:

The Portfolio Charter

The portfolio charter aligns your organizational strategy by defining the following aspects of the portfolio itself:

• Objectives – What specifically is this portfolio going to accomplish in line with the overall organizational strategic objectives? Ideally, these should be clear stepping stones heading toward those goals.
• Roles and responsibilities of portfolio managers – In regards to this specific portfolio, who is going to be fulfilling the three major roles (portfolio owner, program manager, and area product owner) as well as three additional roles involved in portfolio management (COO, CTO, and CIO)? What will their individual responsibilities be to the portfolio itself, to the rest of the organization, and to each other?
• Expectations and requirements of relevant stakeholders– Who outside of the six roles previously defined have a relevant stake in this portfolio and will need to be kept apprised of its progress? What do they expect to receive and what requirements do they need to fulfill?
• Communication requirements – Of the people identified above, who needs to know what, when, and in what format?
• Anything else relevant – The point of putting together this charter is to clearly identify and document any relevant facts about this portfolio that will help ensure it remains on track toward the overarching organizational strategy already established.

Mock Portfolio Charter

Continuing our example from the last post where our fictional company, TelCorp, established a mission, vision, and a set of strategic objectives, let’s now take a look at the “Objectives” section of their newly minted portfolio charter:

Medical-Management System Portfolio

This portfolio’s focus is to enhance MMS software, in alignment with these company objectives:
• Improve patient care through better monitoring and reporting of patient health
• Reduce cost of ownership through
◦ Improved monitoring and control of networked devices
◦ Making installation and configuration of devices easier
▪ Expand the list of supported devices, from TelCorp and third parties
▪ Increase revenues through market expansion and retention of current margins

Portfolio Objectives

• Add installation, configuration, control, and real-time monitoring capabilities for new TelCorp and selected third-party devices
• Includes new surgical robots
• Redesign user interface for monitoring and reporting of patient data
• Validate new PC-based monitor stations
• Upgrade device-resident Agents for more, better data and reliability
• Support monitoring, controlling device-resident Agents (V6 and up)
• Expand reporting for devices with V6 Agents
• Enhance fault-tolerance of system
• Ensure compliance with FDA requirements

As you can see, all of the individual portfolio objectives for the Medical-Management System portfolio, although smaller in scope than the broader strategic objectives or vision statement, are clearly aligned strategically with this document. These objectives fit well with the others, ensuring that when the organization invests resources in building out this portfolio, they will be making progress toward meeting strategic objectives they have already identified as beneficial for the organization.

The remaining sections of the charter can be completed based on reviewing these objectives and determining who the stakeholders are, who will be fulfilling the main and supplementary roles described, and how each of those individuals will fit into the portfolio’s management and reporting structure.

For more information regarding creating and fulfilling an effective portfolio charter, let cPrime help you with your Agile portfolio management questions.
Krista Trapani |   agile governance agile portfolio agile portfolio management agile scaling recipes for portfolio agile governance scaling agile

Why Agile Governance Matters at the Project, Program, and Portfolio Levels

For any organization attempting to migrate to – or sustain – Agile processes, governance is an important consideration. This is especially true as companies grow. While small companies can likely get away with fairly informal governance, larger enterprises cannot function effectively without formal controls in place.

As we touched on recently in the article How to Develop Your Own Recipe for Agile Governance, every organization can benefit from developing their own unique “recipes” for Agile governance that fit their specific needs and projects.

But why does governance matter so much?

Let’s break the answer down into three categories: the Project, Program, and Portfolio levels.

Agile Governance at the Project Level

To keep our terminology clear, we’re considering a project to be “a temporary endeavor undertaken to complete a unique product, service, or result.”

Effective governance at the project level identifies and advocates for specific goals to be reached during each sprint or iteration. It helps determine the core requirements that comprise the initial release of the project and the criteria by which additional goals will be decided upon.

Since multiple projects may be closely interrelated, effective Agile governance is often achieved at the program level where these multiple projects interface with broader business objectives.

Agile Governance at the Program Level

A program can be defined as “multiple related projects that are managed in a coordinated fashion.”

At the program level, the more comprehensive strategic goals of the organization filter down to individual projects that produce tangible results. Therefore, this is the optimal location for Agile governance to stem from.

Managers at the program level are in a key position to fully understand the requirements of each individual project without being directly responsible for negotiating the details. They are also in a position to understand and translate the overarching strategic goals of the organization to project managers who may otherwise suffer from tunnel vision.

Agile governance also provides managers at the program level the means to monitor and report on the progress of projects under their oversight.

Agile Governance at the Portfolio Level

A portfolio is a collection of programs or projects and other work grouped together to facilitate effective management in order to meet strategic business objectives.”

Managers working at the portfolio level are primarily concerned with organizational strategic goals and may have limited knowledge or understanding of individual project successes or failures. However, they do need to know the general direction in which the company’s projects and programs are headed, and they will concern themselves with business continuity matters such as budget and time line more so than those in project teams.

As utilized by the program level, effective Agile governance allows for clear and measurable monitoring of individual projects and broader programs in a language portfolio managers can understand and work with: time, money, and personnel.

Ready to take control of your Portfolio?


Help For Those with RAGE Issues

Establishing effective Agile governance is a potentially complex and difficult process.

For help in making it happen for your organization, take a moment to review our Recipes for Agile Governance in the Enterprise services.

Learn more about RAGE at the Project, Program and Portfolio levels by checking out our RAGE Introduction Webinar:

Krista Trapani |   agile center of excellence agile coe agile governance agile portfolio management agile scaling portfolio management rage
Portfolio Governance

How to Develop Your Own Recipe for Agile Governance

If you’re not into cooking, you probably look at a recipe as a list of rules that are set in stone, and God forbid you add an extra ¼ teaspoon of oregano.

But professional chefs look at recipes a lot differently.

To a pro, a recipe offers a general guideline for reaching the goal you’re hoping to achieve. Beyond that, everything is open to interpretation, adjustment, and enhancement based on a number of factors like:
• the chef’s personal tastes and experience
• the restaurant’s standard fare
• the individuals who are going to eat what’s being made

When it comes to achieving Agile success in your organization, it’s tempting to look for a list of rules, set in stone, that will take you from where you are now to full Agile integration and permanent Agile success. However, professionals realize that there are far too many factors involved in each unique organization’s Agile journey to successfully implement an exact ‘to-do’ list..

Similar to professional chefs, Agile pros continually fine-tune and make adjustments to make sure the organizational Agile journey is successful and sustainable. In fact, there is a recipe made just for Agile called RAGE (Recipe for Agile Governance in the Enterprise). RAGE starts with a base that can be tweaked with spices of ceremonies, artifacts, and metrics based on your organization’s palate.

What is RAGE?

Large enterprises cannot function without structure, but often that structure becomes ineffective and debilitating. RAGE provides a base recipe to optimize performance whether dealing with a specific department or a complex portfolio of projects. RAGE is also applicable to any process (i.e. Agile, Plan-Driven, Hybrid).

How Can You Use RAGE to Create Your Own Recipes?

Governance of Agile projects involves too many constantly changing factors to try and shoehorn one set of static rules into every project or portfolio.

1. Review this free white paper for a fascinating synthetic case study that makes creating your own recipes easy to understand: Recipes for Agile Governance in the Enterprise.

2. Watch a webinar or sign up for an online training course: the RAGE Series.

3. Bring one of our “master chefs” into your organization to spice things up with a custom recipe:


Krista Trapani |   agile coe agile governance agile pmo agile portfolio management center of excellence hybrid projects

cPrime’s R.A.G.E. is Unleashed; Agile Leaders Rejoice!

cPrime releases R.A.G.E., Recipes for Agile Governance in the Enterprise, a set of proven formulas and principles for exercising Agile Governance at the project, program, and portfolio levels, to empower organizations with large-scale Agile and hybrid projects.

Governance is the formalization and exercise of repeatable decision-making practices. The term Agile governance emphasizes rapid decision-making, based on lightweight artifacts that are developed with minimum effort. Thus, Agile governance can be exercised for projects that are inherently non-Agile, or which contain a hybrid mixture of Agile and other processes.

Agile Governance in the Enterprise

Agile Governance Graphic

cPrime’s Agile Practice Lead, Kevin Thompson, has written a comprehensive white paper, Recipes for Agile Governance in the Enterprise, which illustrates how Agile Governance can be accomplished by defining and using a set of standardized elements: Roles, Ceremonies, Metrics, and Governance Points at the different levels of an organization. Governance Recipes reflect Agile principles throughout, but their application is not restricted to Agile projects. These kinds of recipes may be used for Agile, hybrid, or other projects. Thompson divides levels of governance into Portfolio, Program, and Project levels, and reviews practices appropriate for each.

cPrime puts these principles to practice when working with clients transitioning to Agile methodologies or aligning hybrid projects. The principles act as a guide for how to construct new governance recipes for the unique scenarios that cPrime encounters with clients. Often organizations that are growing rapidly, or whose methodologies are in flux, are the ones who seek help with refining their governance practices.

As organizations grow, so does the need for governance. Small organizations can often function with very informal governance, but are unlikely to grow to large size successfully without some degree of formalism and uniformity. This challenge is commonly best met by providing just enough of the right kind of governance to enable successful collaboration, while avoiding the peril of excessive governance, which becomes an impediment to success.

Unlike alternative frameworks for scaling, which are either too strict or too ambiguous, cPrime has assembled a set of flexible guidelines and principles along with comprehensive solutions for governing within Agile and hybrid projects. The principles are easy to adapt and apply to all types of projects. They give executives guidance on how to develop their own recipes for governance in unique situations.

cPrime continues to inspire organizations by applying the R.A.G.E principles when facing difficulties in defining governance across their organizations. cPrime will be conducting an ongoing follow up webinar series. To find out more please visit cPrime’s the Agile Webinar page.

More about the author of R.A.G.E: Kevin Thompson, Ph.D., has a doctorate in Physics from Princeton University, and extensive background in managing software development projects. He specializes in training individuals, teams, and organizations in agile development. Dr. Thompson helps companies make the challenging transition to Agile development by working with development teams and business stakeholders to identify their needs, define the right process for the business, determine the steps needed to implement the process, and work through the steps successfully.
Monte Montoya |   agile governance agile pmo agile portfolio management scaling agile