Steve Butler, PMP, PfMP, is a portfolio management consultant at Zurich Insurance in Hampshire, England.
already has established a process for producing
monthly reporting packs that offer clarity to portfolio managers and executives.
At Financial Times and other organizations
where agile is established, the challenge for the
PMO is to add value without piling unnecessary
demands on project managers that might deter
agility. That’s why the mantra “keep it simple” will
help agility flourish. For example, use minimal
governance so the organization can quickly react
to change. Or give authority to those with the
knowledge to make decisions, which streamlines
For portfolio managers in such organizations,
the primary task is to push the agile approach
further into the culture. Financial Times’ success
shows that portfolio management must be able to
provide almost real-time, accurate performance
information on all aspects of the portfolio to make
informed decisions fast. For instance, the organization married its agile expertise with an awareness
of board-level information demands. Doing so
helps project managers steer their way through the
process more quickly by providing a more pragmatic and flexible approach to governance.
As Financial Times has found and Zurich Insurance is discovering, the key to maximizing organizational agility, and therefore the agile portfolio,
is to increase visibility of the benefits of the agile
approach and of the strategic drivers on which
the portfolio is based. If a strategy is clear and visible, people will understand it. If they understand
it, they will be engaged. If they are engaged, the
opportunity for success increases dramatically. PM
At organizations where agility is firmly established,
portfolio managers can take it to the next level by
ensuring that it’s part of the project culture’s DNA
and simplifying practices wherever possible.
I’ve worked for organizations at either end of the
agility adoption spectrum. Each experience illustrated
to me how portfolio managers can help increase or
fine-tune an organization’s agile capabilities.
The agile transition is just starting at Zurich Insurance in the U.K., where I’m a portfolio management consultant. As it gradually moves away from
a pure waterfall-based frame, earlier this year the
company decided to merge its PMO and enterprise IT architecture teams. At the portfolio level,
combining these forces gives the PMO better
insight into the range of demands faced by the IT
group, which means portfolio reporting can be of
greater value when there’s an increased demand
for organizational agility.
Portfolio managers can help incubate the culture
of agility by reviewing every aspect of portfolio governance and streamlining it to make it more pragmatic
rather than purely prescriptive. If an element of governance is not necessary, we can remove it to allow
a more flexible approach, rather than tying delivery
experts’ hands unnecessarily. Such an approach
whets the appetite for an agile approach, and aims to
make the transition to agile approaches self-perpetuating, and hopefully, unstoppable.
It’s a different story at the international newspaper
Financial Times, where I was previously project
director. Because a predominantly agile portfolio
already exists there, reporting up to the board level
is tried and tested. As a result, the organization
The key to maximizing organizational agility, and
therefore the agile portfolio, is to increase visibility
of the benefits of the agile approach and of the
strategic drivers on which the portfolio is based.