Agile Portfolio Planning and Business Epic Kanban System Overview

My colleague and “agile ninja”, Chad Holdorf, has been working with agile at enterprise scale for some time now. He has adopted the Big Picture from my Agile Software Requirements book, which he describes as a “Scaled Agile Delivery Model” (I like that name a lot; I might even adopt it). Recently, he has been working at the portfolio levels of the enterprise to effect lean and agile thinking there too, and to provide a systematic way of moving projects from the portfolio (enterprise backlog) into development via a set of Agile Release Trains. He’s using the enterprise backlog model I described on my blog and the paradigm of the business epic kanban system , which I describe in Chapter 23 - Investment Themes, Epics and Portfolio Planning, of ASR. He has just published a short video/blog post that summarizes this system brilliantly. Check it out at: http://www.scaledagiledelivery.com/2011/04/22/agile-portfolio-planning/.

In addition, as agile tooling is a necessary condition for success at enterprise scale, he’s been collaborating with Catherine Connor at Rally (as have I) on the development of their new portfolio planning tool called “Stratus”. Here’s what Rally says about Stratus:

“Rally is previewing Project Stratus, a new application that elevates Agile planning and tracking to roadmap and portfolio levels. Based on collaboration with Rally customers, Project Stratus focuses at the PMO level on:

  • Keeping development aligned with strategic business priorities
  • Visualizing and managing projects and large features across the entire value stream
  • Analyzing the roadmap to optimize delivery of value while minimizing risk
  • Strengthening feedback loops between the PMO and development teams”

Now ideally, any method (with tooling) that really supported enterprise-level, agile portfolio planning would accomplish a number of objectives:

  1. make the backlog of potential and current portfolio projects visible
  2. provide wip limits so as to keep the full system in maximum productive flow
  3. provide a persistent, single version of the truth in the enterprise (avoid dueling spreadsheets/tools)
  4. provide visibility for how current development activities correlate to the enterprises current investment themes
  5. provide a capacity-based, systematic way of driving new epics into development

I think you’ll see from Chad’s video, that this system has the potential to accomplish all these objectives.

One last comment: Great job Chad and Catherine! This is clearly “new knowledge” that can help most every agile enterprise.

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