‘If only I had known this in advance …’
When implementing Lean Portfolio Management (LPM), you will soon find out that in order to do this adequately, supportive tooling is required. LPM tools support you in generating insights and overviews and linking strategy with execution. As a choice for a tool is a longer-term decision, you want to make it carefully. Synergio has been implementing LPM tools for many years. We would like to share the pitfalls we have seen so that you can benefit from our experience.
Pitfall 1: Trying to set up the system all at once
If you try to set up the system all at once, you will discover that you may have made assumptions that are incorrect. A system for LPM will be used by users in different roles who have different needs. Implementing tooling for Lean Portfolio Management is like developing a product: so develop in small steps and in close cooperation with your customers (the users). We call this: think big, start small, scale up quickly. Determine which elements should be implemented and at what level. Key elements are OKRs, a work breakdown structure and your organizational structure.
Pitfall 2: Continuing to work in Excel in addition to using the tool
The goal of a portfolio management tool is to create a single source of truth. Once all the data is in the tool, everyone will use it and have real-time updates. When people still extract Excel files from the tool to share information, this is a signal that something is wrong. Either people don’t know how to use the tool, or not everything they need is possible with the tool. If you see this happening, try to find and resolve the reason behind this behavior because otherwise it undermines the only source of truth.
Pitfall 3: Thinking a portfolio management tool is only for portfolio managers
A portfolio management tool was created to support portfolio management – which connects strategy to execution. Execution is done by the ARTs or tribes and their teams or squads. Therefore, it is important to set up the tool to support collaboration at different levels in the organization. For example: OKRs are aligned with strategy; value stream budgeting is aligned with finance; and epics are aligned with product managers and product owners. So there are quite a few stakeholders you need to involve in implementing the tool. Therefore, this tool must add value for all users; otherwise, it is more likely to be perceived as an administrative burden.
Pitfall 4: Uncoordinated adjustments
When anyone can adapt a system to their needs, it can end up being a monster. A Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) tool should support a standardized process to bring people together and have a clear and synchronized view of priorities and work in progress. If everyone adapts the tool from their own perspective, this goal will not be achieved.
Pitfall 5: Implementing one universal process
Even when you already have a clear process set up for LPM (Lean Project Management), implementing a tool always makes the process more rigorous. Our lesson is that even when all processes are documented and aligned beforehand, you will find during implementation that people have different interpretations and do things differently. A template in PowerPoint is not as strict as a template in a tool. Therefore, it is important to choose which processes should be the same company-wide and which processes can differ by, for example, Agile Release Train or Agile team.
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Synergio implements Apptio Targetprocess for Lean Portfolio Management. By implementing tooling over several years, we have learned how to avoid these pitfalls. Both Synergio and Apptio are partners of Scaled Agile®. Wondering what we can do for your organization? Call us! We are happy to think with you.