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Blog Posts from the Leader in Enterprise Portfolio Management

SPM gives you the ability to see everything, no matter how it’s executed.

Written by Ben Chamberlain on February 17th, 2021 at 11:28 am

Click here to read the previous post in this series.

Our last post introduced the concept of Strategic Portfolio Management (SPM), kicking off a series of posts that will explore each of the key business imperatives you’ll need to address, and how effective SPM capabilities can help you address them.  There’s no better place to start than with the most fundamental question of all – what’s going on in your business?

Taming the Tri-Modal Reality Beast

A simple question like “what’s going on” shouldn’t be too difficult to answer.  But it is.  Because you’re most likely dealing with what we call the trimodal reality – which means that “what’s going on” is executed using a combination of traditional waterfall, agile and back-of-the-napkin work methods.  At least two of those approaches will be happy to tell you all about the status of the execution. But metrics like percent complete, story point velocity or schedule performance indexes tell you absolutely nothing about whether the work you’re managing is actually going to deliver on your strategic goals.

The Trimodal Reality

A variety of entities and execution styles can reside within the same portfolio. The challenge is to be able to see how each one impacts the other, and manage them all.

Forcing everyone to work in the same style is not the answer. Some initiatives are just better suited to agile, and some to traditional methods. And ad hoc work is never going away.  What’s really needed is a common language across all those methods to integrate information in a way that makes sense.  That language is value – what value are you getting from the projects, when will that value be realized, and how well is the value aligned with your strategic priorities?

See impact of all work without disrupting how work is done

To truly understand that picture and answer those questions, you need to be able to integrate your frontline work delivery tools with a standard portfolio level solution that consolidates and presents that value information in one way, regardless of source.  Leaders don’t really care what tools are used at the execution level. In fact, in an ideal world, teams simply choose whatever tools and work styles they feel comfortable with.  But you do need a standard platform to consolidate and translate the information from all of those work level tools and then present it in a way that allows you to make decisions decisively and with confidence.

Which imperative is holding you back?

Value based status reporting isn’t enough to drive those decisions.  It must be complemented with information on resources, with governance data, with the inputs from adaptive planning that is constantly evolving in response to new threats and opportunities, and with financial insights.  We’ll look at all of those in this blog series, but none of those are valuable unless you have the core foundation of what’s happening in your work teams and how is that benefitting the business.

Sorry, but the truth is, it’s not all about you.  Your teams also want the confidence that the work they are doing is contributing to the success of the business.  Connecting work delivery tools with strategic portfolio management capabilities doesn’t just drive better decisions at the strategic, leadership level.  It also allows delivery teams to understand how their work supports the strategic goals and objectives, driving an improved context for their efforts, driving engagement and improving performance.

You need both top-down and bottom up controls

Much as we might like to stop there, with the idea that the right tool will solve your problems, you also need the right mindset.  This applies to all of the elements of SPM and will be a recurring theme.  SPM requires the right focus – on connecting strategy with execution, and the right tools to allow that to happen. But it also requires everyone in your business to recognize that the work they are doing is contributing to the success – or failure – of your business.

Execute how you want, and deliver insight to all

The trimodal reality of waterfall, agile and ad hoc work is simply a response to the need to find the most effective and efficient way of delivering work at the frontlines.  That effectiveness and efficiency can be improved dramatically when the people doing the work understand not just what they have to do, but also why it is important.  It is enhanced even further when they feel that they have the freedom to make decisions designed to keep the solutions they are developing aligned with the business outcomes they are trying to enable. 

That only happens when all the tools are integrated – from strategy to deliveryand we change the way that work is thought about, planned and delivered.  SPM isn’t just a set of software solutions, it’s a more effective way of running your business. We’ll look at that connection between strategy and delivery in more detail in our next blog entry.

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