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Understanding Adaptive Project Management

Keeping the focus on effective and efficient execution across all workstyles

After 16 years of simply calling it PPM, Gartner now acknowledges that there are multiple elements to portfolio management.  PPM is now split into Strategic Portfolio Management, focused on strategic planning and investments, and Adaptive Project Management focused on effective and efficient execution methods and tools that help ensure organizations can successfully deliver and report on work delivered through all modalities.

What is Adaptive Project Management?

Adaptive Project Management and the associated reporting capabilities allow organizations to manage and track the work that is defined and approved by Strategic Portfolio Management through all elements of the tri-modal delivery reality.  Adaptive Project Management begins with capturing and prioritizing demand, continues through the planning and execution of work and is completed through effective closeout of all work activities.  It must be noted that while Adaptive Project Management is critical to successful delivery, as Gartner points out, it lacks the strategic elements and must always be viewed as a partner to Strategic Portfolio Management. Adaptive Project Management should not exist in isolation, but rather in conjunction with Strategic Portfolio Management, which provides the strategic element and Adaptive Project Management focuses on execution and delivery.

Importance of Adaptive Project Management

Organizations today cannot deliver work using just one approach.  They must embrace traditional, agile and hybrid ways of working if they are going to consistently deliver solutions that achieve the expected value targets.  They must also support multiple delivery methods – digital products, applications and assets, products and services, programs, and projects.

At the same time, organizations must use tools to capture and prioritize demand from multiple sources without slowing down the throughput of that work to execution teams and while ensuring that the right work is always being undertaken.  And all of that work must be reported on accurately, completely and with the right context for each stakeholder.  That’s what Adaptive Project Management delivers.

6 Key Elements of Adaptive Project Management

Because Adaptive Project Management is focused on the execution of work, the elements align closely with the traditional project and work delivery cycles that organizations are familiar with.

1. Demand capture and intake

Adaptive Project Management must provide a single demand funnel that captures all work requests and intakes regardless of the type of work method, solution or source.  This implies alignment with the Integrated IT Portfolio Analysis (IIPA) element of Strategic Portfolio Management.  Additionally, because intake must be integrated with the strategic goals and objectives, the Enterprise Project Portfolio Management (EPPM) element of Strategic Portfolio Management must also integrate with demand capture to ensure requirements around governance and bulk funding are considered.

2. Prioritization

Effective organizational performance depends on effective prioritization.  Application PM requires a robust prioritization process that is capable of ensuring that there is a single prioritized list of work items that aligns with enterprise strategic objectives.  This is an area where integration with Strategic Portfolio Management is critical and ensures alignment between priorities, funding and outcomes and that can only occur when work is prioritized appropriately.  That prioritization must be able to manage work from multiple sources, delivered in multiple modalities.  It must also be able to integrate with the adaptive planning elements of Enterprise Program & Portfolio Management to allow for effective adjustments to priorities when required.

3. Planning

Work carried out as part of Adaptive Project Management is delivered using numerous vehicles – projects, programs, products, etc. and each of the tri-modal realities.  That means many different approaches will be used to plan work, but Adaptive Project Management must be able to manage that planning process to understand the overall resource utilization, dependencies, schedules, financial demands, etc.  There must be complete clarity regardless of how individual work items are delivered.

4. Execution

The same concepts that apply to planning also impact execution.  Adaptive Project Management must be able to monitor and measure performance across multiple ways of working and respond to challenges and opportunities that arise.  In addition, they must ensure that changes driven by performance variances or as a result of adaptive planning adjustments are implemented effectively, efficiently and with consideration of all dependencies.  This requires integration with other enterprise tools that help manage work in the different modalities, and the automated flow of data between those applications.

5. Closeout

Closeout is an often-overlooked part of the work execution process but it is critical to ensure that all commitments are completed successfully, that resources are released as expected and that opportunities for improvement are not only captured but integrated with existing work methods.  Discretionary investments are becoming ever more critical to organizational success and Adaptive Project Management must ensure the way that those investments are delivered is always evolving to achieve optimal performance.

6. Reporting

Not so much an element of Adaptive Project Management as an overlay for all other elements, it is essential that organizations have accurate, complete, timely and contextualized reporting for all work undertaken as part of Adaptive Project Management.  Organizations must ensure that work in all modalities and tracked and measured effectively and that the information can be consolidated to provide a portfolio view of all work.  Additionally, reporting must be capable of playing a decision support role for all types of stakeholders to the Adaptive Project Management process – portfolio managers, finance departments, product managers, etc.

Top Challenges

Adaptive Project Management cannot succeed in isolation.  In many organizations it represents the only form of portfolio management that is consistently applied, but as Gartner points out, unless Adaptive Project Management is integrated with Strategic Portfolio Management, organizations are missing the top-down, strategy driven management that is necessary to ensure optimal performance.

Additionally, organizations frequently find that they rely on different tools to handle different work modalities with no ability to integrate the data from those systems.  Often that inability stems from a lack of consistent metrics across different ways of working, making it almost impossible to reliably assess performance and make appropriate adjustments.

Strategic Portfolio Management Software

UMT360’s powerful strategic portfolio management software supports every element from roadmapping to resource management to portfolio analysis. By integrating the software into how you plan, fund and manage your work, your key people are freed up to focus on strategy execution.

  • Your portfolio management function has total insight
  • Business units can manage their own strategies and outcomes
  • Strategic planning can be tied directly to strategic outcomes
  • Integrated data provides a single source of truth for all activities

UMT360’s Proven VIC Framework

UMT360’s VIC framework offers a proven approach to help organizations identify and activate the exact capabilities needed to help them more effectively drive business agility. Our experts can quickly assess what’s needed to help you incrementally establish the right foundation, then help you move from tactical execution to become more strategic.


What is Adaptive Project Management?

It is the process of delivering work approved within strategic portfolio management using any delivery method – traditional, Agile, hybrid and ad hoc.

What is the Adaptive Project Management framework?

It consists of:

– Capturing demand in a single, central location
– Integrated prioritized work list Effective planning
– Delivery across all modalities (traditional, Agile, hybrid, ad hoc)
– Effective closeout Comprehensive, contextualized reporting

How does Adaptive Project Management relate to Strategic Portfolio Management?

Adaptive portfolio management ensures that the work that is planned, funded and approved in strategic portfolio management is executed effectively regardless of how that work is delivered.

Ben Chamberlain

Ben Chamberlain is the Chief Product Officer and is responsible for the strategic direction and worldwide go-to-market activities for UMT360’s Strategic Portfolio Management (SPM) software solutions. He is an accomplished enterprise software executive with more than a decade of experience of building innovative SPM solutions that have helped global 2000 companies drive business transformation and increase their business agility. Ben joined UMT in 2002 and was responsible for the in-market success of UMT Portfolio Manager which was acquired by Microsoft in 2006. Ben has a degree in Business and Sports Science from Surrey University (UK).

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