Navigating the Jungle of Multi-Portfolio Management with Portfolio SAFe: A Survival Guide for Project Managers

As a project manager, you’ve likely heard of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), a popular methodology for managing large-scale software development projects. But have you ever heard of Portfolio SAFe? This variant of SAFe is specifically designed to help organizations manage and coordinate multiple programs and portfolios at scale, making it a valuable tool for project managers working in complex environments. In this article, we’ll dive into the challenges and solutions of adopting Portfolio SAFe, so you can decide if it’s the right approach for your organization.

Challenge #1: Lack of visibility and alignment across portfolios

One of the biggest challenges of managing multiple portfolios is ensuring that everyone is on the same page. It’s common for different teams to work in silos, with little visibility or communication between them. This can lead to duplicate efforts, misaligned priorities, and missed opportunities. With Portfolio SAFe, however, you can break down these barriers and create a shared vision and roadmap that aligns all portfolios and teams.

Solution: Establish a Portfolio Kanban system

A Portfolio Kanban system is a visual management tool that provides a clear view of the work that’s in progress, who’s working on it, and what the priorities are. It’s a great way to ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals. By establishing a Portfolio Kanban system, you can provide real-time visibility into portfolio-level initiatives and enable transparency across teams. This can help identify potential conflicts early on and ensure that resources are being used effectively.

Challenge #2: Difficulty in prioritizing and sequencing work across portfolios

When you have multiple portfolios and programs, it can be challenging to prioritize and sequence work effectively. You may have competing demands for resources, dependencies across programs, and conflicting timelines. Without a clear framework for prioritization, it’s easy to get bogged down in decision-making and lose sight of the big picture. Portfolio SAFe provides a solution by establishing a clear prioritization and sequencing framework that helps teams make informed decisions and optimize their resources.

Solution: Implement a Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) framework

The WSJF framework is a prioritization model that helps teams make data-driven decisions about what work to prioritize. It takes into account the cost of delay, the size of the opportunity, and the risk involved in implementing a particular feature or program. By using the WSJF framework, teams can prioritize their work based on the highest potential value and reduce the time it takes to deliver value to customers.

Challenge #3: Difficulty in managing dependencies across portfolios

As you scale your projects, dependencies between different teams and portfolios become more complex. You may have dependencies that cross multiple portfolios, making it challenging to coordinate and manage work effectively. Without a clear framework for managing dependencies, you risk delays, rework, and missed opportunities. Portfolio SAFe provides a solution by establishing a clear framework for managing dependencies and ensuring that work is completed in the right order.

Solution: Use the Kanban system to manage dependencies

The Kanban system is a visual management tool that helps teams manage dependencies across multiple programs. It provides a real-time view of the work that’s in progress, who’s working on it, and what the dependencies are. By using the Program Kanban system, teams can identify and manage dependencies effectively, reducing the risk of delays and ensuring that work is completed in the right order.

Challenge #4: Lack of strategic alignment across the organization

One of the biggest challenges of managing multiple portfolios is ensuring that everyone is aligned with the organization’s strategic goals. It’s easy for teams to become focused on their own priorities and lose sight of the bigger picture. Without a clear framework for strategic alignment, you risk working on initiatives that don’t align with the organization’s goals or don’t provide the highest potential value.

Solution: Establish a Lean Portfolio Management function

To ensure that all portfolios are aligned with the organization’s strategic goals, it’s essential to establish a Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) function. LPM is a framework for aligning strategy with execution and ensuring that the organization is working on initiatives that provide the highest potential value. It involves creating a Lean Portfolio Canvas, which is a visual representation of the organization’s strategy and initiatives, and using it to align all portfolios and programs.

Portfolio SAFe provides a comprehensive framework for managing multiple portfolios and programs. It helps teams prioritize their work, manage dependencies, and align with the organization’s strategic goals. By implementing Portfolio SAFe, organizations can ensure that all initiatives are aligned with their objectives and that resources are being used optimally to deliver the highest value to customers.

At Agileseventeen, we provide training and consulting services to help organizations implement Portfolio SAFe. We specialize in helping teams of all sizes adopt the framework and ensure that their portfolios are aligned with their objectives. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you maximize your resources and deliver maximum value: talkagile@agileseventeen.com

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