Basic Agile/Program Portfolio Discussion

Today I had one hour to cover basic agile portfolio/program management. My audience were traditional PMs, BA and parties interest in lean thinking. 

I went straight to the whiteboard! First I showed the “onion” and the traditional hierarchical view in a tool like TFS.  We also used a live project and broke it down until it his a team’s backlog of user stories in order to understand from idea to execution with a real life example. 

What questions were important to my audience? 

  • How do we go from a project to prioritized features to take to a release planning session using the SAFe model?

Answer:  First,  using the lightweight business case template along with the visual kanban. we already had a gate process to ensure we are working on ideas proven to bring value; we just needed to streamline it,make it transparent and put in WIP on focus to get it ready to prioritize in the queue to implement. 

Second, is getting the features identified to a release planning session with the business users, product owner, scrum team and any other helpful parties. This did not exist today. Good idea for a training session using Jeff Pattion’s user story mapping.

  • What kind of metrics would be useful to bring to a product steering committee?

Answer:  A Release Plan- you can use a basic one showing the burn down of the total stories or the features (%) complete to release. I like to show the budget burn down along with the release timeline that creates the view of managing the triple constraints with the product steering committee audience. I also like cost per sprint with a view of core scrum team members and pooled members. You should be able to see trends and area to reduce risk or promote cross-training like architects passing back knowledge to the core team 

  • What is the difference between a feature and an activity? 

Answer:  A feature is what goes out in a release whereas an activity is used in the context of a user scenario (character) breaking down activities that achieve a goal. The activity or activities make up features that go in a release. 

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