Agile Portfolio Management 

A portfolio is defined as a collection of Programs and projects which are grouped together and managed collectively as a group to achieve business strategic objectives. Where a portfolio contains one or more portfolios, the lower-level portfolios are called sub portfolios. The Programs within a portfolio may be completely independent, or may be related to each other and specific corporate objectives and may be of different types.

Projects may be completely standalone, organised within a tranche, set up within a Program, or be very large and although set up as a project, may have elements of Program management tools and techniques within it/them. Each portfolio may address specific organizational strategic aims and objectives and will incorporate specified actions from within the Business Plan. Each portfolio will have a focus on:

  • Organizational investments made or planned by the organization
  • Your appraisal of investments and measurement of values to be achieved (Benefits)
  • Alignment against corporate priorities and having a business justification
  • Robust decision-making through effective governance structures
  • A comprehensive performance management framework
  • Risk analysis and management
  • Internal and external communications

Agile Portfolio Management is explained in more detail in the Polychor Agile Portfolio Management manual.

Agile Program Management 

A Program is a management environment created for the purpose of managing one or more projects and sub Programs, which are business justified, share a common purpose and are strategically aligned.  It will deliver change, apply control and obtain benefits not achievable when projects or sub Programs are managed individually. A Program has a focus on outcomes and an outcome is the step change in capability as a result of using the output(s) produced in one or more projects or parts of the operational environment.  Outcomes are measured in benefits over a given time period. A Program will have a focus on the coordination of different projects, from their start to finish and the transition of each project’s outputs into the operational workplace.

The Program has a focus on Benefits Management and Realization, as although some benefits may be realized (achieved) during the project, a significant number will be realized sometime after project closure. The Program Manager will take a leading role during transition management, will act as a change champion prior to the project being handed over to operations and will take steps to ensure a smooth transition. The Program Director has overall ownership and authority for the Program, is responsible for procuring the funding for the Program and is ultimately responsible for it.  This is an executive responsibility layer and day-to-day management is delegated to the Program Manager.

The Program Manager is responsible for the creation of the Baselined Program Proposal and many other key documents.  He may be supported in this role by a Program Support Office and is responsible for the management of a Program team. A key function that the Program Manager has is to carry out a stakeholder analysis, identify stakeholder needs and expectations, create the Stakeholder Register, Communication Management Plan and Stakeholder Engagement Strategy. He has primary responsibility for taking the actions necessary to engage stakeholders and keep them engaged during the Program lifecycle. Internal resources that can be accessed to assist in this role, include the Service Support Directors and the internal and external communication management teams.

Agile Program Management is explained in more detail in the Polychor Agile Program Management manual.

Agile Project Management 

The Project is a temporary management environment created to deliver one or more business products or increments, strategically justified through senior management approval, to realize one or more benefits which underpin achievement of strategic aims and objectives. Any project which is not aligned with the strategic Business Plan, is not justified and should be cancelled. Those projects which are strategically aligned and designed to realize one or more business benefits, will normally be supported by senior management even if they get into trouble.

Project management is defined as the application of best practice procedures to identify and specify products, scientifically plan the effort required, progress production, effect monitoring and control and manage the project resources. The Project manager (PM) has delegated authority on a day-to-day basis within the project, to manage all the resources for these purposes. Applying physical and human resources in the way specified in the Project Plan and Release Plans, he is ultimately responsible for achieving project results within specified criteria (time, cost, benefits, quality, scope, resources and risk). Projects have traditionally been viewed as having scope agreed at the outset and once that agreement has been formalized, it is baselined, with any changes to scope being subject to formal change control procedures. Such changes would have to be supported by very good reasons otherwise approval would not be granted.

Agile Product Management

Product Management is about managing the enterprise’s portfolio of products. This is done using the operational environment, the change environment or both. Product Management is Agile Portfolio Management and it based on the enterprise’s vision and strategies. Agile Product Management is explained in more detail in the Polychor Agile Product Management manual.

Agile Knowledge Management 

Knowledge Management is defined as the totality of processes, procedures and the overall set of systems to capture, store, collate and analyse information, produce outputs and design methods to make this information available to the organization’s range of internal and external customers within defined parameters. Knowledge Management is the continual process of gathering data, creating information, creating knowledge and gaining corporate wisdom. This is explained in the Polychor Knowledge Hierarchy.

These parameters will take into account need, accessibility, confidentiality, delegated authority levels, communication, security and protection and version control. Knowledge Management starts with the understanding inherent within the Top Team and their view on the usefulness and usability of such information. In a mature, large organization it is likely the Top Team will understand the value of corporate information assets, the need to protect and exploit such assets, through secure internal corporate intranets and discussion and library databases.  They will understand the need to have clear communication guidelines and policies for the structured dissemination of corporate information assets.

In this organization, portfolio and Program management procedures will exist to capture documentation on past projects, Programs and portfolios and make such information assets available to future projects, Programs and portfolios. Knowledge Management ranges from the totality of business and IT processes in a large organization, to a 4 drawer filing cabinet full of folders and documentation in a legal practice, from a dedicated SharePoint server in a Project /Program Management Office to a box of documents in a charities head office.

In the United States more than $250 billion each year is spent on IT application development of about 175,000 projects.  The average cost of a development project for a large company is $2,322,000; for a medium company, it is $1,331,000; and for a small company, it is $434,000.  Many of these projects, based on the record of previous years, will fail.

Research carried out by the Standish Group (Standish Group Chaos Report 2011) reveals that 31% of projects will be cancelled before they are completed and 52.7% of projects will cost 189% of their original forecast.  This research quotes a failure by the City of Denver to produce reliable baggage handling software at their new airport, is costing the city $1.1 million per day. In comparison if we have a look at the success record of bridge building, there is a far higher rate of bridges built according to the criteria of time, budget and reliability (quality).

There is not to say that all the bridges complete within these criteria, in some cases bridges have even fallen down. When examining the reasons for bridge building projects to enjoy a far higher success rate, identified causes include a very high degree of planning, an extreme detail of design and a very tight control over changes to specifications.  Once a design specification is approved a change freeze is applied.

Any failures to the bridge are investigated and causes of failure are captured within a report, which is retained as a record for future projects.  This last fact underlines and underpins the need for effective knowledge management, not just as a policy but in practical application.

Polychor Knowledge Management Roadmap

Knowledge Management is the process of:

  • Gathering data using registers and logs
  • Transforming data into informationusing reports and creating information building blocks
  • Gaining knowledgeby analysing reports and building blocks
  • And ultimately gaining organizational wisdomin order to accelerate velocity and to gain an advantage over the organization’s competitors.

The ultimate goal is therefore to keep ahead of the pack and to maximize benefits for the organization while trying to do this. Knowledge Management is based on continual improvement and being lean. Knowledge Management is based on five basic functions and should supports all levels in the enterprise to be most effective.

Five basic functions:

  • Knowledge Strategy
  • Knowledge Blueprint
  • Optimizing Knowledge
  • Applying Knowledge
  • Continual Improvement

It is most efficient if it is used in an integrated multi-levelled holistic way. Every level in the organization has its own defined strategies. Based on these strategies a strategy is developed to determine how knowledge management can best support the levels in the organization. This strategy is reviewed and if needed, updated on a frequent basis.

Based on the Knowledge Strategy a Knowledge Blueprint is created showing how the organization would like to use Knowledge Management. This ‘soll’ situation is held against the current ‘ist’ situation to develop a path or paths of improvement. This is called Optimizing Knowledge. The next step is to test knowledge management in a real-life environment. This should be done step-by-step and is called Applying Knowledge. Based on real-life feedback the Knowledge Blueprint is fine-tuned. Optimizing Knowledge Management is a continual process. This is called ‘Continual Knowledge Improvements’.

Agile Knowledge Management is explained in more detail in the Polychor Agile Knowledge Management manual.

Polychor Knowledge Hierarchy

Knowledge Hierarchy forms the internal core of the Polychor Knowledge Center. Gathering data is often done by using hard-copy records, capturing of specific data during interactions between integrated systems, team member progress reporting, or electronic registers and logs. Information is produced when the collected data is collated and interrogated.

The information needs of the target audience, determine what kind of data needs to be collected and the format in which it must be collected. This is often referred to as Filing or Configuration Management.  Information is gathered in the form of Reports and building blocks. Some reports are used to manage progress and other reports are used to escalate risks, issues, or other situations. The next step in Knowledge Management is to gain knowledge from reports and building blocks. Reports can be used as building blocks to generate new reports and is called analyzing information. This is a very important step in acceleration if you want to gain an advantage over your competition. It can also help an organization to gain quick access to new markets.

The last step is to gain Wisdom. Wisdom is the ability an organization has to do innovative things by analyzing knowledge in ways competitors have not thought of before. When wisdom is utilized correctly, it may lead to new products that give the organization major advantages over its competitors.  Corporate Wisdom is what makes good organizations better and better organization market leaders.

The effective gathering of data, production of information, creation of knowledge, harnessing of corporate Wisdom, can all lead to step changes in corporate capability.  This may be the difference which produces competitive advantage and sets the organization apart from its competitors. All steps in the knowledge hierarchy are linked to each other and are based on the principle of continual improvement.

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