RSVP FOR FREE | How Carpe Data Supercharges Roadmap Planning to Deliver Outcomes | Oct 3 @ 9 AM PT


Why Agile Organizations Need Responsive Portfolio Management

An agile coach asked me recently – I’ve been hearing this Responsive Portfolio Management a lot lately. What is it? Why should agile organizations adopt responsive portfolio management?

Let’s take a step back to see how your organization adopted Agile in the first place? For most, it was about enabling rapid, iterative change in a world that was itself rapidly changing. Better productivity, faster delivery, and increased profitability for the benefit of employees and customers.

So why are we hearing stories of internal failures or subpar products? Of misaligned teams that, months earlier, had all agreed on a common set of goals. Why are Agile companies losing their agility?

agile madness
from Henrik Kniberg/ Crisp

The problem doesn’t lie in methodology but in what we call “Agile madness”. Siloed teams with competing priorities or circular dependencies cannot practice scrum effectively. Strategic and tactical leaders cannot make informed decisions without clarity and alignment. And when these companies scale, these problems scale too.

The traditional solution was to integrate project portfolio management to bridge strategy and execution. However, it’s a linear top down command and control type of framework that often risk stymying team innovation that the Agile methodology brings.

So, we updated it.

After managing more than 10 million hours of portfolio roadmaps from PayPal, Shutterfly, Bigcommerce and other fast-growing startups, and interviewing product and technology executives from leading innovative companies such as Netflix, Amazon and Shopify, we designed “Responsive PPM” to help companies of any size to achieve holistic responsiveness.

What is Responsive PPM?

Responsive PPM (Responsive Product Portfolio Management) replaces fixed-scope projects with a portfolio containing outcome-focused initiatives that connect with objectives and are iteratively built, tested, and learned from/ validated before the next iteration.

Additionally, responsive PPM for agile adds a bottom-up workflow that empowers teams and their leaders to make iterative and holistic decisions towards achieving their OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) — ones that align with long-term strategy and quarterly milestones.

3 Horizon strategy and execution in responsive PPM

In turn, executives can better adjust and reprioritize in response to the changes in execution, available resources, and external factors. Part of this lies in adopting MoAR (Metrics on Available Resources) over ROI as a more holistic evaluation tool. In most instances, looking beyond dollar-based costs and benefits can provide intuitive and immediately measurable values to plan with.

Importantly, this entire process is continuous regardless of organizational level. Executives, leaders, and teams must all assess and adjust for the next year, quarter, or week.

By tying the strategic and execution cycles to this rhythm of Align, Allocate, and Adjust, everyone moves in the right direction at the right speed. Rather than planning only once a year and blindly hoping everything works out in the end, Responsive PPM is the rallying drumbeat for an entire organization to move quickly and efficiently.

In other words, Responsive PPM lets Agile organizations regain their agility regardless of its size and scale.

Responsive PPM

Use “Rolling” Double Diamond Strategic Planning to Scale Product Teams

In my conversations with startup founders and budding product leaders, the question often comes up, “Should we do annual strategic planning or quarterly alignment?” Similarly, they ask, “Is strategic planning only for large enterprises or can startups benefit from it too? What about product teams?”

The answer is a resounding YES.

Every company needs to define and execute strategies to achieve its vision and goals. The cadence of strategic planning and execution cycle set out to achieve this.

In this post, we’ll cover

  1. What is strategic planning (in the context of product teams)?
  2. How to lead strategic planning and execution effectively by using the “double diamond” method
  3. How to use “rolling” / responsive portfolio planning for dynamic companies

What is Strategic Planning? 

Strategic planning is the process of prioritizing goals (OKRs), defining strategies, and allocating the resources essential to execute them.

Strategic planning enables the entire organization to decide on:

  1. What problems to solve (goals or OKRs) in the next 2-6 months,
  2. How to solve them (Strategies),
  3. What is needed to achieve them (Resources).

It’s a bigger-picture-process preceding and responding to the feature design, as well as the development process.

The Interconnected Double Diamond Strategy and Execution Process

As a key element of responsive portfolio management, the strategic planning and execution practice follows a directional yet iterative process requiring various participants to collaborate and move between “stages.” The “Double Diamond Design Process,” popularized by the UK Design Council, is also a good representation of this.

double diamond process for strategic planning

“A number of possible ideas are created (‘divergent thinking’) before refining and narrowing down to the best idea (‘convergent thinking’), and this can be represented by a diamond shape… the double diamond indicates that this happens twice… One of the greatest mistakes is to omit the left-hand diamond and end up solving the wrong problem.”

UK Design Council

During the double-diamond strategic execution process, product managers and various participants converge in key inflection points to move from one set of activities (diamond) to another.

Circle 1: Decide What Problems / Opportunities to Focus On

The key players in this phase include product managers and their key stakeholders/ leaders.

An example list of problems/ opportunities are:

  • Grow market share against competition,
  • invent new product to expand into adjacent market,
  • improve monetization,
  • and retention of current accounts. 

Circle 2: Decide on How to Solve These Problems

This is a phase of brainstorming and analysis. The key players are individual product managers as well as their tech lead counterparts. The focus here is not to solve one item at a time, but to allocate time and resources in the best possible way using the high-level effort estimate (aka T-shirt size).

Continuing the example above: maybe the conversion issue is more urgent, but some are dependent on/related to the UX issues. Promises to a new customer or marquee customers may come in later, there may be a workaround for the admin tool crashes or billing issues could be done by outsourced agencies. These factors will also help sequence a plan for various teams.

Circle 3: Build the Features Planned During Circle 2

This is your typical Agile development process where scrum teams break out stories and ship them along the way. Sometimes new discoveries pop up as products are being built or partially released. As a result, you may need to check the rest of the plan to see if the changes are warranted. Furthermore, clear visibility on progress and comparison between predicted vs planned allocation will help with re-balance the portfolio.

As you can see, deciding on the right products to solve the right problems requires the dynamic prioritization of product features, assessment of resourcing/timing scenarios, as well as visibility of progress to all key participants. Moreover, it is an intensive exercise requiring the involvement of many functional leaders.

Rolling Strategic Planning

Traditionally, companies perform strategic planning on a three-year vision and one-year plan time horizon. Since the early 2000s, often with the adoption of agile practices and agile transformation, leading tech companies started to shorten the planning cycle to a 1-year plan with quarterly alignment.

However, in the 2020s, this frequency is no longer fast enough for the rate of change we experience today in a globally competitive tech space. Thus, a more frequent cadence is needed.

But how?

The predefined strategic planning frequency is mostly due to the cost of planning. There are a large number of people, mostly managers and leads involved, using off-sites followed by many meetings and spreadsheets. But these plans and their context often get lost when relaying them to teams.

With a purpose-built platform like Dragonboat, companies can now practice strategic planning on-demand with a rolling quarterly horizon. This enables them to responsively align goals, refine strategies, plan scenarios and assess tradeoffs quickly.

Accelerate Roadmap Execution - double diamond product roadmapping

On-demand strategic planning enables companies to create strategies responsive to the changing needs of the market, build product plans based on the availability of resources, and remove preventable blockers like dependencies before team execution to accelerate time to market.

why agile org need rppm blog cta

This site uses cookies. Some of these cookies are essential, while others help us to improve your experience by providing insights into how the site is being used. For more information, please check our Privacy Policy. You can disable or remove cookies in your browser settings at any time. By clicking "Accept" or continuing to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies across the site.