More than ever before, IT has to respond to changes quickly or miss opportunities. At the execution level, release and sprint planning have enabled teams to plan in shorter cycles to accommodate for change. But at the enterprise level, we still need the concepts of budgets and an understanding of how much to spend to achieve certain business goals. So, how do we manage portfolios and budgets in such a dynamic environment?
Traditionally, budgets have been set on an annual basis around specific projects. These projects are then grouped into portfolios and monitored along the way. With traditional execution techniques, each project executes until completion, and information about goal attainment isn’t known until the very end, which may lead to surprises.
But what if we planned our portfolios differently? What if we created portfolios around specific goals and then measured metrics such as achieved business benefits within shorter timeframes, such as quarterly, to see if any adjustments need to be made? This would enable us to still set the target amounts for spending from a financial and a human capital perspective, and then adjust work within the portfolio as business conditions change.
For instance, let’s say your goal was to increase revenue by 20% this fiscal year and you’ve budgeted $3 million to do so. You can create a goal-oriented portfolio to do this. Instead of taking that budget and assigning it to projects that span the year, you could allocate a certain amount to projects that deliver value within the quarter. As the quarter comes to a close, you can evaluate the existing business environment to see what has changed and then make sure to address the items of highest business value to help you further achieve that portfolio’s goals.
This approach would allow you to be fiscally responsible, while also enabling agility to adapt to changing conditions. Of course, it also implies a close tie with the Agile execution teams as they execute their sprints, so it will be important to understand cost verses business value delivered in each Potentially Shippable Increment.