Advice and answers from the ScrumDo Team

Before setting up any multi-level portfolios, it’s important for users to understanding some of the key  relationships you need to capture in order to take proper advantage of the powerful insights the ScrumDo platform can bring to the table for you. To help illustrate what we mean and why certain considerations are important, let’s refer to a relatively complex, four-tier portfolio by way of example:

This “big picture” view contains a lot of important information and insight, but the information it displays will only be accurate if you’re paying attention to the right things when you set up your portfolios in ScrumDo. 

First, let’s orient ourselves to some basic relationships:

  • The top level of this portfolio (labeled “Mammoth Bank” in this example) is an abstraction of big chunks of work -- for example, strategic initiatives developed by an organization’s or business unit’s leadership. This layer represents the full end-to-end value stream between the company and the marketplace (taking ideas from concept to reality).

In the ScrumDo platform, this value stream is always represented as a continuous flow workspace. It is only allowed one iteration, the current iteration, through which these big concepts continuously flow.

  • The 2nd and 3rd tiers of this example we’ve called “Solutions” and “Program” levels. For those of you familiar with the Scaled Agile Framework, you understand these levels relate to different abstractions.  A company’s customers don’t buy specific services, products, features, or capabilities, they buy solutions that solve some problem for them or otherwise deliver something of value. At the solutions level in this example, we’re interested in visualizing, monitoring and managing the flow of delivery of customer solutions. These workspaces can be managed as either continuous flow (preferable) or iteration-based areas.Similarly, the program level represents an abstraction of activity where delivery teams and other resources are working toward a specific mission. Again, those familiar with the SAFe framework will recognize this as your “Agile Release Train” area. These workspaces are typically managed as iteration-based areas, and represent the areas where planning for specific “Program Increments” (a SAFe term of art) takes place. It would not be uncommon for multiple programs to feed a specific solution.Typically, there is a relatively limited number of Solutions and Program levels feeding into the strategic initiatives captured at the top portfolio level, and the work item that gets tracked at this level are slightly smaller than the large and “epic” strategic capabilities reflected at the portfolio level.
  • Finally, the 4th tier of our example reflects the individual delivery teams producing the specific smaller chunks of work that make up successful “Program Increments.” This is where day to day work gets done, and where work is broken down into their smallest components. It is not uncommon for multiple teams to produce work related to the delivery of multiple programs.  Workspaces typically operate in Put it all together, and this is what you have:

 

A scaling framework like SAFe seeks to ease the coordination and choreography of all this activity by leaning heavily on its “Program Increment” time box. This is typically a 10 week time period for which a limited scope or work is defined, shared by multiple teams, and coordinated for release at the end of the time box.

At the bottom tier, delivery teams under the SAFe framework are encouraged to scope their work and delivery in 2 week sprints. It’s important to establish iteration relationships across these levels so we can intelligently monitor and understand which child-level work activities are related to delivering against the scope of work and objectives of the parent-level increments they are feeding. This holds true even for teams that are managing their work using a continuous flow framework (like most Kanban systems, for example).

When you set up multi-level portfolios in ScrumDo, the platform is positioned to capture iteration relationships via a number of interfaces:

Naturally, the most effective portfolio designs will be the result of thoughtful consideration and forethought. We strongly recommend leaning on an experienced enterprise consultant / coach who can provide intelligent guidance in this area. A limited scope of guidance is available via ScrumDo’s virtual coaching interface to Enterprise Plan customers as part of their subscription.

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