Portfolio magic: Agile meets traditional

By Valerie Gogel

Over a period of six months, a group of consultants supported one of the major supermarket chains in Belgium to define a hybrid portfolio management model that would combine traditional and agile practices and processes. The intended goal of the hybrid portfolio set-up was to enable and streamline the execution of app and website products through Agile development teams in a waterfall environment. The hybrid portfolio management model would be trialed as part of the launch of a new business unit and continuously improved along the way as the implementation takes place.

With the launch of a new business unit, the company wants to centralize the competencies required to develop and launch website and app products. From experience with other product execution in traditional business units, the management team found the lead time and predictability thereof to be low and wanted to prevent similar challenges for the new business unit. Management also experienced misalignment in product priorities and therefore the cascading of strategy to execution. Highberg was asked to identify key challenges in the traditional set-up of business units and to propose a hybrid model that would prevent the same challenges and enable ultimate success.

Hybrid portfolio management in Belgian supermarket chains
Agile development teams in a waterfall environment
BlinkLane consulting for traditional and agile business units""
Challenges in aligning product priorities and strategy execution
Implementing inspect & adapt moments in portfolio management

Method

Through various interviews with a variety of audiences, the consultants gained significant insights into the challenges and the dynamic of the different levels of operation in the business unit which set the foundation for the hybrid portfolio management model.

The design of the hybrid portfolio management model took place in three phases: collective design, writing, and validation.

Over multiple workshops with key players on the portfolio level of the future business unit, the design of the hybrid portfolio management model was created. This included the identification of the sources of work and flow thereof, the roles in the portfolio team, the rituals around portfolio management, and streamlining of the execution and feedback loops to ensure alignment between strategy and execution.

The output of the workshop sessions was used to create a well-rounded hybrid portfolio management model (based on the current understanding of the situation). This proposed model went through various stages of feedback checks and reviews with the audience from the workshops. And was finally validated by high-level management to ensure the design of the (hybrid) model, practices and processes of the future business unit is supported by stakeholders.

Upon delivering the hybrid portfolio management model and validating it with key players, the next phase in the transformation, the implementation and continued evolution were planned. While our consultants are not actively involved in the implementation, they took measures to ensure the internal change team at the client was able to take the first steps and drive the implementation themselves.

First rituals for hybrid portfolio management were initiated and tested. The internal transformation team was also encouraged to plan regular ‘inspect & adapt’ moments to make required changes to the hybrid portfolio management model.



Results

The key result of this assignment is a well-rounded (evolving) hybrid portfolio management model that provides a starting design for the future business unit focused on website and app products. This model will continue to evolve as the implementation takes place.

Overall, the intended goals of the assignment were achieved to the satisfaction of our consultants and the client.

Goals & Learnings

While the scope of the assignment was achieved to the satisfaction of our consultants and the client, our consultants feel there are some risks attached to this hybrid setup. While lean- and agile portfolio management shows promising benefits, they may be significantly limited by only implementing a fraction of the whole picture. Combining agile portfolio management practices with traditional ones only scratches the surface and does not lead to fundamental changes in the culture and mindset. Once the implementation begins, there also is a risk that the line between traditional and agile practices will become blurred, and people fall back into old patterns as those feel comfortable and known.

It remains to be seen whether a hybrid portfolio management model will be a sustainable solution within this business unit. What is guaranteed, is that the risks this set-up brings must be carefully mitigated in the implementation process. To ensure transparency on the purpose, vision and goals and sufficient capabilities are secured to support a successful transition.

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