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Adaptive Portfolio Planning Will Drive Business Value In A Volatile World

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For the PMO, driving outcomes in an environment where challenges and opportunities hurtle towards us at unprecedented speed is a pressing challenge.

Angie Parsons, Planview’s Senior Manager of Product Marketing & PPM GTM Team Lead, is at the sharp end of supporting customers through this landscape every day. So, our Associate Editor, Amy Hatton, took time out to pick her brains on the most pressing challenges in today’s market-driven environment, and how an adaptive approach creates the conditions to flex and pivot fast, for maximum commercial value.

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Planview’s Annual State of Strategy Execution Report is a valued industry benchmark for PMOs, PPM professionals, sponsors, business leaders and executives worldwide. The latest iteration focuses on the issue at the top of organisational agendas everywhere: how to accelerate and embrace uncertainty at speed? Emerging from the pandemic and beyond, it’s a truly business-critical issue, according to Angie.

“Every day, we’re seeing businesses having to operate with unprecedented flexibility to keep pace with market demand and economic uncertainty,” she explains. “That applies both within the organisation (delivering on shareholder requirements and leadership ambitions), and externally, when it comes to meeting rapidly evolving customer demands. And customers are moving closer to the business all the time, which only increases the pressure to deliver. Plus, over the past five years or so, portfolio management has evolved.

“In the past, we were all delivering Waterfall projects, then Agile emerged. The reality now is that most organisations are operating a hybrid model. That does allow for flexibility, but it also risks silos of information and a lack of portfolio visibility. The capability to roll all that information up into the portfolio helps us understand a holistic picture of how work aligns to value. The very things that may have made a PMO great – detailed process, deep methodology, dependable frameworks, proven practices – are no longer necessarily enough to be able to pivot on demand and drive the organization’s objectives, even when conditions change.”

It seems that a shift is needed to a more adaptive approach – and that’s what lies behind Planview’s latest eBook, Adaptive Portfolio Planning: 5 Steps to Achieve Greater Agility for Your Transformation Journey. “Many of Planview’s customers are embracing a leaner, more responsive mindset in their growth, and we’re seeing that underpin the PMO’s capability to drive greater value for the business,” Angie explains. “When we look at traditional PMO thinking, it was always about project delivery. But now, we need to switch to an outcome driven approach. How do we measure the value of projects and programmes for the business? How do we align projects to the wider strategy? How do we drive outcomes at speed? Are we equipped to turn the ship quickly if a project or programme is not generating the expected results?

“Today, more than ever, moving too slowly carries enormous risk – declining growth, lost opportunities, decreased customer retention and, ultimately, loss of profit. The PMO must ask itself: can the organisation afford to absorb these risks? Is the PMO comfortable with the possibility of being relegated to just a project management mechanism – or, worse yet, disbanded? Adaptive Portfolio Planning is an important tactic in growing the PMO from focusing purely on change delivery (and many PMOs are already extremely good at that!) to driving the strategic solutions. It can become central hub from which work is connected and aligned right across the enterprise – so that, when we do need to pivot, we are equipped to do so seamlessly and without loss of time, revenue, or value.”

In response to these challenges, Planview is continuously releasing PPM resources drawing on the company’s thirty-plus years’ experience in the evolving PPM marketplace. “This is all part of our bigger mission – to build the future of connected work,” Angie says. “In this particular eBook, we address critical discussion points and action areas for PMOs and organisations to transform from traditional to adaptive processes. We explore how to prioritise initiatives and projects by value, how to move towards a more flexible governance framework that empowers teams to get work done, how to allocate funding based on performance, and the crucial value of adopting a continuous planning cycle.

“That’s a particularly important mindset shift. There is a huge cost and time risk attached to progressing a plan and then realising, when it’s too late to turn around, that the plan is not going to provide value. Continuous planning equips us to think more iteratively and focus on incremental value. Demanding that one hundred percent of requirements must be met before moving forward can stagnate progress. We should be thinking about quality instead: planning, implementing, gathering, and learning from feedback – then applying that feedback to the next level of work. Delivering a project just to say that we have completed it is no longer a meaningful metric.”

So, I wonder, if we are moving away from “on-time, on-budget” as the holy grail of project delivery, what are we moving towards? According to Angie: “Most companies and PMOs use Lagging indicators, but these are more of a look-back and might not offer an accurate or timely trigger for change. Instead, we are supporting customers to move towards Leading indicators, notably Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to measure whether the business should pivot or maintain course.

“Objectives tell us where we want to go, and key results tell us how we will measure our efforts to get there. That equips the PMO – and in turn the organisation – to get ahead of disruptions and avoid working on projects and programmes that fail to generate the intended value. Essentially, they focus on the strategic roadmap ahead – not what has gone before. That roadmap should also include an understanding of internal applications, products, services, technology, and business capabilities leveraged within the company – the whole enterprise-wide eco-system that is needed to connect strategy to delivery and position the PMO as a business driver.”

This all makes perfect sense, but I wonder what the cultural implications are for a PMO seeking to drive this change? After all, sponsors can be notoriously tricky to lobby. “Of course, a lot depends on the culture and the PMO/sponsor relationship,” says Angie. “But, for our customers, having the right technology to underpin hybrid methods of connected work, and being able to present real-time insights via a central repository, helps to facilitate the conversation. Not to mention saving the time, cost, and frustration of pulling together retrospective reports and data manually! As a PMO advocating for adaptive portfolio planning, you need to be equipped to provide the complete picture for a meaningful conversation.  It also helps to have a credible external voice to support your case. At Planview, we consider it vital to offer not just technology solutions, but strategic partnership.

“We support thousands of customers in figuring out, for example, what constitutes just enough governance to help teams embrace adaptive work. And, of course, underpinning that is our solution suite. It provides PMOs with tools such as scenario planning to be able to pivot on the strategy, or resource and capacity planning to model the impact of resourcing changes to outcomes. Because having a single source of truth that generates the intelligence the C-Suite needs to make fast, smart, in-flight decisions, is a big driver behind how the PMO engages with sponsors. And the PMO that is equipped not just to spot the next big portfolio headline, but also to rapidly flex to maximise value from that headline, is set to make its mark at the executive table.”

Find out more from Planview customers’ lived experiences:

Listen to the recent PM Today podcast, exploring how the Maritime and Coastguard Agency delivered a full PMO transformation in just 6 months.

Find out how Southern Water embraced PPM best practices to grow and adapt to change in this Planview case study.

Amy Hatton
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