Blog 04 Oct 2021

Four ways to accelerate digital products with a new approach to Enterprise Project Portfolio Management

Velocity is the key to success for modern digital businesses. But how can business leaders structure projects to help accelerate development?

For software developers and users, speed is everything. Popular apps can rise and fall in a matter of months, and the development tool landscape completely transforms every few years. In short, those who can’t move fast risk delays, disruption and missed opportunities. 

But while development teams know the stakes and the pace they must operate at to stay ahead, other parts of the business are entirely built around moving slow. Annual planning meetings and top-down waterfall planning are great ways to manage some projects, but it can rob digital product development of the speed it needs to succeed.

So, how do you accelerate development velocity? And, more importantly, how do you do it without impacting other traditional project work across your portfolio? This blog explores how to balance the needs of both sides of the business with new operating models, a new customer-centric focus, and a new approach to Enterprise Project Portfolio Management (PPM).

Unshackle your business from traditional models 

To move faster, you need to ensure every part of your business is pushing in the same direction. But when your operating model is made up of silos – with limited ability to share resources and knowledge between them – this isn’t easy.

A value stream approach can help break down the silos and accelerate development efforts. By focusing on the value delivered to end-customers and users, your teams have a shared goal – no matter what part of the business they work in.

Of course, it can be hard to find a uniform idea of value across different business units. That’s why we recommend looking at how the scaled agile framework defines value in different ways to meet disparate needs across a large enterprise:

  • The development value stream contains the steps that lead to creating business solutions
  • The operational value stream includes the actions that lead to those solutions being used to create value for customers

By uniting around different concepts of value, you can start to break down the most common walls erected between teams. Once you’ve rallied people around the same goals, it’s easier to start sharing the resources, skills and knowledge every team needs to succeed.

Go beyond common goals and develop a shared terminology

The next step is to ensure teams are aligned on other elements of your PPM. The most common split here is in the specific terms and wording used to refer to parts of the portfolio. After all, if one team works in epics while the other manages projects, business leaders are quickly left trying to compare apples and oranges.

That’s where a modern PPM approach can help. By adopting new names that the entire business can get behind, you can further encourage cross-team collaboration while making it easier for business leaders to assess the state of all strategic investments.

What names you use will come down to the specific needs of your organisation. But we find that terms like value streams, epics and capabilities are a great starting point for bridging the gap between traditional project terms and Agile terminology.

Accelerate the pace of decision-making

Once you have a common ground across projects and teams, you need to do something with it. If you have to wait until the next annual planning meeting to make this kind of change, that’s simply too far away to allow you to be agile and effective.

Instead of annual or bi-annual planning meetings, modern digital businesses need a mechanism to deliver continuous feedback and decision-making. Traditional operational data is too slow to provide that kind of feedback, so organisations need to adopt a different approach.

We recommend defining strategic goals and driving them down through the business as your north star for decisions about your portfolio. With the right PPM tools, business leaders can quickly see how different projects or products are progressing against strategic goals and quickly decide if they need to move resources around the portfolio.

The future of PPM - watch on demand - Ignite Technology

Maintain a laser focus on the customer

Focusing on customer needs, desires and behaviours is vital for any business developing digital products. But how do you know what the customer really wants? As with planning processes, an annual survey is too infrequent to give digital teams the customer insights they need.

The key is to develop shorter feedback loops that put your business in constant contact with customers. Online forums, monthly calls and built-in features that track software usage are a great way to start creating this always-on connection. Once you have a tighter customer feedback loop in place, you can start driving an outside-in development model that helps product leaders plan features around what customers really want.

Develop a PPM approach that supports rapid digital development

Speed is key when establishing and growing a digital business. While there are plenty of ways development teams are accelerating their workflows to meet demand for faster releases, the rest of the business must also play a part in driving faster development.

Developing the right PPM approach is crucial to unlocking the next level of development velocity. A modern approach to portfolio management can help deliver a common terminology for work, break down silos, and accelerate decision-making. That’s exactly what business leaders and digital product owners need to keep up with the rapid pace of change in the digital world.

In our recent webinar, we explore this topic in further detail and look at how PPM disciplines are modernising to support the four imperatives of growing a digital business. Watch the webinar to hear from Marc Leijten, Advisor at Broadcom’s Enterprise Software Division, explain how modern PPM can help you:

  • Transform business and operating models
  • Become even more customer focused
  • Adopt digital product management practices
  • Use technology as a business enabler

To learn more about how businesses like yours can accelerate the development of digital products, watch the full webinar on The Future of PPM or get in touch for an informal discussion.

Interested in finding out more?