Blogpost-DisplayImage-June_What is a Portfolio in Jira Align-

Have you heard of Jira Align? I feel like we've told you about Jira Align. Maybe a few times. We here at Praecipio Consulting can't say enough about it. Its ability to manage agile-at-scale for enterprise organizations is unmatched. 

When implementing Jira Align or expanding your footprint, however, it's important to understand the objects in Jira Align, as well as their definitions. It's also critical that your organization agrees on these definitions as a whole. With that in mind, let's discuss the Portfolio in Jira Align. What it is according to the product, and more importantly, how to define it in your organization. 

What is a Portfolio in Jira Align? 

A Portfolio supports a value stream. What is a value stream? It's a specific set of solutions that deliver value to your customers whether internal or external. Where a lot of organizations make mistakes is thinking that a Portfolio is a grouping together of projects that need to be complete in a fiscal year. There is no regard for strategic alignment to themes, no consideration for investments, and may follow a business-unit-esque structure. This is NOT how agile-at-scale frameworks define Portfolios, nor how Jira Align defines them. In addition, Programs (aka teams of teams or Agile Release Trains) support a Portfolio. This ties the execution to the strategy in Jira Align. 

In Jira Align, a Portfolio has the following things: 

  • A Strategic Snapshot
  • One or more Program Increments (PIs)
  • A budget for the Snapshot
  • Strategic Themes with allocation to PIs
  • PI budgets established
  • PI budgets are allocated across the Programs
  • Blended rate established for the PIs
  • PI budgets, per program, have been allocated to Strategic Themes
  • Portfolio Epics are created and have been connected to a Strategic Theme, scored, swagged, budgeted, and targeted to one or more PI

Ok, that seems like a lot, right? And it is. In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "A goal without a plan is just a wish." While you may have established goals (e.g. increase new subscriptions by 15% over last year), without tying goals to the PIs, allocating a budget, then creating Portfolio Epics, you have a wish, not a plan. 

How Do I Define a Portfolio? 

Depending on your organization, you may have to take a step back and really examine how you operate. There are many questions to ask your organization: how do we deliver value to our customers? Which programs support the value delivery? Are these programs truly cross-functional and able to deliver from idea to value in the hands of the customer? 

At Praecipio Consulting, one of our Portfolios is Client Delivery. This Portfolio delivers value to our clients by providing professional services around the Atlassian products and complimentary technologies. The solution (professional services) drives the definition of the Portfolio. Our Client Delivery organization is the delivery mechanism and is grouped into two delivery programs: technical and process. While these are not mutually exclusive, they do require specialization on the part of the teams depending on the services needed from the client. 

Can you break your value delivery, solutions, and execution mechanisms in the same way? If you're struggling to do so, it may be time to reevaluate your organization's definition of a Portfolio before defining it in Jira Align. 

Once the Portfolio is defined in plain language, then examine which Program(s) will execute against the Portfolio. Remember, a Program is a team of teams organized around the value delivery of the solution to your customers. The Program operates in their cadenced PIs, creates and ties Epics and Stories together to the Portfolio Epics to estimate and complete work. Without these links, you will not be able to understand your progress, investments, or overall health of the Portfolio in Jira Align. 

Reporting on the Portfolio

I know I've said this before, but there are over 180 reports in Jira Align. However, the most commonly used object is the Portfolio Room. There are three tabs in the Portfolio Room out-of-the-box: Financials, Resources, and Execution. In all three views, you will always see the Program Increment Roadmap. This gives you an understanding of the planning and progress of the PIs.

  • The Financials tab provides Budget by PI, Estimates, and Actuals in a single glance as well as Theme Effort vs. Value and Theme Budget Allocation against the ranked Theme Priority. 
  • The Resources tab provides allocated resources by theme based on estimated work in the PIs as well as team-week allocation Theme Effort Distribution against the ranked Theme Priority. 
  • The Execution tab provides Theme Progress, Points, and team-week efforts as well as Theme Burnup based on the number of points accepted. 

Of course, the Portfolio room is configurable based on the KPIs relevant to your organization. And a Portfolio manager can drill into any or all of the items listed above in further detail either by a specific PI or multiple PIs. Simply update the Program Increments you'd like to focus on and the Portfolio Room will update the data specific to those timeboxes. While Jira Align will suggest reports under the Track section of the navigation menu, again, you can simply ask Jira Align to provide the report you need under the full Reports section. 

Jira Align makes it simple to understand the health of one or many Portfolios in your organization. Best Practice is to start with one, iterate until you get it right, then expand across other Portfolios when ready. Praecipio Consulting's deep expertise with agile-at-scale frameworks as well as intimate knowledge of Jira Align can provide you the needed support when you're ready to take your teams to the next level: contact us and see if Jira Align is a good fit for your organization.

Amanda Babb

Written by Amanda Babb

Praecipio Consulting is an Atlassian Platinum Partner

This means that we have the most experience working with Atlassian tools and have insight into new products, features, and beta testing. Through our profound knowledge of Atlassian environments and their intricacies, we can guide your organization as you navigate these important changes.

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