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Hybrid Reporting – Panel Session

It started with a question from a House of PMO member. Here it is:
We then picked up the subject of hybrid delivery and the challenges faced by PMOs in our summer series, trying to unpick what the real challenge was:

You’ll see in the top left hand side – one of the challenges that PMOs face is trying to get that one portfolio view when projects are being delivered by Agile-led (e.g., SCRUM), traditional-led (waterfall) and even continuous delivery such as product management. And having comparable data in order to report to others.
During that session we knew that we to devote more time to try and understand what is at play here; how we might have to think differently and ultimately rethink the way we report.
We pulled together a panel of four different House of PMO members who have some experience with this challenge. They were:

  • Lain Burgos-Lovece – Lain is one of our lodgers at the House and who loves to engage on topics that really push thinking in the PMO and how PMOs can add value to the organisation.
  • Philip Walker – is the Head of PMO at The British Council – Philip is keen to engage with any PMO practitioner who is currently working in this hybrid – waterfall and agile delivery world.
  • Matt Milsom – Matt is also one of our lodgers at the House. Matt has been working with a number of organisations over the last few years who are struggling and sometimes winning at hybrid approaches, including reporting.
  • Holger Heuss – Holger is a seasoned portfolio management professinal and trainer, currently Technology Strategy and Enterprise Agility Manager at KPMG.


The Recorded Session

We started the session with an introduction to each member and their thoughts on what the real challenge is:

Insights from the Panel


1. Ultimately we are talking about portfolio-level

It was generally agreed across the panel that this is a portfolio management-level challenge. The challenge is that there is no single view of the portfolio and in many ways, it’s like comparing apples and pears when trying to understand the status of Agile-led delivery of change and the more traditional-led projects using Waterfall.
When the panellists said that we are talking about “portfolio level” it means the PMO need to talk about the “fruitiness” of the Portfolio, while at the lower level of projects and programmes they need to talk about the “apple-ness” of their work or the “pear-ness”, or whatever.

2. Minimal Viable Bureaucracy

‘Minimal Viable Bureaucracy’ is becoming a popular expression. Some hate it, some love it – it’s being used by analogy with the lean-agile concept of the MVP (Minimal Viable Product)
I’m sure many PMOs won’t argue with reducing bureaucracy, especially as that means a minimal amount of reporting  – and focusing on what is really valuable to the people receiving and reading the reports.
But what is ‘really valuable’? There was a view in the Panel that ‘value’ cannot be quantified in a useful way, just like ‘benefits’ before it. It was a lively discussion.

3. What do we know about Senior Executives?

When it comes to reporting, the PMO has to understand what its audience wants. In relation to hybrid reporting, that is no different.
Senior executives are still time-poor, so they need something concise, simple, and easy.
Senior executives still need to act through decision-making or ‘management by exception’, so they need very clear actionable insights.
Senior executives are not particularly bothered about which delivery approach is being used – they just want to know what’s happening and if they need to do anything.
The PMO must understand what is most important to them and work out how to deliver that, which leads to the next point.

4. The PMO is acting as a Translator

It’s down to the PMO to provide the actionable insights in the reports and to provide those insights using business terms that matter to the people reading and taking action.
If senior executives are wanting to understand the contribution of the Portfolio of Change to the Strategy, there needs to be an education piece about how they will receive that information
For instance, in most organisations the traditional project management approach is what led to the PMO being established. So, the default way of thinking says that there are four fundamental areas which need a comparison, these are:

  1. Scope – of what is being delivered
  2. Funding – how much does it cost / how much is being spent
  3. Value or benefits being delivered as a result of the change
  4. Progress being made and when its likely to finish.

But, the metrics have to be defined at a level above projects,etc. It has to be a definition at the level of the Portfolio, the level at which execution (delivery) aligns to strategy.

5. Different Scales and Measures

Regardless of the approach to delivering change initiatives, the PMO needs to think about how they can report on the work being carried out (and that’s work across all the projects regardless of how they’re being delivered). And the work is what you will find in the business case. You will be able to get some rough alignments, so you’re starting to show whether the work contributes to business success or not.
It comes down to what the business sees as the most valuable information in the reports, how do they define value?
If decisions are being made based on the business case for the project (regardless of the way it is being delivered) and Agile-led projects also have business cases – that should inform the way the reporting should take shape too. It’s a good place for PMOs to start when tackling hybrid reporting.

6. Predictive and Adaptive

Perhaps the PMO has to look at all of this a little differently.
At the moment, many organisations are choosing different ways to deliver change – they’re doing that because one way has benefits over another – such as being quicker to market, for example.
There is a wide range of approaches to delivery. From ‘predictive’ at one extreme to fully ‘adaptive’ at the other, with a rich variety in between.
Organisations are changing the way they choose to deliver – but many have not yet changed the way they choose to manage that change (the overarching governance, for example)
Many are choosing an adaptive way to deliver but still trying to manage it in a predictive way, including elements such as reporting.

Predictive planning provides a linear, specific development plan structured around producing a pre-determined set of deliverables with a contracted end result within a specific timeframe.
Adaptive planning involves breaking a project into small chunks of value over a flexible timeline (roadmap) to allow the delivery of the most value upfront.

A portfolio can consist of a blend of different types of work all aimed at achieving some kind of successful change. The challenge is for the Portfolio PMO to agree explicitly the metrics that indicate “successful change” for their specific organisation, at the strategic level.

Where Are We Now and Where Next?

We heard from attendees and panellists that organisations already manage hybrid portfolios, not just agile and waterfall initiatives, but quite a fruit salad. If the senior stakeholders of the organisation are relatively traditional, they will ask mostly for everything to be “converted” to traditional units in a normalisation process. The opposite happens for those organisations who see themselves on a lean-agile journey.
The next step is to move away from fruits and towards fruitiness, so to speak. As you can imagine, an hour wasn’t enough to cover this ground, but it certainly set the scene for more to come.
What is your angle?
Many thanks to lodger Lain Burgos-Lovece for assisting in the write-up 🙂

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