Do you have visibility across all work in flight? Can you tell what work is happening on architecture runway vs. new feature, which teams are working on what, and whether a target date is at risk because deliverables haven’t started yet? If not you will soon, thanks to swimlanes — the latest addition to our portfolio Kanban.
(An example of Portfolio Kanban swimlanes, by team)
Horizontal swimlanes give you the option to categorize work at any level of your portfolio hierarchy, so you can intentionally direct teams’ time and effort.
You may want to categorize program features by parent initiative or owner. To visualize at a glance where capacity is most likely to free up soon, categorize portfolio initiatives by investment category or by your own dimension (using a custom field).
To get started, here are some examples of what to track in your swimlanes:
- Innovation category. Ensure work aligns with specific business goals and portfolio allocation buckets that you’re tracking in the innovation category standard field.
- Parent. Visualize value creation by business value streams. Swimlanes highlight which pieces of a funded initiative will be completed first.
- Boolean or multivalue custom field (my absolute favorite.) Some examples: Add a multivalue Cost of Delay custom field to indicate the time sensitivity of a feature or initiative. Swimlanes will raise red flags about the high costs associated with delays. Add a custom field to track types of work (architecture, new features, maintenance, etc.). Swimlanes will display work progress for each. Internally, we use a marketable boolean custom field to flag features we want to tell you about (in a blog, like this one); this helps our marketing team keep up with the flood of goodness coming out of our engineering group.
You can see the complete list of swimlane options on our help page.
If you’re not using portfolio Kanban yet, it’s time to jump in! Read our coaching corner for helpful advice on designing a Portfolio Kanban. Kanban is even more important at the at the program and portfolio level than at the team level because it helps product and program managers clear the way for teams to deliver value fast. Like traveling at rush hour, we all want to get home but the more cars on the highway, the later we get there. By monitoring the amount of WiP and limiting the start of new work, a portfolio Kanban prevents your Agile engine from stalling because of too much context switching between various work, so you can keep driving customer value.
Dean Leffingwell, creator of the Scaled Agile Framework® says it best:
“... if you don’t limit the really big WiP at the portfolio level, the rest of the system may be in deep trouble, no matter what else you do.”
Rally has some of the most robust Kanban functionality at the program and portfolio levels, with powerful capabilities like:
- Distinct Kanban states for initiatives and features
- Exit criteria specific to each Kanban state
- As many available attributes on each card as you want
With the new portfolio Kanban swimlanes, program and product managers can get even clearer visibility into the progress of initiatives and features so they can make better decisions and focus teams’ energy on what’s most important.
Sign up for our April Agile Portfolio Management courses to learn how you can effectively leverage portfolio Kanban, and take our product tour to see how to make portfolio management more relevant in today’s fast-changing world.