Oct 192008

The January Cutter IT Journal invites useful, innovative, and
thoughtful debate on how agile methods can be scaled through
the use of Lean portfolio management. We invite anyone who is interested to send us an abstract for consideration.

Cutter IT Journal Call for Papers

Using Lean Portfolio Management to Scale Agile Methods

Companies that have adopted agile methods have realized faster
throughput and higher business customer satisfaction on individual
projects. Based on this evidence of growing success, the move
towards agile methods is now a widespread industry practice.
Yet, despite undeniable wins with agile at the project level in
many quarters, sustained large scale adoption initiatives of
agile methods are fewer and further between. Agile adoption
initiatives are known to run into hurdles when the company
culture is at odds with core agile values. VersionOne’s “State
of Agile Development” 2008 survey indicates the ability to
change organizational culture as the leading barrier to further
agile adoption. What are some of the organizational
factors that are “at odds” with agile values, and that are
preventing further adoption of agile within organizations?

One example lies within IT governance. Many experts in the agile
space believe that there is now a significant misalignment between
the way agile projects are run, and the way IT projects are
governed in general. IT program and portfolio management,
in particular, seem to be at the root of many of these alignment
issues. As a consequence, corporate project portfolios remain
challenged in many organizations. Executives still see projects
that are late and over budget, deliver poor value, and have less-
than-satisfied business sponsors and end users. So how can we
scale agile methods beyond individual projects so that the programs
and portfolios within which they exist can benefit unequivocally?
My belief is that this journey must begin with evolving our
organizations towards adaptive governance and away from
plan-driven governance just as agile projects have evolved
towards adaptive management and away from plan-driven
management. In particular, how can program and portfolio
management be improved?

In most organizations adopting agile methods, the techniques used
for program and portfolio management are still predictive or plan-
driven with yearly budgeting cycles, capacity planning, and
heavily matrixed resource management. It’s no surprise then
that despite adopting agile methods for their projects, many
organizations have yet to exploit their full benefits at the
portfolio level. Put another way, agile projects are constrained
because their portfolios are clogged with the debris of failing
projects, with slow-moving projects that delay more critical
initiatives, and with the inability to properly staff projects and
deliver them at a rate that their business customers would
appreciate. How can the project portfolio be unclogged so
that business value can flow and projects can be completed faster?

Early adopters have been using the Lean principles behind
agile management to effect agile governance of their portfolios.
They have adopted classic Lean techniques like lowering the work
in process (as manifested by the number of in-flight projects) to
speed overall project throughput. There are a number of factors
that have been considered by these companies when setting up
Lean management of their portfolios. These include:

  • Project Prioritization. Projects need to be prioritized by
    business value to ensure that the projects with highest return
    potential are worked on first.
  • Project Performance Measurement. Returns on individual
    projects need to be tracked and measured in terms of value to the
  • Portfolio Performance Measurement. Overall returns from
    portfolios need to be tracked and measured as aggregate return
    from projects.
  • Portfolio Throughput Measurement. The rate at which projects
    net returns for the business needs to be tracked and measured.
  • Resource Management. The agile concept of small, integrated
    teams dedicated to a project at a time needs to be supported.
    Staffing these teams and leveraging the investment made to turn
    them into high performing teams is a consideration.

These factors indicate that applying Lean techniques to IT program
and portfolio management can be very successful, especially when
extending the success of agile methods beyond individual projects.
They can also be considered as part of a larger movement towards
adaptive governance and away from current plan-driven governance.
Considering that organizational challenges beyond the individual
projects are the leading impediment to wider agile adoption, the
agile movement would be well served to explore this nexus.

The January Cutter IT Journal invites useful, innovative, and
thoughtful debate on how agile methods can be scaled through
the use of Lean portfolio management.

TOPICS OF INTEREST MAY INCLUDE (but are not certainly limited to)
the following:

  • How can applying lean techniques increase the flow of projects
    and increase business value?
  • Is it realistic to scale agile methods using lean portfolio
  • What organizational challenges are impeding wider-scale adoption
    of agile methods?
  • How can agile methods be adopted beyond individual projects so
    that their associated programs and portfolios can thrive?
  • What are the benefits of adaptive governance over plan-driven
    governance and vice-versa?
  • Why do middle and upper management have difficulty embracing
    agile methods and what can be done to convince them of agile’s
  • How can program and portfolio management be improved if not
    through lean techniques?
  • What type of team structures will help accelerate agile project
  • How can managers be empowered to use their talents to
    increase the delivery of business value and to improve business
    customer and team satisfaction at the same time?
  • How can agile methods be exploited at the portfolio level to
    allow business value to flow through?
  • How do organizations ensure that returns from projects are
    tracked and measured appropriately and adequately?


Please respond by 31 October 2008 to Sanjiv Augustine at
sanjiv[dot]augustine[at]lithespeed[dot]com with a copy to
itjournal[at]cutter[dot]com and include an extended abstract
and a short article outline showing major discussion points.


Articles are due on 12 December 2008.


Most Cutter IT Journal articles are approximately 2,500-3,500
words long, plus whatever graphics are appropriate. If you have
any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact Chris
Generali, Group Publisher, at cgenerali[at]cutter[dot]com or
the Guest Editor, Sanjiv Augustine at
Editorial guidelines are available.


Typical readers of Cutter IT Journal range from CIOs and vice
presidents of software organizations to IT managers, directors,
project leaders, and very senior technical staff. Most work in
fairly large organizations: Fortune 500 IT shops, large computer
vendors (IBM, HP, etc.), and government agencies. 48% of our
readership is outside of the US (15% from Canada, 14% Europe,
5% Australia/NZ, 14% elsewhere). Please avoid introductory-level,
tutorial coverage of a topic. Assume you’re writing for someone who
has been in the industry for 10 to 20 years, is very busy, and very
impatient. Assume he or she will be asking, “What’s the point?
What do I do with this information?” Apply the “So what?” test
to everything you write.


We are pleased to offer Journal authors a year’s complimentary
subscription and 10 copies of the issue in which they are
published. In addition, we occasionally pull excerpts, along with
the author’s bio, to include in our weekly Cutter Edge e-mail
bulletin, which reaches another 8,000 readers. We’d also be
pleased to quote you, or passages from your article, in Cutter
press releases. If you plan to be speaking at industry
conferences, we can arrange to make copies of your article
or the entire issue available for attendees of those speaking
engagements — furthering your own promotional efforts.


No other journal brings together so many cutting-edge
thinkers, and lets them speak so bluntly and frankly. We strive
to maintain the Journal’s reputation as the “Harvard Business
Review of IT.” Our goal is to present well-grounded opinion
(based on real, accountable experiences), research, and animated
debate about each topic the Journal explores.



Christine Generali

Christine Generali is a Group Publisher for Cutter Consortium - responsible for the editorial direction and content management of Cutter's flagship publication, Cutter IT Journal.


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