8 Domains Executives should Plan and Coordinate

Planning and Coordinating use Agile PPM tools

Executives are responsible for maintaining the structure of the organization and supporting the mechanisms that enable the flow of value across many teams. To that, executives should plan and coordinate across major organizational domains. Though I believe there are eight domains which executives should be planning and coordinating in, I'm not prepared to say Sales & CRM or Marketing Management should be included in an Agile PPM tool (at this time). Beyond that, a single PPM tool should cover the remaining six domains.

Often, the first tools purchased are to help the delivery teams manage their daily work. As the organization evolves or grows, more tools are purchased to cover the gaps left by the team-level tools. The tools then become entrenched. At some point, organizations have a collection of tools they are trying to maintain and they lose sight of the original reasons for purchasing and implementing them.

Organizations then turn to PPM tools. There is a wide variety of motivations for using agile project portfolio management (PPM) tools. One key reason can simply be the desire for their teams to collaboratively plan. Other key reasons include the desire to prioritize and track work on a synchronized cadence, while providing visibility of the portfolio to the executive stakeholders. To meet organizational needs, the number of tools being used to satisfy these desires expand over time.

Before you choose an Agile PPM tool, remember that your company operations should influence how that tool is implemented across your organization, not the other way around.

What types of problems are Agile PPM tools good at solving?

Six Organizational Domains of Planning and Coordinating

Portfolio Management

The art and science of making decisions about investment mix and policy, matching investments to objectives and key results (OKRs), asset allocation for individuals and institutions, and balancing risk against performance. Your Agile PPM tool needs to provide a sufficient level of visibility of the roadmap and investment themes, through the lens of a portfolio team.

Program Management

The process of managing several related projects or products that are part of an investment portfolio. Your Agile PPM tool must provide a sufficient level of visibility of the release backlog and to allow for necessary elaboration for release targeting, all through the lens of a program or capability team.

Capacity Management

Deals with the organizations ability to create or develop new product. Capacity constraints in any process or resource can be a major bottleneck for a company. Your Agile PPM tool should make it easy to know what the organization and teams have historically delivered, in order to understand where the bottlenecks exist, and what to commit to in the future.

Human Capital Management

Related to people resource management. In order to deliver product predictably, it is necessary to have stable teams, providing specific competencies. Your organization needs the right people in place to deliver on commitments in the portfolio. Do you need to hire or replace people? Your Agile PPM tool should help facilitate a conversation around who are the right people, what teams they should be on, and when we need them on a team.

Dependency Management

The ability to either encapsulate or orchestrate around “dependent” organizational, structural, or technical activities. Dependencies tend to be a major productivity killer for organizations. They slow and sometimes stop the ability to deliver value. It is critical that your Agile PPM tool provides indications of dependencies across the organization. Having the first indication of a dependency discovered after a delivery team has already made a commitment against its impacted deliverable is too late.

Budget Management

Refers to a financial plan for a defined period of time. It may also include planned revenues, resource quantities, costs and expenses, assets, liabilities and cash flows. Your Agile PPM tool must provide the necessary information to shift conversations from just scope and schedule to budget.


Use the above list as a guide to catalog tools your organization is using (or considering) for planning and coordinating. Are there gaps or are there overlaps and duplications? If you have overlaps and duplications, there is an opportunity for you to consolidate some of those tools. Begin consolidating tools, and you may reclaim some budget next year you didn't think you had.

Want to know how you are covering the six or eight domains? Schedule an assessment with me.

Getting Clarity


I believe the number one reason for failure or waste is a lack of clarity or understanding. If you getting clarity on something, it gives you the freedom to decide if you want to do it or not.  If something is ambiguous, you may agree in principle but you don't know what you're really getting yourself into.


Firstly, what are your Objectives and Key Results (OKR)? How do you set and communicate goals and results in your organization? Because you want people to move together in the right direction, you need to get clarity.


What are your Key Performance Indicators (KPI)? How do you want to measure value that demonstrates how effectively your company is achieving key business objectives?  Because you want your organization to evaluate its success at reaching targets, you need to get clarity.


What does the team design or structure of the organization look like on portfolio, program, product, and service layers? We need a shared understanding of which individuals or teams are responsible for what.


What does the governance of the organization look like? How do we manage our budget, dependencies, risks, or quality? What are the inputs, outputs, and artifacts?

Metrics and Tools

Because we want to manage our system of delivery, what are necessary metrics and tools of the organization?

Getting Clarity

Remember, if you expect others to commit to something, regardless if it's a process or a deliverable, we need a shared understanding.

You Need More Process and Tools

processEven in an environment where you have a single, ideal, co-located cross-functional team, I believe you're going to need processes and tools. The more complex and distributed your organization, the more processes and tools you're going to need. Doesn't sound very agile does it? Well, get over it. You're going to need processes and tools to enable individuals and interactions. If you can't sit in your chair and make direct eye contact with everyone on your team, you need more processes and tools. Hell, even if you can see everyone, you'll still need processes and tools. What is Scrum? A process framework. What is a team board? A communications tool.


I'm not dismissing the Agile Manifesto. I do prefer individual and interactions over processes and tools. I'm just trying to establish some context. Most of us don't work in that ideal agile world. Rather, we have to operate within a series of non-ideal organizational constraints. Most people are sold on the idea of Agile. The values and principles resonate with us. But my job (and LeadingAgile) is to understand the goals of an organization and help them reach them.  We start by laying the foundation for an agile enterprise by forming teams and installing a Lean/Kanban based governance model, but maintaining focus on longer term planning, risk management, and dependency management.

Current State

Before laying the foundation, I look at their current organizational structure, I look at their current governance (processes) and I look at their current metrics to see how good that structure and governance is working out for them.

Future State with Process and Tools

Whatever the future state looks like, I expect two things to help get us there.

1. We need to provide clarity by making process policies explicit. 2. We need to demonstrate incremental improvements by using tools.

Do you agree with me? Maybe you disagree with me. I'd love to read your feedback.

Image Credit: Pictofigo

TDD - Tool Driven Development

In order to realize the greatest benefits in application development, it is recommended that you use good engineering practices.  Those practices include continuous integration, paired programming and TDD (Test Driven Development).  Unfortunately, when arriving at a new coaching engagement, it is common that a tool vendor has arrived on the scene before the Agile (engineering and process) coaches.  Just as many are sold on Agile being a silver bullet, I find people are equally sold on the idea that a tool can solve all of their problems. Are clients wrong to assume an enterprise “Agile” tool can transition them away from a “Waterfall” tool?  I'm sure that is what the tool vendor told them.  Though I would agree some of the leading providers do offer more lightweight solutions, the truth is some people (after the sale) get frustrated when they realize their tools need to be customized, to align with their business processes.  Unfortunately, I have seen that customization not happen.  Instead, customers struggle with the tools they have implemented.  They change their development and delivery process so they can use the tools.  They start to practice TDD (Tool Driven Development).

When I show customers they can accomplish what they need with index cards, painters tape, and Sharpies, the next question is how can they modify the tool to align with reality.

Always remember the first value of the Manifesto: Individuals and interactions over process and tools.  Fix your processes first.  Then, and only then, should you look to a tool for efficiencies.

Image Source: Pictofigo

LeanKit Kanban

LeanKit KanbanWhen the Agile Manifesto for Agile Software Development was written 10 years ago, it stated "We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it." The very first of four values listed within the Manifesto was "Individuals and interactions over processes and tools"

The Manifesto goes on to state "...while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more."

Well, I am compelled to write about one of the items on the right.  I still believe the tool should be good enough that it helps you reach your goals.  But after that, it should not become a big process onto itself.  What I want to do is finish tasks and get some actual closure on them.

I recently read in the book Personal Kanban by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry, a phenomenon known as the "Zeigarnik Effect".  It states that 90% of people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.  Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnic found that the human brain becomes preoccupied with things that are not closed.

Though I have leveraged Kanban with teams, it took me a while to realize that Visual Control Systems could be used to visualize and manage both personal and professional work.  I then found myself using a physical board at the office and an electronic version (web-based tool) at home.

What is visual control, exactly?

A visual control is a technique employed in many places where information is communicated by using visual signals instead of texts or other written instructions. The design is deliberate in allowing quick recognition of the information being communicated, in order to increase efficiency and clarity.

The real question is, can a process tool take the place of individuals and interactions?  Perhaps we need to stop and think about the reality of our world.  Is everyone in your company physically located in the same office space or are you geographically dispersed?  If you're not all sitting there together in an open workspace, you need to find a tool that will bridge that physical gap and then stay out of the way. Bandit Software's  LeanKit Kanban does that.  Let me tell you what puts LeanKit in the lead of the Kanban tool race.  It's called mobile computing.

I seem to carry my iPad with me everywhere. (I'll be getting an iPhone as soon as my contract is up).  Though the LeanKit iPhone/iPod interface could use a little work, the iPad interface is completely awesome.  The image above is actually a screen print from my iPad.  The design is simple; it's lightweight; it's functional.  It helps me visualize my work and it helps control my work in process.  Merge LeanKit Kanban and an iPad and you will have an amazing user experience, as it allows individuals to interact wherever they see fit.  I'm happy because I can access half a dozen different boards with tap of my finger and my wife is happy because I didn't cover the walls of my home office with whiteboards and sticky notes.

If you're thinking about using a web-based Kanban tool for yourself, your team, or your organization, all of the vendors out there have relatively similar features.  See which one fits your budget.  If you or your teams are using mobile devices like iPhones, iPods, or iPads (in addition to desktops or laptops), you need to go to iTunes and download this app.  Though you need to have an existing LeanKit account to make the Apple App versions work, you can get a personal account for free!

After you see how well it works for your personal life, I don't doubt you'll be using it in the office in the not-too-distant future.


HT: Wikipedia HT: LeanKit HT: Personal Kanban