Scrum in Programs and Portfolios

September 24, 2020

When applying Scrum to manage projects within the context of a program or portfolio, it is strongly recommended that the general principles of Scrum are adhered to.

Let us now understand how Program and Portfolio are defined:

  • Program: A program is a group of related projects, with the objective to deliver business outcomes as defined in the Program Vision Statement. The Prioritized Program Backlog incorporates the Prioritized Product Backlogs for all the projects in the program.
  • Portfolio: A portfolio is a group of related programs, with the objective to deliver business outcomes as defined in the Portfolio Vision Statement. The Prioritized Portfolio Backlog incorporates the Prioritized Program Backlogs for all the programs in the portfolio.

Below are some of the examples of programs and portfolios from different industries and sectors:

Example 1: Construction Company

  • Program—Construction of a housing complex
  • Portfolio—All the housing projects of the company

Example 2: Aerospace Organization

  • Program—Successful launch of a satellite
  • Portfolio—All the active satellite programs

Example 3: Information Technology (IT) Company

  • Program—Development of a fully functional e-commerce website
  • Portfolio—All the websites developed by the company so far

It is understood though, that in order to accommodate the overall program or portfolio activities and interdependencies, minor adjustments to the set of tools, as well as the organizational structure may be required. If the Scrum Guidance Body exists, it may be responsible to scrutinize the organization at different levels to understand and define appropriate application of Scrum, and to act as a consulting body for everyone working on a program or portfolio.

Portfolios and programs have separate teams with different sets of objectives. Program management teams aim to deliver capabilities and realize certain goals that contribute toward the achievement of specific program objectives. In contrast, the portfolio team has to balance the objectives of various programs to achieve the strategic objectives of the organization as a whole.

The problems and issues faced when using Scrum within a program or portfolio primarily involve coordination across numerous teams. This can lead to failure if not carefully managed. Tools used for communication need to be scaled to match the requirements of the many teams involved in a program or portfolio. Each Scrum Team must address not only internal communications, but also external communications with other teams and the relevant stakeholders of the program or portfolio.


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