Portfolio Backlog in SAFe
Updated: Jan 12
“Leadership is about vision and responsibility, not power”.
In SAFe, the responsibility of members in an organization counts more than their role. Higher you rise in SAFe stages; responsibilities will rise at higher levels and also needs the leaders who can handle it well with future vision. One of the important responsibilities of Epic Owners is portfolio backlog.
Portfolio backlog is the highest level of backlog in the SAFe system. Portfolio backlog is a holding stage for the epics for further implementations by Agile Release Train or Solution Train. The portfolio epics are managed, made visible, and developed through the kanban system. Portfolio backlog consists of the set of prioritization of architectural and business epics to achieve operational efficiency, competitive solutions, and market differentiation. In the kanban system portfolio backlog are proceeding through various states until they are permitted or overruled by Lean portfolio management.
Briefing Portfolio Backlog
In the portfolio backlog, only the approved epics are held for implementation. Rejected epics are either revised for further backlog or are directly discarded. Because of their cross-cutting nature and scope portfolio epics need substantial investment and have a solicitous effect on solution as well as business outputs. So portfolio epics are analyzed in the Kanban system to create feasibility.
Portfolio Backlog Management
Generally, many organizations generate more ideas than they can provide funding for, resulting in more numbers of epics in a single portfolio backlog. This many numbers of epics will create a challenging situation for prioritization. To avoid confusion LPM and participants from various value streams will combine to decide which epics to be implemented. This decision will be based on the result of the budget event described in the Lean Budget article. Further, they will also decide how with time this budget will be adjusted to provide the support for the implementation and development of business and enabler epics.
Moving to implementation
“Ideas are easy, implementation is hard”
Implementation of concepts and ideas is the hard part of any process. To keep the continuation in the process in the right way is the toughest. For the easy adaptation of any process and epic in the development flow, simple considerations and additions are made in the SAFe system. Epic implementation includes the consideration for sizing the work, sequencing the work, ranking epics that are related to each other, and Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) prioritization. Adjustments are also made to equal the capacity allocation and solution investment prospect. As the job duration used by WSJF is dependent much more on ART capacity, it becomes necessary to add the understanding of obtainable ART capacity should be included in considerations of implementation.
Once the capacity is available in the ART the prioritized epic within the portfolio backlog will be pulled into the implementation state of portfolio Kanban. Epic owners who have the responsibility of this backlog have to collaborate with product and solution management along with the system and solution architect for decomposing the features and capabilities. These features and capabilities are further managed into program and solution Kanban of the same ARTs.
To begin the implementation of MPV epics these fresh features and capabilities are introduced in the program increment planning (PI) event and pre-PI planning event. While iteration some of the features and capabilities may be discarded or replaced with more capable ones. Epic is considered done when the predicted business outcome hypothesis is evaluated.
When the benefit hypothesis comes accurate, then the value stream will implement more features up to it is not able to compare the value with a feature from another source.
But if the hypothesis is incorrect, then the job related to that epic is stopped then the further decision of either adding a new hypothesis means adding a new epic or stopping the work completely is taken.
The changing system at so higher level may seem risky but in businesses, measured and calculated risks are what helps to grow the businesses.
Reminding of the saying, “Make your vision so clear that, your fear becomes irrelevant” is a key in such cases. In SAFe, at every level, role and responsibility provide an organization with a clear vision whereas, trust and transparency within every member and process of the organization are undeniable in agile helps in increasing the vision of the organization.