5 challenges that Agile HR Portfolio Management will solve

  • Are you working in HR and tired of seldom actually getting things done, before there are ten new items landing onto your team’s agenda?

  • Do you feel that the business stakeholders have no idea of why HR even exists?

  • Are your HR deliverables massive, all-in-one-go, big-bang implementations that seem to continue forever?

  • Are you bogged down by the continuous firefighting and amount of HR operations work, feeling that your strategic projects are not progressing?

  • Do you realise that annual plans are dead. We can’t lead with an annual plan anymore, because everything is in flux and changing more frequently.

We feel you! We’ve been there ourselves. But not anymore. People, may we introduce you to Agile HR and HR portfolio management!

Portfolio management is about transparency, structure and clarity in how to prioritise and manage a continuously changing influx of projects, programs, must-do-operative stuff and other work. We’ve noticed that very few HR teams have a systematic way to manage, measure, prioritise and follow the inflow of work items.

With 11 years of Agile enterprise development experience we can with confidence say that the most powerful development action for adopting agility in a team or unit is professional agile portfolio management.

Did you recognise some of the usual pain points in HR? Well, continue reading. Here’s five ways how Agile portfolio management helps us lead an Agile HR Strategy and stay resilient.

You can also Join our dedicated Agile HR Strategy & Portfolio class to help mitigate these issues and future proof your career.

Understand the amount of work.

Agile Portfolio management helps us create an overview of the workflow with evidence and metrics. We’ll start by gathering data about the team's capacity and the different work types and projects that we should deliver. There are several methods available for splitting work items and evaluating the effort required to deliver projects. Portfolio management gives us visibility into the team’s future capacity. Overall, the simple idea with portfolio management is: A team has a limited capacity to deliver work. How do we use that capacity in the smartest, most valuable way? Usually these aren’t matching so we have to make tough prioritisation and decisions. We can't do that without data and a clear understanding of the exact inflow of work and projects.

Operations trumping strategic initiatives.

Would you like to have more focus on strategic HR themes, but constantly have to prioritise the operative work? Having the transparency, data and evidence through the portfolio we can start negotiating and making decisions with the aim of shifting our focus towards the strategic deliveries. The discussions with key stakeholders are easier when we can visualise the whole picture. If 95% of our capacity goes to running operations we're simply not going to succeed in that strategic initiative. Decisions of outsourcing some operative work, improving automation or cutting waste from our processes can be done, and the impact can be followed up. We can also choose to cut out less valuable services from our HR service portfolio altogether. The point is, these decisions are now controlled, explicit and evidence based, instead of everyone stating “we're too busy" and "we have too much to do”, without the facts.

Focusing on getting things done.

Working on tens of initiatives simultaneously has a huge context switching cost. In fact, according to some, research teams seem to loose 20% of their performance just by working on two different projects simultaneously. We bet the same is true for any teams doing cognitive work. Now imagine everyone is participating in five projects simultaneously, plus their operative tasks and "normal day job". Sound familiar?

When working in an agile way, our mantra is “stop starting, start finishing”. Portfolio management will help allocate the HR teams’ capacity, focusing on delivering the work with the highest value, and negotiating with the business what should be delivered and when (also saying “no” or “not now”). The people's, and team's capacity can be targeted smarter, and the impact on performance is huge. One Talent Acquisition team improved their performance by 72% when moving into Agile teamwork and portfolio management. That' correct. 72%.

Changing requirements.

If you set a plan in the beginning of the year 2021, how long do you think you can actually trust that plan? Leading HR operations according to an annual plan actually sounds quite naive nowadays. We are facing continuous disruption, external changes, and our internal customers and leaders are also requesting us to react to urgencies.

Agile Portfolio management enables the HR teams and leaders to continuously update their priorities, stay on track with the progress and have full transparency across all work in HR. The HR team and your stakeholders will feel more in control of the inevitable changes through the transparency and structure. As Agile HR professionals we can react to change and build resilience and adaptability into our work, without feeling overwhelmed.

Moving from reactive to proactive and value driven.

Do you feel that the business is asking for everything right now, having very little clue of what HR is actually working on?

With a managed portfolio the HR leaders can have very business focused conversations with their business counterparts, making the HR work transparent and negotiating capacity allocation to different business units’ requests. “If you insist on adding Project X onto our next quarter, we have to remove an equal amount of work from that quarter. Let’s talk what we will cut out instead”. It’s as simple as that. Weighing initiatives against each other is much easier with an overview of the portfolio, understanding the effects of changes and dependencies between items.

The world moved beyond annual planning…

If you are leading any kind of HR operations, portfolio management is a crucial skill to learn in today’s changing and complex business environment. Be the HR leader who can implement the tools, structure and a cadence to make value-based decisions with your HR team, offering the highest value of people services with the available capacity.


What is the Agile HR Strategy & Portfolio program?

Our philosophy is that People operations is an integral part of delivering customer value to end-customers of the organisation. The activities managed and developed by HR people must aim to increase the customer value delivery, and thus business value.  This program will give you basic methods, structures, understanding, and knowledge about how to organise a whole HR team’s (or HR unit’s) HR work through a continuous and ongoing cycle of Agile planning and prioritisation.