Agile Portfolio Management



By Henny Portman and Rini van Solingen

The Netherlands

The more an organization uses an agile way of working, the more the need arises for a different control of the portfolio of programs and projects. Indeed, it will have to be consciously considered that this portfolio will be run agile. In practice, this is then referred to as: agile portfolio management. Rini van Solingen and Henny Portman discuss concrete practical measures to make portfolio management more optimal in an agile organization[1].

“The next step is to make portfolio management itself agile too!”

To centrally manage the totality of programs and projects, portfolio management has been set up in many organizations. Its aim is to organize the combination and sequence of initiatives in such a way that the underlying strategic goals are achieved in the best possible way. But by considering all the practical constraints and dependencies present, both externally (with customers, suppliers, and regulators) and internally (with teams, architecture, and strategic agendas).

This is a logical thing to do. After all, the totality of resources, time and capacity is bounded. However, with many more organizations using agile ways of working in the execution of those projects and programs, this has implications for this governance. After all, execution takes place by stable agile teams (often organized in chains of teams), making it necessary for portfolio management to take this into account. After all, steering via budgets, schedules and resources, shifts to governing via: roadmaps, backlogs, sprints, and teams.

The term used for this is: agile portfolio management. However, this can mean two things:

  1. Portfolio management that considers when ordering the initiatives that execution will be agile – this is: portfolio management for agile execution (plan-based portfolio management).
  2. Portfolio management that exploits the short-cycle benefits of execution for itself by making portfolio management itself more agile – this is: an agile way of working of portfolio management (discovery-based Portfolio management).

The biggest opportunity to make organizations even faster, more agile, and successful today seems to lie mainly in that second variant: portfolio management that is itself agile (see also the table: Ten practical measures to make portfolio management agile). Indeed, this offers opportunities to make strategic choices in the portfolio more flexibly and to feed these choices with real data from real customers. The main advantage of this is that the intended impact of the portfolio can be achieved faster by scaling up earlier where the intended value occurs. And that capacity is therefore also freed up sooner by stopping those initiatives where the intended value is failing to materialize.

Many organizations have invested in recent years in making their organization agile, including through introducing agile ways of working, organizing in agile teams, and all the associated CI/CD infrastructure. This has not necessarily made the organization more agile. After all, project execution is only one part of production. The next step is to make portfolio management itself also more agile. This will optimize portfolio management and make better use of the possibilities of an agile organization.


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How to cite this article: Portman, H., van Solingen, R. (2023).  Agile Portfolio Management, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue VII, July.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/pmwj131-Jul2023-Portman-van-Solingen-agile-portfolio-management-2.pdf

About the Authors

Henny Portman

The Netherlands


Henny Portman, owner of Portman PM[O] Consultancy and was partner of HWP Consulting, has 40 years of experience in the project management domain. He was the project management office (PMO) thought leader within NN Group and responsible for the introduction and application of the PMO methodologies (portfolio, program, and project management) across Europe and Asia. He trains, coaches, and directs (senior) programme, project and portfolio managers and project sponsors at all levels, and has built several professional (PM(O)) communities.

Henny Portman is/was accredited in a variety of qualifications, including P3O, PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PRINCE2 Agile, AgilePM, AgilePgM and AgileSHIFT trainer and an SPC4 SAFe consultant and trainer. He is/was a P3M3 trainer and assessor and PMO Value Ring Certified Consultant (PMO Global Alliance). On behalf of IPMA, he assesses mega and large projects for the IPMA Project Excellence Award. In addition to this, he is an international speaker, author of many articles and books in the PM(O) field, and an active blogger ( hennyportman.wordpress.com/).

Henny can be contacted at henny.portman@gmail.com.

To view other works by Henny Portman, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/henny-portman/


Rini van Solingen

The Netherlands


Rini van Solingen is a speaker and author. His expertise lies in the speed and agility of people and organizations. He is part-time full professor at Delft University of Technology and regularly lectures at Nyenrode Business University in master classes and MBAs. Rini is also CTO at Prowareness NL and a non-executive board member of momomedical.com.

He is the author of a number of (management) books, including AGILE, The Power of Scrum, The Beeherd and Formula X. Rini can be contacted at r.vansolingen@prowareness.nl

[1] This article was first published (in Dutch) in AG Connect September 2022: Agile werken? Dan ook agile portfoliomanagement. The article was the starting point for the Dutch book Agile portfoliomanagement. An English version of the book was published in June 2023.