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Agile
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Agile on Three Levels with One App

Team Autonomy and Organizational Alignment for True Business Agility

You might be thinking, “Large hierarchical organizations, agile, and flexible agile tools just don’t mix”. If so, you’re probably struggling with a large scale agile transformation. In this article, you’ll discover how to make agile work on the three major levels typically found in large organizations.

We frequently work with global enterprises that are all about scaling the practices that have made certain teams so successful. The agile mindset is the same no matter the scale. It’s just a matter of having the entire organization share the same way of thinking.

Regardless of framework, organizations typically think of scaling agile on three levels: Portfolio, Program (or Product), and Team. At all three levels, the focus should be on staying as close to the Agile Manifesto’s four core values and twelve principles as possible. One unified tool that everyone enjoys using can help with the transition from command and control to business-wide agility. Let’s see how this is done in Favro thanks to the app’s limitless flexibility.

Portfolio Level

Even though the agile way of working usually begins at the team level, we’ll start at the top of the organization with the Portfolio. Just as with the teams who are directly creating value, the executive or leadership level needs to embrace change, strive for continuous improvement, and focus on finishing their highest priority initiatives. An excellent way to achieve this is with a portfolio backlog combined with a portfolio Kanban.

The portfolio backlog is where you keep all the ideas and options that you could be doing if there was capacity. More specifically it should contain all business strategy, product development, architecture (enabler), recruitment, cost-saving, and facility epics, which are continuously prioritized relative to one another. To avoid clogging the organization by trying to do everything at once the organization’s leadership should start by storing, prioritizing, and refining initiatives in this portfolio level backlog.

Portfolio backlog kanban based on priority
The portfolio backlog feeds the portfolio kanban based on priority

The portfolio Kanban provides a logical flow for reviewing, analyzing, prioritizing, and executing these initiatives. Favro has a full cadre of Kanban capabilities, including cycle times, lead times, WIP limits, cumulative flow diagrams, and control charts to continuously improve and optimize flow over time. The Kanban also acts as an information radiator constantly displaying the progress of the organization’s current goals.

Each business initiative, once selected and reviewed will typically be broken down into actionable business epics during the analysis stage. To avoid cluttering the portfolio backlog, the best way to handle this is to create a new backlog directly from the business initiative card via Card Menu (…) -> More -> Break down to… Backlog. This creates a link from the business initiative card to the business epic breakdown backlog for future traceability.

When the organization is ready to implement an initiative, the initiative backlog containing business epics is added to the appropriate program level collection. The backlog and all of its items are now live on two levels, creating a two-way alignment between Portfolio and Program.

linking to parent cards in favro
The business initiative is broken down into business epics in its own backlog and automatically linked to the parent card


The business initiative’s backlog is added to the program level
The business initiative’s backlog is added to the program level

Program / Product Level

Once at the Program level, the vision of the product can be fleshed out with program epics, capabilities, and features depending on the desired granularity. These program-level cards are committed to a program Kanban based on prioritization at the more granular level. The program level kanban has its own unique flow.

The business epics are broken down to program epics and committed to the program Kanban based on priority
The business epics are broken down to program epics and committed to the program Kanban based on priority

Once program epics have passed review, analysis and are ready for implementation, they are added to the appropriate team level backlogs.

Refined program epics are added to team backlogs
Refined program epics are added to team backlogs

Because cards in Favro can exist simultaneously on multiple backlogs and boards, a program epic can also exist on a product roadmap board, indicating what fiscal quarter, program increment, or release should be targeted for completion.

The same program epic card in program Kanban, team backlog and roadmap
The same program epic card in program Kanban, team backlog and roadmap

Team level

Each team working on a Program has its own Favro collection. These collections contain whatever the team needs to develop the epics in their team backlog which is shared from the Program level. In the team backlog, the epics are broken down into user stories. These user stories should be granular enough to be committed to a team board for completion in a single iteration. Since Favro does not dictate methodology, the teams can work the way they choose. Some teams might prefer a Scrum board, while others might want to work on a Kanban board.

User story committed to the team board
User story committed to the team board

Once a user story has been committed to a team board, tasks are either defined on the card itself or further broken down to its own task board.

User story is broken down to linked task board
User story is broken down to linked task board

Alignment at all levels

You now have an understanding of how any large organization can drive portfolio initiatives from the Portfolio level to the Program Level to the Team level, aligning everyone to shared goals. Alignment is further facilitated by Favro’s relations. Relations show both where cards are committed and the status of the cards on other boards. For example, a program epic being worked on by multiple teams will show relations to the team backlogs, which can be followed down to the Team boards. These relations go both ways, allowing full traceability up or down the levels of the organization.

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Relations show everywhere the card exists

Favro also has a full feature reporting app, which further supports alignment, traceability, and predictability. Cards from any collection, backlog or board, can be filtered, sorted, and even visualized via custom charts and graphs.

Report across all organizational levels

The Best Way to Start Your Scaled Agile Journey

When scaling Agile with Favro, it doesn’t matter if you choose a framework with packaged ways of working such as SAFe, LeSS, Scrum@Scale, or your own custom framework. Teams will be able to create custom boards, allowing them to work the way they want. Programs can align the teams with a unified product vision. And, the Portfolio can drive the business direction and overall goals. It’s one tool to run your entire agile organization, no matter what the size.

If you’d like to see Favro in action at the Portfolio, Program, or Team level, sign up now for a free trial.