Most people familiar with Kanban know its power at the team level; Kanban boards help teams visualize, manage, and improve their workflows, while collecting invaluable data that enables continuous improvement. For managers, team Kanban boards provide valuable insight into status, capacity, issues blocking progress, and more. This insight enables managers to be more effective leader and helps them add more value to their teams.

What many may not realize is that Kanban possesses equally transformative power at the portfolio level.

A well-designed portfolio of Kanban boards, connected in strategic ways, can equip stakeholders at every level of the organization with the insight they need to deliver on key initiatives.

Using Kanban can help organizations synchronize efforts at every level to keep everyone focused on maximizing customer value. AgilePlace by Planview is purpose-built for Lean project portfolio management.

Read on to learn how to use AgilePlace boards at the team, project, and portfolio levels to give everyone the insight they need.

From Spreadsheets to PPM: Taking the first steps on your portfolio management journey

Common challenges maturing organisations face in their project and portfolio management procedures

Watch the webinar • From Spreadsheets to PPM

Building a Business Case for Project Portfolio Management

Enabling every level of the organization

Read the whitepaper • Building a Business Case for Project Portfolio Management
 AgilePlace multi-board connections
AgilePlace multi-board connections

Status Updates at the Right Level with Card Connections

Executives, middle managers, and team members need different levels of visibility from their Kanban boards. At the portfolio level, executives need to understand how the organization is delivering on key initiatives. Managers need visibility into progress at the strategic project and individual team levels. Teams need a board on which they can actively break down and manage daily work.

It could be considered cumbersome and unsustainable to attempt to keep all three levels of boards up to date. It's unlikely that an organization would be able to encourage every manager, for example, to update team, project, and portfolio level boards whenever their teams deliver an important piece of work.

Luckily, with LeanKit, everyone in the organization can have access to the right level of status — without additional manual effort. This is made possible by AgilePlace by Planview's card connections.

Team-level boards

Team Kanban boards manage the daily work of individuals working in teams. Team members move cards across the board from left to right as they complete various steps in the team's process. The lanes in team boards reflect each of these steps. For example, a marketing team might have the lanes on their board for a Backlog, Up Next, Plan, Draft, Edit, Design, Build, QA, Deploy, and Done.

 AgilePlace kanban board
AgilePlace kanban board

The team might use card types to differentiate between different types of deliverables: Landing page, whitepaper, blog post, social campaign, etc.

Teams rely heavily on AgilePlace by Planview's flexible board layout editor to create boards that accurately reflect their process. This is critical for any Kanban board – if it doesn't reflect reality, people are much less likely to use it to manage their work.

Team boards are primarily used by team members, who use it to manage their work. Managers will also use this board, to add, prioritize, and delegate work, get an understanding of the team's current focus, and monitor any issues blocking progress. Ideally, work on this board will roll up to strategic initiatives at the project and portfolio levels to enable true project portfolio management.

Project-Level Boards

Project boards are used to manage cross-functional strategic work that rolls up to key initiatives. These boards are likely used by managers and executives to get an understanding of how well teams are delivering on the projects that maximize value for the customer.

For example, if a key initiative is to implement a new methodology in the sales department, then a project might require sales leadership to develop a training program to use across the department. This training program might require input from marketing and customer success, who work closely with sales. A sales director who is leading this project might create a card on the project board that represents this project, and then create connected cards on various sales, marketing, and customer success boards to delegate the tasks associated with creating the training program.

Connected cards gallery

As team members complete those tasks, the project card is automatically updated with the overall status of the project (i.e., 6 out of 12 cards completed). For more information about outstanding work, managers using the project board can examine the connected cards gallery to get an overview of the work that is left to be done.

 Cards view
Cards view

Executives can also use project boards: Reports based on project board activity can give executives an understanding of the distribution of project types. This can help answer questions like: What percent of our projects are contributing to new capabilities, compared to the percent of projects that just keep our product functioning?

Portfolio-level boards

Project portfolio management in AgilePlace by Planview gives executives a bird's eye view of how the organization is progressing towards key initiatives. Work on project- and team-level boards rolls up into cards on the portfolio board. This board gives executives and other stakeholders an at-a-glance view of how the organization is performing against its goals.

Portfolio-level boards may or may not be used as traditional Kanban boards (meaning, work may not flow through a process from left to right). Instead, lanes might designate departments responsible for delivering specific initiatives, or whatever other visualization is helpful for executives. This board could also be used as a dashboard to get a quick view of progress on quarterly or yearly objectives, set up as a calendar with lanes representing quarters or months.

Final Thoughts

Connecting Kanban boards from various levels of an organization enables everyone to get what they need: Executives can see a bird's eye view of progress on key initiatives, managers can manage, prioritize, and delegate work at the project level, and individual contributors can actively manage their daily tasks.

AgilePlace by Planview allows everyone to be on the same page about priority, status, and more – enabling a more effective, collaborative, goal-oriented way of working across the organization. Keep everyone laser-focused on maximizing customer value by harnessing the power of project portfolio management in your organization.