In MOJ Digital Services one of the things we use our weekly portfolio stand-up meeting for is to talk about progress on our projects and any issues that teams need help resolving.
When we recently had our portfolio wall covered with large whiteboards there was a natural opportunity to review the way we display and work with this information, and over the course of a couple of iterations we think we’ve come up with something that works well.
As well as basic information (including project name and service design phase) each project card on the portfolio wall displays updates provided by teams:
- A project status flag – do we need to discuss anything about the project this week?
- Is the project on track – what’s the overall level of confidence that the project will be delivered by the agreed date?
- Up to 3 key things that have to happen to meet the next major project milestone
We’ve added a scale to the top of the wall and projects now move from left to right one increment each week. This shows how long they’ve been in delivery and how close they are to going live. Generally we aim to get something built and live within 20 weeks. This will be a ‘minimum viable product’, for example a new service or a significant improvement to an existing one.
We also mark major milestones, like testing the service publicly with users and Digital by Default Service Standard assessments, on the wall at the appropriate point so it’s clear what’s coming up.
At the portfolio meeting it’s now easier to quickly identify whether we’re on track or if deadlines are at risk and management support is needed. We’re also experimenting with a relative project priority ranking for each week to make it clear where this effort should be focussed.
Agreeing this ranking stimulates information sharing and debate about what’s important and helps ensure actions and decisions follow from these conversations. It is also really useful where trade-offs have to be made and, for example, people moved between projects in order to hit key milestones.
While this seems to be working well for us we will continue to develop our approach to monitoring and supporting projects. One thing we’ve learned is that displaying this information in a very visible way on the portfolio wall is a great way to get people interested in the issues!