Cross-Portfolio Prioritization and Dependency Management for Digital Product Teams

A Product-Centric Operating model requires extra care and attention in the area of aligning priorities across teams because these teams tend to be semi-autonomous. Otherwise, you might begin to wonder if you were better off with the earlier way of working.

See, for example, this tweet by a Forrester analyst:

"Talked to my first organization stepping back from a product centric operating model. Inconsistent behaviors across self-managed product teams were resulting in considerable stakeholder unhappiness." — Charles Betz, Forrester

Why is this happening?

Many organizations that have moved to long-lived, semi-autonomous delivery teams led by product owners are facing challenges with aligning prioritization and dependency management. When planning the transition from projects, they did not consider the extra effort required to align stakeholders and members of semi-autonomous teams. Unless priority scales are normalized across this type of teams, it is hard to negotiate prioritization of dependencies. Let’s take an example.

Team Orange plans to work on a priority-one feature next quarter. They have a dependency on Team Black. But the product owner of Team Black says that they already have two priority-one items of their own on their plan for the next quarter. They decline to commit to servicing Team Orange’s dependency. Team Orange is stuck. But are Team Black’s priority-one items as important and urgent to the organization as Team Orange’s? We won’t know unless priority scales are normalized.

Normalization does not take place when each semi-autonomous team prioritizes its work with its own priority scale. This video (available to potential clients on request) describes how to normalize. Check out the above analyst's review comments here on the solution suggested in the video.

There's a bit more detail about how to normalize priorities in the last section of this post. Here is an excerpt.