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Category Vision - Agile Portfolio Management

Description

Large enterprises are continually working on increasingly more complex and larger scope initiatives that cut across multiple teams and even departments, spanning months, quarters, and even years. GitLab's vision is to allow organizing these initiatives into powerful multi-level work breakdown plans and enable tracking the execution of them over time, to be extremely simple and insightful. In addition, GitLab should highlight which opportunities have higher ROI, helping teams make strategic business planning decisions.

GitLab's multi-level work breakdown planning capabilities will include multiple layers of epics and issues, allowing enterprises to capture:

GitLab will leverage timeline-based roadmap visualizations to help enterprises plan from small time scales (e.g. 2 week sprints for development teams) to large time scales (e.g. annual strategic initiatives for entire departments). Enhanced issues and issue boards capabilities will allow more versatile and powerful backlog grooming and cross-sprint planning functionality.

GitLab will enable teams to track execution of these plans over time. In addition to roadmap views as well as existing time tracking and story point estimation features (called weights in GitLab), GitLab workflow management will also be improved with group-level customized workflows integrated into boards, as well as burndown and burnup charts also integrated into boards.

GitLab will help teams identify high ROI opportunities, by organizing and surfacing initiatives with relatively large benefits (as entered by team members) and relatively low costs (via rolled up effort estimates at the epic level).

GitLab supports enterprise Agile portfolio and project management frameworks, including Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Scrum, and Kanban.

See how GitLab team-members themselves use GitLab Agile PPM to create GitLab, as of GitLab 11.4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ME9VwseXMuo

See upcoming planned improvements for Agile portfolio and project management.

What's next & why

We now have the basic epic object working in GitLab. You can attach issues to epics and you can view epics in a roadmap visualization. The next step is to introduce more flexibility in epic relationship structures, to address more use cases. In particular, the next step is building out flexible work breakdown structures with epics of epics.

See https://gitlab.com/groups/gitlab-org/-/epics/312 and https://gitlab.com/groups/gitlab-org/-/epics/644.

Competitive landscape

Portfolio management is not a radically new industry. And there are established players such as Clarity, Planview, VersionOne, AgileCraft, and ServiceNow. Many of these older tools were developed targeted at truly enterprise cases, allowing users to track large business initiatives across an organization. Customers using these tools typically have another set of tools for the product-development teams to turn these high-level business initiatives into scoped out detailed planned work and actual software deliverables. Therefore, our competitive advantage is having both (the high-level initiatives, and the product-development-level abstractions) in a single tool, that is fully integrated for a seamless experience. Our strategy is building toward those enterprise use cases and abstractions, starting with the product-development baseline abstractions. And so we are developing multi-level child epics, and adding functionality there incrementally.

Analyst landscape

We are working with analysts to better understand the space of Agile Portfolio Management. For example, Gartner has an area called Enteprise Agile Planning Tools, which this GitLab category is very much a part of.

Analysts in this space are concerned with truly "enterprise" use cases. Agile methodologies have been around for a good number of years, but they have been focused on small teams, or maybe a small number of teams working closely in concert to execute and deliver features. The industry is now focused on how to take these processes that have been proven in small teams, and scale them to large enterprises with business initiatives that span potentially even multiple departments. What is crucial therefore, is how can organizations deliver business value very quickly, but still allow stakeholders (especially executive stakeholders) the visibility to track progress and be assured that the enterprise is working on the right initiatives in the first place. This has even led to the popular SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) methodology as a way to help guide enterprise organizations in their Agile transformations.

At GitLab, we embrace this enterprise Agile transformation that companies are going through and want to lead the way by building the tools to do so. In particular, having a single application to view your entire work breakdown structure, from executive level, all the way down to issues and merge requests and even commits, means that our design truly allows for streamlining that visibility. We are focused on building this work breakdown structure out as the initial goal in Agile Portfolio Management.

Top Customer Success/Sales issue(s)

The top feature in this area is indeed flexible work breakdown structures. We are working on that, along with tree-based and roadmap-based visualizations in https://gitlab.com/groups/gitlab-org/-/epics/312.

Top user issue(s)

Many users are interested in harmonizing epics and issues together. The want "epics in projects" or "issues in groups". We are addressing that by solving each of those relevant use cases in turn. See https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ce/issues/24536#note_125134359 further context. In particular, the issues are:

Top internal customer issue(s)

GitLab team-members also want to have flexible work breakdown structures and have more power to manipulate issues and epics together, to meet various cross-functional needs. So https://gitlab.com/groups/gitlab-org/-/epics/312 continues to be the most important improvement here.

Top Vision Item(s)