IT portfolio management in classic organisational structures

Guest contribution by | 20.07.2023

I have been working at Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) for several years and have been working as a portfolio manager in IT since December 2022. As a public company, we have an organisational structure that is characterised by regulations, processes and a distinct hierarchy.

For this reason, IT reorganised itself two years ago and developed into a product organisation. All three core functions – plan, build and run – are now united in one team. This allows us to minimise coordination while increasing delivery speeds.

From personal experience as an agile organisational developer, I know that adaptability, flow as well as cross-team collaboration are possible in a public company and transparency doesn’t just hurt. This is exactly what we are about in IT:

  • How can we act flexibly despite long-standing planning cycles and specifications from classic project management?

As of today, we have been organising about 450 employees in a project organisation for about two years. In addition, there are functions such as Purchasing, Legal & Controlling, which are centrally managed at BVG and act as stakeholders. We want to work transparently and closely with them in order to pick up even more speed.

The user-centred development of agile IT portfolio management

So far, we have only looked at projects in IT portfolio management; according to BVG’s project manual, this means “one-off, complex and closeable issues”. Here, we mainly plan strategic investments to maintain our operations for the passengers in Berlin.

In order to develop a value-creating IT portfolio management, we consistently focus on our target groups (or users):

We look at the user journey of each group of people to understand the challenges of planning, approving and implementing projects. We use a user story map, with the product being our portfolio management. This User Story Map provides the opportunity to transparently record feedback on our ideas and prioritise aspects vertically. This makes it easier for us to prepare the OKR planning, as we can see very quickly what currently delivers the greatest added value for our users.

In our conversations, we often heard two statements:

  • “I am working on too many projects or issues in my team.”
  • “We take on too much in our annual planning.”

Let’s take a closer look at these fields of action:

Dynamic prioritisation

Many of us are aware that we have to prioritise because of increasing demands on IT and a lack of skilled staff. That is why we have designed a prototype of the WSJF method¹ and modified the original method a little:

WSJF@BVG = (financial value + strategic relevance + risk reduction + image + external impact) / (financial effort + complexity).

As a public transport company in a media city and as a political company, we are present in public every day. For this reason, we have included the criterion “image + external impact” as a value in our adapted method.

Since there are many internal dependencies in our company – in addition to purchasing, law, data protection and co-determination – we have also explicitly added the criterion of complexity. We use Planning Poker to evaluate the criterion; it functions as an exchange format that takes different perspectives into account when prioritising, and at the same time is efficient and fun. Thus, even during exhausting discussions, many participants still have a smile on their face; if the participants leave the meeting after a prioritisation round with more energy than they went in with, that is a nice side effect. And if at the same time the understanding in the evaluation of the topics increases and the focus on a few topics progresses, then the work flow also improves.

Focusing in investment planning

In the past, we planned too optimistically and took on too much. As a result, the utilisation rate was not what we wanted. What are we doing about it?

  • We are trying to realise more. One lever is the transformation of our organisational and operational structure.
  • And we are trying to optimise planning and thus start well before implementation.

The agile manifesto already says: “Maximising the art of work not done is essential”.

This principle guides us this year in investment planning 2024 onwards. We want to have fewer issues in the backlog than in recent years. This requires a good understanding of the upcoming and ongoing projects. Only then can we establish a good link to the IT strategy.

Specifically, we held a “Refinement Day” in June together with the key players from management, project management, controlling and portfolio management. We took a closer look at 15 projects, refined them with additional information and were able to decide together what this means for the 2024 planning. Each project manager had five minutes to present the most important information on budget, customer benefits and risks. Ten minutes were then left for exchanges and decisions on whether to include the budget in the planning, reduce it, take action on risks now or prioritise other projects. By the end of the day, we had achieved the desired transparency and a joint commitment for the 2024 investment planning through cross-departmental cooperation.


We are continuing to develop both as a company and within IT. Step by step, we want to expand our IT portfolio management and thus also address the aforementioned fields of action of dynamic prioritisation and focusing in investment planning. In doing so, we are taking a maximally pragmatic approach. In a company based on a classic organisational structure, it seems more sensible to us to generate rapid added value with small changes. This makes it easier for those involved to accept the changes, and we learn more quickly what works and where we should readjust.



Would you like to share your own experiences of IT portfolio management or talk to Manuel Wegener about ideas over a coffee? Then feel free to write to him at LinkedIn or Xing.

[1] WSJF (Weighted Shortest Job First) is a method for prioritising backlogs or project portfolios. Originally developed by Don Reinertsen, the method is now also used as a tool within the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). Here you can find some details about the WSJF method.

If you like the post or want to discuss it, feel free to share it with your network.

Manuel Wegener has published another post on the t2informatik Blog:

t2informatik Blog: Kanban in the public sector

Kanban in the public sector

Manuel Wegener

Manuel Wegener

After studying business administration, Manuel Wegener worked for several years at BVG in classic project management for sales innovations before he began to focus intensively on agility in 2017. After his training as a Kanban trainer, he supervised various teams with the aim of making the work of the teams controllable, sharpening the customer focus and continuously developing the teams. He then worked as an agile organisation developer in the HR department, where he defined new network formats and set up a company-wide coaching offer for agile working. He has now been working at BVG as an IT portfolio manager since December 2022.