Go/No Go Decision

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A well-defined process for deciding which portfolio initiatives to green-light should weigh each initiative’s business value against high-level cost estimates and feasibility analysis.

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Related Mindset:

Value-Driven

Segment:

Agile Portfolio

Inputs:

Epics with complete analysis, lightweight business cases and cost estimates

Outputs:

Greenlight to move epics to portfolio backlog

Go/No-Go Decisions are made in a Portfolio Kanban flow to determine which epics to move to a portfolio backlog after initial review and analysis is complete.

Epics are the largest units of work in an enterprise, representing significant effort that may take months or years to implement. Unlike projects, they do not include a fixed set of requirements, nor have dedicated teams that execute them in a prescribed fashion. Organizations that embrace a Value-Driven Mindset use clear criteria to make Go/No-Go Decisions on which epics to greenlight for scheduling and staffing.

Go/No-Go Decisions are made in a Portfolio Kanban flow to determine which epics to move to a portfolio backlog after initial review and analysis is complete.1 Inputs to the Go/No-Go process are finalized during an epic analysis stage and include the following for each epic:

  • Epic description, including acceptance criteria
  • Lightweight business case
  • Technical feasibility assessment
  • High-level estimate
  • Implementation strategy

Epics with a high priority ranking (via Weighted Shortest Job First2 approach, or similar) after the analysis stage in the Portfolio Kanban flow will be selected for Go/No-Go review by a portfolio committee consisting of product management, business stakeholders, technical architects and implementation team representatives. The committee will evaluate epic details and decide whether to greenlight the epic for future implementation or remove it from further consideration.

Epics that are greenlighted will be prioritized in the backlog and considered for future implementation.

Common Pitfalls

The following problems can occur when making Go/No-Go Decisions:

  • Lack of proper analysis on feasibility & implementation approach: Go/No-Go Decisions should only be made after informed analysis that may require technical prototyping, user research, and other activities to vet feasibility and confirm business value. Not investing in analysis increases the risk that epics may be much more costly to implement than originally assumed, or that the epic’s business value ends up less than expected.
  • Deciding based on “all or nothing” implementation strategies: A given epic may need to be broken into smaller pieces for it to make economic sense. Alternate implementation strategies, including releasing epic features in phases, should be considered when making a Go/No-Go Decision, instead of tying the decision to an “all or nothing” strategy.3
  • Not involving proper stakeholders: Go/No-Go Decisions should be made by stakeholders across the organization, including technical, user experience, and implementation team representatives in addition to business stakeholders. Both business and implementation considerations need to be considered, and decisions that minimize certain viewpoints may result in less organizational buy-in if an epic is later selected for implementation.

Tools

The following tools are well-suited to define and manage Epics and their progress through a portfolio workflow:

References