Prototyping - Agile Portfolio

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Prototyping is an essential step in the Portfolio Kanban for the Agile Portfolio segment. This element allows for validating business value and strategic themes before progressing to the Program segment.

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Agile Portfolio


The input for prototyping on the Agile Portfolio section is the lightweight business case and any applicable user journey maps


The output of prototyping on the Agile Portfolio level is a testable deliverable that can prove business value or other metrics

Building a prototype enables proactive validation of ideas for less investment than building out the fully functional feature.

Prototypes should have the lowest degree of fidelity possible to accomplish the needs of the test. The only limit to who can build a prototype, or what format that prototype needs to be in, is the business case that needs tested.

Within the Agile Portfolio segment, prototypes are built to test general ideas and principles. The exact type of prototype will depend on the business case that is being tested. Here are some past examples of ideas that we’ve used prototypes to test:

  • Vaporware: Vaporware prototypes are typically marketing efforts, used to prove that there is a market for a new product/feature, usually by offering to pre-sell that feature to new or existing customers. Popular implementations include microsites, product videos, and sales demos
  • Paper prototypes: Proving quickly iterable and testable paper prototypes for internal and external stakeholders can be a great tool. Honest and creative relationships are needed before hand, and paper prototypes very rarely work for remote feedback sessions. For additional research read Sketching User Experience, by Bill Buxton.
  • Technical proofs and spikes: Business cases and strategic goals that are outside the visual realm require technical proofs, spikes, and innovation sessions.

All of these activities should be broken into the smallest presentable piece and created within a defined schedule.

Common Pitfalls

Even in organizations that prototype on the Agile Portfolio level, there are problems that can occur in the implementation, which cause a derivation from the ideal implementation:

  • Only prototyping technical implementation: In some situations, organizations can choose to prototype to determine the feasibility or a feature while skipping the important step of validating the business case. Before feasibility is validated, there needs to be a focus on whether this idea can actually accomplish the business goals.
  • Using too much detail: One temptation with a prototype is to build out as much functionality as possible to make the prototype feel real and complete. Time should be spent at the beginning of a prototyping session defining the hypothesis, and then brainstorming the simplest way to test that hypothesis.


Prototyping tools vary based on what problem you are trying to solve.

There are several tools available for prototyping, but the tool you use at the Agile Portfolio level should be lower fidelity than prototyping at the Feature level. At Universal Mind, we would recommend the following tools: