Measuring value through portfolio alignment

Nick Brown
ASOS Tech Blog
Published in
6 min readApr 5, 2024


Understanding and prioritising based on (potential) value is key to the success of any agile team. However, not all teams have value measures in place and often are just a component part of a delivery mechanism in an organisation. Here’s how we’re enabling our teams at ASOS Tech to better understand the value in the work they do…


We’ve previously shared how we want people in our tech teams to understand the purpose in their work, rather than just blindly building feature after feature. In terms of our work breakdown structure, we use a four-level hierarchy of work items, with some flexibility around how that may look in terms of ‘standards’:

To bring this to life with an example, take our launch of ASOS Drops where the portfolio epic would represent the whole proposition/idea, with the child epic(s) representing the different domains/platforms involved:

Please note: more platforms were involved in this, this is just simplified for understanding purposes :)

We also want our teams to have a healthy balance of Feature work vs. that which is Hygiene/BAU/Tech Debt/Experimentation, with our current guidance around capacity being:

Team feature capacity will, in most instances, be work related to portfolio epics, as these are the highest priority for our organisation that tech is delivering. If someone can trace the work they are doing on a daily basis (at User Story/Product Backlog Item level) all the way to the portfolio, they should be able to see the outcomes we are striving for, the value they are delivering and ultimately how they are contributing towards ASOS’ strategy (which was consistent feedback in Vibe surveys as something our people in technology want). It is therefore a good proxy measure for (potential) value in helping teams understand just how much of their backlog compliments the priorities for ASOS. This is where portfolio alignment comes into play.

Understanding portfolio alignment

Portfolio alignment, simply put, is how much of a team backlog traces all the way up to the priorities for delivery the organisation desires from its technology department.

To calculate it, we start with a team backlog at user story/product backlog item (PBI) level. Here we look at every item at this level and to see if that item has a parent Feature. It then looks at those Features to see if they have a parent Epic. Finally, it then looks at those Epics to see if they have a parent Portfolio Epic.

To show a simplified example, imagine a backlog of 10 PBI’s that had the following linkage:

This would have an alignment score of 10%, as 1/10 PBI’s in the team backlog link all the way to the portfolio.

Even if a team backlog has good linkage at Feature and/or Epic level, it would still only receive a ‘count’ if it linked all the way. For example if this team improved their linkage like so:

This would still only result in an alignment of 10%, as only 1/10 PBI’s link all the way to the top.

As we’re looking at this on a consistent basis across teams, platforms and domains, we look purely at count, as it would simply be impossible to do any sort of single calculation around complexity.

Visualising portfolio alignment

The alignment starts at a team backlog at User Story/PBI level. Teams get two views. The top view is a line chart which shows, on a daily basis, what their backlog (any items that are yet to start and those that have started) alignment was on a particular date. The value on the far right shows their current alignment, with a summary number showing the average alignment over the selected period, as well as a trend line to see if it is improving in the selected period:

Teams also have the ability to filter between seeing this view for the whole backlog or just those “in flight” (items that are in progress):

Finally, there is the table underneath this chart which details the full backlog and all those relevant parent-child links, with every item clickable to open it up in Azure DevOps.

We also have aggregated views for both a domain (a logical grouping of teams) and ASOS tech wide view:

Rollout across tech

Rolling this out initially was a hard sell in some areas. This was mainly due to how people can immediately react to viewing ‘their’ data. Careful messaging is needed around it not being a stick/tool to beat teams with, but a method to understand (and improve) alignment. Similarly, we were very clear in that it should never be at 100% and that there isn’t a single number to hit, as context varies. This way we are accounting for any type of Goodhart's Law behaviour we may see.

Similarly, to help team leads and leaders of areas understand where they could improve, as coaches we advised around what people might want to consider to improve their alignment. Which predominantly wasn’t through improving your linking, more deleting old stuff you’re never going to do!

At times this was met with resistance, which was surprising as I always find deleting backlog items to be quite cathartic! However showing teams a large number of items that had not been touched in months or added many months (and sometimes years!) ago did prompt some real reflection as to if those items were truly needed.

Impact and outcomes

As a team, we set quarterly Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to measure the impact we’re having across different areas in the tech organisation, ideally demonstrating a behavioural change. This was one of our focuses, particularly around demonstrating where there has been significant improvements and behavioural change from teams:

With anything agility related, it’s important to recognise those innovators and early adopters, so those that had seen a double digit improvement were informed/celebrated, with positive feedback from leaders in different areas around this being the right thing to be doing:

Portfolio alignment also now helps our teams in self-assessing their agility , as one of our four themes (more to come on this in a future post!):

This way, even our teams that struggle to measure the value in their work at least have a starting point to inform them how they are contributing to organisational priorities and strategy.

About Me

I’m Nick, one of our Agile Coaches at ASOS. I help guide individuals, teams and platforms to improve their ways of working in a framework-agnostic manner. Outside of work, me and my wife Nisha have a one-year old that keeps us on our toes agility-wise…

ASOS are hiring across a range of roles in Tech. See all our open positions