Interviews, IT & Business

Smart Portfolio Management between strategy and delivery

Alraune Chowdhury
Head of Global HR Operations,

we.CONECT talked with Alraune Chowdhury about her work including Smart Portfolio Management for delivery business capability delivery. Alraune has recently taken up the role of Head of Global HR Operations at Prior to this, Alraune was Director, Global HR Portfolio Management at Nike and was focusing on implementing the global HR strategy planning and portfolio performance management function. During her 18-year career in HR Systems, Alraune has consulted with Fortune 100 companies in the US and successfully implemented integrated talent systems, led critical HR programs and managed HR Portfolio Intake, Prioritization and Management globally.

Could you please briefly introduce yourself and your professional background?

Alraune Chowdhury: Currently, I serve as the HR Global Portfolio Director for Nike. For the last 18 years I have been intimately involved with developing, designing and managing Integrated Talent Systems. Starting with designing first generation manager and employee self-service and success planning tools to deploying and managing cloud based technologies. My job today, comprises of defining and implementing a Portfolio Management practice that will ensure that the HR investment delivers on intended business outcomes that in turn fuel Nike’s ambitious growth plans.

At Rethink! HR & Tech Minds Europe 2016 you will be having a presentation about smart portfolio management for business capability delivery. Can you please give us a teaser into your upcoming talk?

SMART Portfolio Management is basically about driving a more efficient, accountability-focused and streamlined approach to managing strategic efforts across HR. In order to achieve this, one must be able to clearly articulate the HR Strategy, prioritize work against current capability gaps and drive a robust measurement and tracking mechanism that provides reliable data for analysis. In my talk, I hope to cover some of the techniques and ideas we are exploring at Nike and which I have implemented at previous companies, to achieve the above. As well as look at some of the challenges that are inherent in implementing such a framework.

As a Global Portfolio HR director at Nike Inc., what are the biggest challenges you come across in your daily tasks and what are your ways of dealing with them?

Portfolio planning organizations are often seen as bureaucratic, a group that always seems to say ‘no’ and kill business innovation – often seen as an ‘extra step’ and a ‘barrier’ to agility. As pet projects start to filter out and many uncomfortable conversations present themselves, the portfolio planning team starts to put in more and more processes to help maintain order. This has the reverse effect of undermining the value portfolio planning and management.

Portfolio planning should be about making sure that the body of work being carried out at any given time is in alignment with business priorities. If the HR strategic imperatives are clear and prioritization criteria has been carefully thought through and agreed upon by the business; the business is also able to make a stronger business case for their proposals. The ensuing conversation remains factual and objective. The business sees that portfolio planning and management actually brings value to their work and they are more inclined to support it and invest in it.

What role do innovative strategies play in your HR strategy?

My talk is primarily about delivering on HR strategy rather than development of HR strategy itself. However innovative strategies that make this function more transparent, agile and simple play a significant role in this area as well. Automated status reporting, interactive dashboards, integrated master schedule and calendar, well defined go to market planning are areas we are working on. At my work, we are currently focusing on creating basics; however our future vision is to deliver predictive analytics for our portfolio.

At my work, we are currently focusing on building up the basics; however my vision for us is to start to gather data from the portfolio to feed into predictive analytics. Not only do we want to deliver on current strategy, we want to be able to feed back into the planning process as well. We want to predict more accurately what type of work will lead to intended business outcomes.

From your personal viewpoint, what are the skills that tomorrow’s HR directors would need to be capable of?

From the perspective of the HR Portfolio, the most important skill I think HR directors should have is strategic business acumen. From first having a keen sense of the company’s business to clearly understanding how HR can support that strategy. They must also be able to quickly gauge how dynamic events in the business impact HR strategy and play a governance role in the delivery of the HR Portfolio to ensure that it remains aligned to business despite business changes. Another important skill is empathy – so that they are able to recognize a challenge from the perspective of the employee.

Thank you for your cooperation and the insights you shared with us!

Interview partners: Nikolaos Kapetanis and Alraune Chowdhury

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