It may not always be apparent but the goals of the Project Management Office (PMO) and agile teams are well aligned. Both groups want to get to the same destination: namely successful projects and happy stakeholders. However, things often come adrift as soon as the best direction to travel in to get there is discussed. The PMO might expect lots of planning and some documentation to confirm everyone understands the approach. An agile project team might want to build some proof-of-concept models to test feasibility and get confirmation of understanding. So, very quickly the two groups can disengage and have difficulty generating alignment again.
This is one reason agile teams don’t always see the Project Management Office (PMO) as a source of assistance. All too often a traditional PMO can Present Multiple Obstacles, but it does not have to be that way.
First let’s examine what PMO’s are supposed to do. The old roles of: “Rules”, “Tools” & “Schools” goes some way to describing their functions, but a more complete set of offerings was provided in the 2010 PMI Project Management Journal article “Identifying Forces Driving PMO Changes”. These are:
1. Monitor and control
project performance – Help teams track their velocity.
Assist with tracking team and sponsor satisfaction ratings. Look out for
and alert teams of dangerous velocity trends, check backlog size, and
offer reviews of iteration and release plans.
2. Develop and implement
standards – Provide templates for user
stories, test cases, cumulative flow diagrams, etc. Provide agile PM
tools, educate supporting groups on iterative development concepts.
3. Develop personnel with
training and mentoring – Provide agile
training courses, coaches, and mentors to help project mangers transition
to agile projects and upgrade their skills. Send people to local agile
management – Coordinate between agile teams,
communicate between projects including items such as outlining progress,
issues and retrospective findings. Help manage Release Trains at the
program level and Investment Themes at the portfolio level using
frameworks like the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).
management – Identify
projects with opportunities for early ROI or competitive advantage.
organizational learning –
Gather project velocity profiles, capture, store and index retrospective
findings. Include perceived PMO cost vs. value in project metrics.
Stakeholders – Provide
Product Owner training, guidance on acceptance testing and how to evaluate
and give feedback on systems. Champion the importance of Subject Matter
Experts (SMEs) to projects.
select, and evaluate project managers – Develop guidelines for interviewing agile project managers.
9. Execute specialized tasks for project managers – train and provide retrospective facilitators, create agreements with agile project trouble shooters, provide mentors and coaches.
Understanding the role of a PMO and translating the goals into an agile setting helps create alignment rather than conflict between the groups. These items may sound a tall order for your average old-school PMO. However PMO’s are under pressure to remain current and demonstrate their value in a climate of fast moving projects, cost cutting and increased scrutiny.
In the September 2009 PMI Community Post magazine Jack Duggal published an article called “Teaching PMOs to DANCE” that dealt with the issue that many of today’s projects are moving quicker than PMO’s can respond. Many PMO’s struggle assisting projects that DANCE:
Dynamic and changing
Ambiguous and uncertain
Non-linear and unpredictable
Emergent nature of projects that causes instability
The agile community calls projects like these “a good fit for agile” and this is the synergy. When we can explain agile approaches are not just non-conformist, ill-planned projects, but instead a proven approach for these tricky new project types then a win-win is possible for both camps.
Delivery of Projects to Benefits Realization and Business Value
No longer is delivery of on-time, on-budget projects considered successful. It is necessary but not enough. PMOs need to cultivate a mindset to shift to a benefits and outcomes focus and establish measures to ensure benefits realization and achievement of business value.
Delivery to Adoption and Usability
Typically, PMOs are focused on improving execution capabilities. Projects are implemented well, but often the outputs and deliverables are not used or adopted. With a shift to an adoption and usability mindset, PMOs can promote and plan for adoption throughout the project lifecycle to ensure intended realization of projects’ benefits and value.
Diffused and Disjointed Focus to Holistic and Balanced Adaptive Approach
Often PMOs are pulled to address the current pain or fix the problem of the day. This results in a diffused and disjointed PMO focus and limits the ability of the PMO to provide a balanced approach.
Change Management to Change Leadership
Change management in the PMO realm has focused on configuration management and procedural changes. Evolving PMOs understand the need for organizational and behavioural change and get involved in change-readiness assessments and preparation. PMOs can play a key role in understanding, leveraging and leading change.
So, rather than PMO’s being unsupportive of agile, I have found most to be very co-operative when alignment with agile helps them address challenging projects, deliver value and stay current. Also as project managers experienced in agile take roles in the PMO I think this transition will accelerate. With some education and buy-in a good PMO can Provide Many Opportunities for agile teams.(This article first appeared at projectManagement.com here)