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:
For organizations using
agile methods, these services can be delivered as follows:
- Monitor and control project performance
- Develop and implement standard methodologies, processes, and
- Develop the competency of project personnel, with training and
- Multiproject management, including program and portfolio
management, coordination and allocation of resources between projects
- Strategic management, including participation in strategic
planning and benefits management
- Organizational learning, including the management of lessons
learned, audits, and monitoring of PMO performance
- Management of customer interfaces
- Recruit, select, and evaluate project managers
- Execute specialized tasks for project managers (e.g.
preparation of schedulers)
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.
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
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
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.
Jack Duggal also gave a presentation at the
2011 PMI Global Congress entitled “Reinventing
the PMO” which was quite agile manifesto like. Jack outlined a need for
PMO’s to shift:
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
The “Next Generation PMO” as Duggal names
it will have a mindset viewing the organization as a complex adaptive system.
The PMO’s purpose becomes more focused on linking tactical & strategic help
with business value. Success will be measured via benefits realization and
business value rather than project delivery. All of which are very much aligned
with agile concepts.
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
(This article first appeared at projectManagement.com