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Love to Hate - Agile and Project Management Office - Unlikely Partners?

PMO which is Agile or Agile governed by a PMO?

Agile Project and The Agile PMO

The first time I keynoted about the Agile PMO I received the following question: ‘do you mean that the PMO is in itself managed in an Agile way, or do you mean that the PMO governs projects which are managed in an Agile approach?'

Good question!

As a smart consultant my immediate answer was: ‘it depends'. Which in the consultant lexicon means: I need to think it through.

Initially, writing my book about the Agile PMO - on Amazon, I referred to a PMO which is managed in an Agile way. The PMO focuses on value and delivery rather than on process and tools. This makes sense, since recurring research has been showing that PMOs become a financial burden instead of value creators. In the book I demonstrate how a PMO can change and be Agile, following the steps below:

  • Focusing on value is central to the implementation and management of a PMO;
  • Value to the organization is created by completing projects and rolling out products;
  • PMOs support value creation through decision-making from a portfolio management perspective;
  • Projects that are beneficial to the portfolio and the organization are streamlined, while projects that are not beneficial to the portfolio and the organization are staggered or canceled;
  • The portfolio resource pool provides the leading constraint to overall value creation, as project completion in most scenarios is impacted by resource availability.

This steps are relevant for a PMO which in itself is Agile.

What about a PMO in an Agile organization? Is there a place for a project management office in Agile managed organization?

I was discussing it recently with a colleague from Spotify - which is an Agile born organization. Spotify has managed to retain its Agile disposition while growing to over 1500 employees. I think there is a well defined role for a PMO in an Agile organization. It is different compared with our common visualization of a PMO, mostly because many PMOs out there are dysfunctional. Since they focus on form rather than on substance we find it difficult to couple them with Agile delivery.

Hence, a PMO in an Agile organization would be very different than the roles we typically assign a PMO. An Agile PMO - a PMO who governs projects which are run in an Agile approach would:

  • Continually search for better ways to deliver high quality products;
  • Constantly reduce unnecessary red tape;
  • Question process steps which are superfluous;
  • Embrace change and in itself be a change agent;
  • Increase clarity of portfolio projects and enable fact based decision making;

One of the more complex concepts to understand of Agile product life cycles is that the lifecycle itself is adaptive based on the changing needs of the performing organization. Only an Agile PMO can create such an adaptive meta-process.

So the answer is actually both - an Agile PMO is a PMO which in itself is Agile and which governs projects in an Agile organization.

Michael is the author of the Agile PMO - on Amazon: Leading the Effective, Value Driven, Project Management Office. He authored 8 bestsellers on Agile, leadership, team building and more.

Agile PMO Amazon Michael Nir