A project management office (PMO) can fulfill multiple functions related to the supervision of an organization’s project portfolio, often with managerial functions and with a strategic orientation that is added to the simple control and monitoring layer.
However, it is not clear what an agile PMO is or how it is structured. It is becoming increasingly urgent to clarify this aspect, since many teams and even entire organizations, especially in the field of software and application development, rely entirely on agile methodologies such as SCRUM.
Before entering into the matter, it is necessary to clarify three different senses of what can be understood by agile PMO.
Disambiguation: What do we mean by agile?
An agile PMO can refer to several situations, such as:
1. The agile implementation of a PMO
As the start-up process is long, complex and may have difficulties in demonstrating its benefits to stakeholders with a high capacity for influence, some experts advise that the start-up approach be agile and be protected from criticism towards a structure that it is not working 100% yet. In addition, it is possible that the difference stakeholders do not agree on what should be the role of the PMO in the organization, in which case their scrutiny on the development of the implementation will necessarily be uneven.
To combat this disadvantage, a PMO whose implementation is conceived as an agile project must deliver processes and functions useful for the operation of the PMO in a continuous and early manner.
The measure of the progress of the project, as is logical, is given by the functionality of the PMO itself.
An agile implementation is usually characterized by an initial diagnostic phase, followed by phases of planning, execution and closure that can be iterated several times until the PMO has the desired maturity.
However, in the first iteration of the execution, the PMO already assumes characteristics that allow it to operate in one or more of its functions.
2. The role of a PMO whose objectives is to manage the project portfolio following agile principles
It is not essential to have adopted SCRUM throughout the organization so that we are interested in benefiting from some of the advantages of agile principles at the corporate level.
For example, the agility applied to the entire portfolio of projects allows for early decisions and rectifies the initial planning of projects when the context that justifies them is modified.
3. The role of a PMO in an organization that has exclusively adopted agile project management methodologies
What happens when an organization that worked with classical methodologies or waterfall becomes guided by SCRUM or other agile methodologies?
What is the role of the PMO in this new situation? Is the mission aborted and the office deleted, or is it given a new meaning?
The cultural and change management role of the PMO can be fully maintained. In the new context, the PMO facilitates the deployment of the agile culture in the different areas of the organization.
The predominant areas are the following:
- Training: includes training new people in agile methodologies, preparing meetings and workshops, deepening for key embers, as well as coaching services.
- Work monitoring: although the agile philosophy is very horizontal and does not require so much external control, a PMO can support the performance of the teams helping them to manage the backlog, offering clarity in the performance of the teams through an impartial external vision, and helping to that the documentation that works in the organization is productive and does not produce unnecessary work.
- Interlocution with the business: One of the fundamental aspects of the manifest agile is the constant efforts to understand the need of the client and guide the work to the delivery of utility. In internal projects, it is essential that there is a well-oiled transmission chain with those who administer the corporate strategy so that they know that the engineering teams are working on the most critical aspects and that they deliver the most value to the business.
Next, we detail better what the work of an agile PMO consists of in this last case.
The nuance is important, as our readers are well aware that managing agile projects involves ongoing guidance to customer requirements and very frequent evaluation cycles. The question is how the responsibilities of methodological guidance, centralization, control and direction of the PMO can be connected in these cyclical structures, maintaining customer orientation and business perspective.
The fundamental risk, let’s face it, is to create a small bureaucratic monster that coagulates methodological demands without adding value.
Failures in the conception of a PMO
The main problem arises when, in order to achieve agile projects, an attempt has been made to establish rules of action that have merely pigeonholed and limited decision-making.
Despite falling under the range of agility, SCRUM requires the production of a lot of documentation with a very high frequency, including the requirements of user stories.
A recurring error when creating PMO in agile environments is utilizing them as centralized offices that impose internal policies and norms. Keep in mind that circumscription to certain standards at work can marry poorly with the completion of certain complex projects. There is the risk of restricting the freedom of action and the margin of manoeuvre that are fundamental to produce value in all sprints.
A PMO cannot be confused with merely a controlling body that seeks to fit agile projects into tactics, methodologies and master projects of the manager that have been preconceived without special attention to the changing nature of agile projects.
First correct interpretation of the agile PMO
In contrast to the centralized and bureaucratic PMO, the most attractive in an agile environment is the performance of a facilitation function.
This can be done by establishing recommendations to help manage the workload, distinguishing between priority and ancillary tasks, helping project managers determine how much they can rely on experts, and even set basic standards of performance and work ethics that are in line with the values and mission of the organization. So that all projects, besides providing value to the client, are oriented to the common benefit and growth and consolidation of the organization.
One difficulty of any multi-project organization is the barrier to sharing knowledge, both within the same project team and between different projects. In the first case, the difficulty is that the experience and specialization accumulated by the veterans is not limited to the tasks they perform – which would create bottlenecks; In the second, the difficult thing is that the experience in the development of a project is not forgotten with its completion, but rather to increase the experience accumulated by the organization.
An agile PMO, among other things, faces the specific knowledge challenges that hinder operational improvement in agile performance.
And one of the main goals of an agile PMO is to make all parts of the organization that take part in a project as a unit, as a team, and even as a team of teams. In this sense, it is important that whoever is going to coordinate the work of the PMO accredits the following virtues:
– Relationships. Good contact with leaders of other departments as well as people integrated into other projects.
– Trust. Openness in dealing with those who are going to influence the project is key to its success.
– Experience. Undoubtedly, having previously faced similar projects provides sufficient evidence to address future projects.
The goals of an PMO agile
Once we have analyzed some guidelines of an agile PMO , we are going to offer you the primordial purposes of these organs. Take note.
1. Manage new project entries
It makes no sense to approve projects above the delivery capacity of development teams. The PMO can function as the housekeeper to resist the temptation to start projects too soon. You have to wait to finish projects to start others of equal size.
2. Validation of the planning rules
The probability of unexpected and unnecessary changes must be reduced to the maximum, due to the overall understanding of the program.
3. Creation of training programs
Training is fundamental so that the knowledge of the equipment is truly complementary and there are no empty areas. The detection of gaps should be the basis for proposing training to members.
4. Limit waste
Only the PMO will have aggregated information on where time and effort is wasted. It is possible that different projects have similar patterns that point to the inefficiency of the processes. Drawing attention to them is the first step to rectifying them.
5. Delivery report
Reporting to consolidate an accredited view of the status of part of a project or its overall vision will facilitate the interpretation as to whether the affairs of the organization are being carried out in the most functional way. Without going further, conclusions that can be drawn from these reports may become important in the allocation of personnel for certain tasks or working schedules.
6. Business rules related to the benefits of the project
When making a commitment on a project, it is imperative to keep in mind that there are minimum results that have to be fulfilled. This duty also facilitates the adjustment to content that is compatible with existing quality projects. A uniformity that you do not have to understand as negative, but as an orientation towards excellence.
7. Validation of a resource plan
Every project requires a realistic allocation of resources. You have to keep in mind that the amount of resources of an organization will always be insufficient to delivering all the projects that can be generated, hence it is necessary to select, analyze conscientiously and not to precipitate. The allocation must be reasonable (it is fundamental to minimize the risks) and must be based on the fact that, in a final global calculation, the investment and achievement are compensated.
In short, we hope this text has helped you understand how an agile PMO has to works.