Agile PMOProject Management Office

Ending the Agile/PMO Tug of War

The project management office (PMO) is the bastion of best practices, governance, and structure. Meanwhile, agile wants to eye up a problem, address it immediately, and move on to the next task. Should these two things really be at odds? Dave West writes for SD Times about how, with some effort, the two can be reconciled.

Trading Tugs for Hugs

One thing most agile teams know is that becoming agile often requires introducing a lot more discipline, rather than removing it. Often, the PMO’s efforts to facilitate the transformation consist of a lot of manual, traditional processes to knit the dissonant pieces together. West says the knitting often occurs during the conversion of the portfolio plan to develop activities, and again during status reporting. Here is the problem:

Not only do agile teams need to have a clear direction at the start, but work their work needs to be grouped into much smaller batch sizes, encouraging more frequent feedback into the portfolio. That means that the PMO heroes will become a friction point in the process, either greatly reducing the effectiveness of the development teams, or having to increase their workload. The reality is these roles burn out, or the agile teams get so frustrated that they ignore the PMO, providing limited information back to the PMO. This lack of information results in… last-minute decisions and lots of emergencies.

What West says must occur instead is that organizations automate a process for the PMO and agile teams to work together, based upon defining what various “artifacts” mean and how they connect. One remaining discrepancy is how to handle the role of resources and timesheets in the face of agile’s preferred emphasis on team velocity. This will vary from one organization to another, but the important thing is to stay consistent about whatever method is devised.

One example is to allocate according to a sizing metric, in which work is agilely planned and tasks are estimated. In this case, the PMO would then take this information and reconcile it to the original work in progress. Putting together the PMO and agile is less like putting together a jigsaw puzzle and more like blending together two pieces of clay. You can read the original article here:

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