Project Management Offices only exist within organizations that follow very structured, formalized methodologies. At least this is the information that we are provided or is accepted as a common belief. In many cases, this is indeed the case. In an Agile environment, the speed at which things occur can be very quick and is more concentrated on successful outcomes instead of worrying about bureaucratic red tape, which is normally the staple of the PMO, which tend to slow things up. This does not have to be the case. The PMO does not have to only operate in environments with a pure waterfall lifecycle. It can easily operate well within incremental lifecycles such as agile. Each lifecycle is different but they all still require governance, controls and quality of standards to be maintained which is managed by the PMO. With this in mind, it begs the question, “What are the challenges faced by the PMO when working with Project Managers and development teams in an agile environment?” 2.0 Issue Detail
There has been much written about the benefits of an agile development environment and it is recognized that agile teams deliver higher quality results more consistently and faster that those following traditional methodologies. The role of the PMO in this agile world has been very much absent in many conversations. This lack of inclusion is primarily because of the historic definitions and understanding of the different roles of a standard project. Development teams often see the PMO as a bureaucratic team that create barriers instead of providing support despite the fact that the PMO is critical in playing an important role in the managing of expectations for a broader audience. All of the members, the development team, project managers and the PMO share a common goal. They want to deliver projects and application that are accepted as successes but often times their methods seem to interfere with each other. As mentioned before, you often find that developers consider PMOs to be bureaucratic roadblocks to their success, and even more so in an agile environment. PMOs see developers as unable to follow directions or as rouge cowboys. In the middle you find Project managers, attempting to satisfy both the development team and the PMO, but always get caught in the cross hairs. Being at opposite ends of the spectrum creates conflict, and we seem to not be moving in the direction of removing these contentions. All teams deliver value to this process and removing any of the components is not a feasible solution, so we need to figure out how the PMO can be an integral part of the agile development process. “Collaboration between PMO’s and development teams can work but organizations need to understand the core issues before they can begin to address them”1. I believe that among the issues that PMO’s face today when dealing with an agile environment is that the PMO focus is too narrow or traditional. There is also a lack of trust in the project managers to relay updated and accurate information to the PMO and a lack of focus on strategic support by the PMO’s. According to a Forrester survey from April 2011 (see Figure 1), PMO’s support a limited set of methodologies that often are classic or traditional ones. With more and more development teams using agile methods successfully, this narrow focus on traditional methodologies that PMO’s have, highlight the disconnect that stands in the way of what development teams need to be successful and what PMO leaders strive to deliver.
If you ask the PMO, what is one of the biggest challenges they deal with when working with project managers, one of their responses will relate to trust and honesty. Often the PMO believe they are not getting realistic information from their PM’s or that the PM’s struggle to manage realistic delivery cycles.
Project Managers again are getting caught in between wanting to please the PMO by not...
References: 1 Margo Visitacion with Mike Gilpin, Adam Knoll, "The State of the PMO”, 3 August 2011, (http://www.forrester.com/The+State+Of+The+PMO+In+2011/fulltext/-/E-RES60102)
2 “The State of the PMO 2010: A PM Solutions Research Report,” Project Management Solutions (http://www.pmsolutions.com/collateral/research/State%20of%20the%20PMO%202010%20Research%20Report.pdf).
3 “PMO’s Don’t Work Within Agile Organizations… Do They?”, HarmonyPMO, (http://harmonypmo.com/insights/pmo%E2%80%99s-don%E2%80%99t-work-within-agile-organisations%E2%80%A6-do-they/).
4 Andrew Buck, “The Agile PMO”, (http://programmedevelopment.com/public/uploads/files/agile_pmo_-_fact_or_fiction.pdf)
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