For the PMO, the pressure is on to reduce planning time, adapt to market demands and changes, and deliver the best projects within budget. But is management really asking you to morph into a scrum master, or simply embrace an agile framework? Do Agile methodologies give you the information needed to measure success and report back to the business? Agile has its role in the PMO, but I’d argue it’s not enough. In this two-part blog series, I’ll share some of the pros and cons of Agile methodologies and how to avoid what I refer to as the “methodology trap”.
You Need More than Agile
When properly implemented, Agile methodologies can bring much value to the business. At a high level, Agile can shorten planning cycles so teams can focus on what needs to be done in the short term, improve team communication, resolve issues quickly, and create the ability to change (re-prioritize the next feature, activity, or story to be worked on). It helps deliver something faster so teams can get feedback from users sooner.
Clearly, Agile can be your go-to for projects that have a fixed schedule and costs so teams can develop solutions and iterate more swiftly. However, it is often difficult to use it when scope is fixed. Not all projects are the same and it often makes sense to use different approaches for different projects depending on what needs to be accomplished. Agile is part of a larger ecosystem that includes business processes, financial planning, and strategy—all tied to the overall technology life cycle that drives an organization’s competitiveness.
There is no one size fits all for prioritizing the right projects and balancing incoming demand and the current workload—all while optimizing resources. When it comes to Agile, you still need PPM.
Let’s explore why Agile and PPM are not mutually exclusive:
1. Granular in nature: PMO is a trusted adviser to the larger organization so they require a process to break down work into strategic and organizational priorities, formulating them into a plan, programs, and investments. While an Agile tool can handle a backlog of specific priorities, don’t trick yourself into thinking it is designed to weigh and prioritize projects at a higher, strategic level.
Connecting with PPM: It provides the oversight and reporting needed to be able to share high-level objectives and strategy in business terms with key decision makers and executives.
2. Can’t quickly see strategic business value: Epics, large bodies of work that are broken down and then rolled back up from stories, are designed to help teams with execution, document requirements, and help coders handle uncertainty around scope, communication across the team, and prioritizing requirements. But they don’t necessarily show business value or whether you are moving the needle any closer to your overall business goals. A story in itself delivers features, how do you measure if the release will lower costs, improve customer satisfaction, or increase revenues? When conflicts arise across the organizations and teams, trade-offs are needed, how will you model and assess options?
Connecting with PPM: Help the PMO articulate the business value and comprehend the impact of trade-offs scenarios when considering strategies, products, services, customer segments, markets, and adapting business needs.
3. Unable to capture plans and expected benefits: Let’s look at the reality of IT in most organizations, IT/PMO is a cost center with commitments to deliver value in a certain time frame and for a certain cost and effort. While IT should absolutely think about how they can break down work so they can deliver value faster and more incrementally, this likely means creating 6 month releases rather than 2-3 week releases. The business is still going to approve funding and require an expected ROI with plans, business cases, and the expected benefits. How will you measure progress against them and assess performance when these plans are completed? While Agile tools can better align software applications to the business and Agile makes software development and delivery more predictable, it still boils down to providing the most accurate information possible to the business.
Connecting to PPM: Plan and evaluate expected benefits so the PMO can present them to leadership.
Together, Agile and PPM are about the view from above—seeing the big picture while also being able to grasp the granular, day-to-day reality and demands that can make your organization more Agile and competitive. Stay tuned to the Planview Blog where I will provide the remaining reasons why you need both PPM and Agile.
For more information now, I invite you to read the whitepaper, Agile Project Management: What’s The Story, and comment below how you are using PPM and Agile in your organization.