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Agile Transformation: The PMO’s New Paradigm

Different ways of working and scaled-agile frameworks

Agile Transformation: The PMO's New Paradigm

In part two of this series, Agile Transformation Requires Just Enough PMO Governance, we discussed the importance of the PMO shifting from a control mentality to a more collaborative, supportive role. Part of creating a PMO capable of supporting agile transformation means giving project and product managers more autonomy to choose work methods that maximize productivity and best suit delivery of the outcome.

In this six-part series, we provide tips for the PMO to support agile transformation based on the whitepaper, The Agile PMO: 5 Steps to Driving Agility at Scale. In this blog, we’ll examine how the success of agile ways of working and the need for continuous planning have created a new paradigm for the PMO, and what it can do to remain relevant.

Part 3: Embrace Different Types of Work

Typically, PMOs form to bring predictability of delivery of the right projects. To that end, they would champion consistent governance and project management methodologies. The chosen project management method was prescribed, and teams were measured on compliance. Today, the best practice is to advocate the best methodology for the outcome – iterative or milestone-driven, planned up front or learn and adapt along the way.

According to the PMI’s 2018 Pulse of the Profession report, not enough PMOs are advocating for the right work type to achieve the right outcome. Instead, they stick to a specific, rigid methodology and risk being marginalized by other, more agile groups who are delivering value more quickly.

The PMO should embrace new work methods such as iterative, collaborative, Lean and Agile and inform themselves with key principles, terminologies, processes of each.

For example, Agile software development places focus on the team, with work being performed in smaller, more consumable chunks or batches. What used to be a program/project is now framed and defined as an epic. Waterfall project delivery has been replaced with more frequent releases and continuous, so a single feature enhancement may now only take a couple of weeks or months versus several quarters. Agile methods are not only accelerating delivery by engaging customers and adapting based on feedback. As a result, Agile project and product teams are multiplying while leadership is looking for ways to scale.

Agile PMOs need to become familiar with agile ways of working, Lean principles, the product-centric approach, and enterprise agile frameworks such as SAFe, LeSS, and DaD so they are in a position to promote a common language, provide guidelines for planning and organizing work delivery on a larger scale, and ensure that work priorities and delivery are advancing strategic objectives.

Agile PMO

Shift Focus on Portfolio Management and Continuous Planning

For agility, PMOs need to stop defaulting to projects as the focal point of their charter. Details of execution, priorities, and process become the purview of project and product managers and delivery teams. The complex nature of the company’s strategic initiatives involve an extraordinary level of coordination between strategy, work, people, technology, and outcomes and requires the PMO to shift to focus to an agile approach to managing the integrated portfolio.

Shifting from a project focus to a portfolio management approach helps the PMO enable agility in translating strategy into delivery on an ongoing, cross-functional basis.

Additionally, the PMO should facilitate coordinated planning processes with the relevant stakeholders across the enterprise. To learn more about this topic download the eBook, Planning Deconstructed: 5 Types of Planning Crucial to Delivering on Strategy with a Dynamic and Continuous Approach.

The 5 types of planning include:

  • Strategic planning
  • Capacity planning
  • Financial and investment planning
  • Project and work planning
  • Technology planning

PMOs are in a perfect position to create a connected set of planning processes that allows the organization to shift and re-plan as needed. This planning approach can then support evolving business initiatives and enables the PMO to make informed recommendations.

Agile PMO

Continuous Planning is Key

A portfolio management approach informed by the right data is also conducive to continuous planning. PMOs must continually reassess the current situation and pivot funding and shared resources quickly as priorities shift, conditions change, and new opportunities surface. Continuous planning enables this nimble behavior, ensuring that the organization is constantly delivering business value while considering capacity limitations.

Strategic roadmapping creates the framework for hybrid, end-to-end delivery, taking mixed types of planning activities into account. The process enables top-down direction and translates strategy into actionable cross-functional plans. Consolidated, visual roadmaps link strategy to the investments, products, services, and outcomes that drive digital transformation. With an enterprise roadmap, the PMO can lead organizational change, measure progress, understand impacts from decisions, and adjust dynamically.

Follow along with this six-part series on the role of the PMO in transforming your organization into a top performer through a truly Agile approach. In the next installment, we’ll dive even deeper into the notion of the move from a project-centric focus to one that is more product-centric.

We also recommend reading the full whitepaper The Agile PMO: 5 Steps to Driving Agility at Scale. It provides significantly more detail that we think you’ll find useful.

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Linda Roach
Written By

Linda Roach brings 19 years of experience in product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing to her role as Solutions Marketing Manager for Planview. Upon joining the company in 2004, Linda led the launch of Planview Enterprise, repositioning the company from a single product to a highly successful multiple product line. Prior to joining Planview, Linda held management positions at Pervasive Software, VTEL Corporation, and Kodak where she led go-to-market initiatives covering new products, product line expansion, and opening new market segments. Linda holds a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She has participated in Executive Education programs at the University of Michigan, Wharton School, and University of Texas at Austin.