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Driving Agile at Scale: The Agile PMO

Part 1: Enabling your PMO to lead the way

The Agile PMO

The success of Agile ways of working is driving the recent trend to scale it more broadly throughout the organization. Executives are eager to apply the speed and flexibility that individual teams are demonstrating to larger, more strategic initiatives. As a result, they are looking to the PMO, known for leading change management, to drive the transition from business-as-usual to a modernized Agile approach. Whether you have agile teams for select projects or are undergoing an organization-wide agile transformation, this six-part blog series is meant to assist PMOs with how to navigate their transition to an Agile PMO.

Part 1: Transforming Your PMO

PMOs are uniquely positioned to scale agility effectively across the organization. Their mission is to ensure that the business is headed in the right direction, spending money on the right things, and empowering people to accelerate value delivery. Portfolio management and strategic planning are often inherent in today’s organization; agile work needs to be tied to both.

In a new whitepaper, The Agile PMO: 5 Steps to Driving Agility at Scale, Planview shares how PMOs take by organizational agility and speed by becoming more adaptive to change.

Scaling Agile: The Benefits Are Real and Tangible

Organizations are realizing significant benefits from adopting a scaled Agile approach for their corporate initiatives. According to Harvard Business review Agile at Scale, organizations are reaping the following benefits:

  • Greater innovation relative to routine operations;
  • The ability to react and adapt to change faster;
  • Improved responsiveness to customer needs;
  • Greater efficiency and productivity;
  • Measurable improvements in financial results; and
  • Increased customer loyalty and employee engagement.

The pertinent question is: how do PMOs successfully make this transition and facilitate the greater benefits of agile delivery? Before you can answer that question, you should understand the challenges your PMO is facing in the attempt to adopt a more agile approach.

The Agile PMO 5 Steps to Driving Agility at Scale Whitepaper

PMO Transformation Challenges Are as Real as the Benefits They Yield

As organizations transition to Agile, challenges such as a demand for change, a high learning curve, and resistance to traditional PPM approaches can potentially plague the PMO. The following are the top seven issues organizations must be prepared to address.

  1. Agile is in high demand: According to the Forbes Insights/PMI report, Achieving Greater Agility: The Essential Influence of the C-Suite, 84 percent of executives believe organizational agility is necessary to succeed in digital transformation. This statistic is born out of organizations where most software development work is agile. The number has more than doubled from 2013 to 2017, according Forrester’s Global Agile Software Application Development online surveys.
  2. Agile is nascent: Despite the increasing popularity in Agile software development, scaling Agile is actually atypical in the statistical sense. Only 27 percent of organizations surveyed reported that their organizations were “highly Agile.” Further, Forrester’s The State of Agile 2017: Agile At Scale report found that “agile at scale across teams, divisions, and enterprise is still relatively rare.” This, despite the fact that a majority of executives at these organizations believe that agility is critical. Balancing this counter-intuitive fact is the fact that the same executives who reported their organization was not highly Agile also reported that the potential is there.
  3. Agile presents different ways of working: Becoming more agile requires PMOs to embrace different work methodologies beyond traditional project management to include new ways of working such as Lean, Agile, iterative and collaborative. Agile development has its own enterprise scaling frameworks such as SAFe, LeSS, and DaD, just to name a few. Thus, a one-size-fits-all approach is no longer sustainable.
  4. Agile is more about teams than individuals: The collaborative and coordinated work of teams is impacting how work today is measured. There’s just one wrinkle: Agile development is organized around dedicated teams that are often self-governing. This has caused the creation of new roles to facilitate faster, customer-focused delivery. Concurrent with that reality is the fact that teams—in general—are becoming more virtual, global, and multi-disciplinary. A survey of 1,700 knowledge workers found that 79 percent reported working “always or frequently” in geographically dispersed teams (Harvard Business Review).
    The not-so-obvious implication is that this makes collaboration more difficult, and collaboration is the life blood of Agile. PMOs must learn how to cope with this reality and understand that the issue is anything but trivial.
  5. Agile often goes wrong: According to the Harvard Business Review article, Why Agile Goes Awry – and How to Fix It, “Agile processes go awry because as companies strive for high performance, they either become too tactical (focusing too much on process and micromanagement) or too adaptive (avoiding long-term goals, timelines, or cross-functional collaboration).”
  6. Agile is redefining portfolio management approaches: Agile—especially Agile software development—is motivating employees to rethink what made PMOs effective in the first place: top-down structures and processes. Agile execution is causing organizations to rethink their funding and portfolio management approaches, while also fitting into key established enterprise-wide strategic delivery processes.
  7. Lack of agility is blamed for ineffective execution: “The first deadly sin is failure to be agile and deliver value,” according to the Gartner report How to Avoid the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ of a Level 2 PMO. Further, in the Harvard Business Review article Why Strategy Execution Unravels, researchers found lack of agility to be “a major obstacle to effective execution.”

According to the Gartner article, Evolving PMOs in an Enterprise Agile World, “the shift to enterprise agile and continuous delivery models appears inevitable for organizations to thrive or even survive in the digital business era. PPM leaders must embrace this shift, exchanging top-down control for collaborative enablement.” That said, it’s best not to underestimate the effort of inertial change this transition requires.

Follow along with this six-part series on the role of the PMO as a defining force in today’s Agile enterprise  to ensure that your organization is positioned as a leader. In our next installment, we’ll focus on the art of ‘just enough’ governance as a critical element on your Agile transformation journey.

To learn more, continue reading the other parts of this series, listed below:

Also, we encourage you to read 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.

Lean Portfolio Management for the PMO Whitepaper

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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.