May 17, 2018

Where Agility Lives: Your Strategy Execution Questions, Answered: Part 3

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin | 0 Comments

Whether the project is Agile, hybrid or “predictive,” the PMO is where it's at.

I’ve left the most complex question for last. One of our webinar attendees queried:

  1. What is the best way to engage in a conversation about traditional PMO roles and activities in an organization that is using Agile delivery and methodologies?

One of the problems with answering these questions after the webinar has ended is that I can’t drill down into what the questioner is really asking. Reading between the lines, I’m going to guess that this organization has a PMO that acts as a Center of Excellence or which is otherwise segregated from the departments that are carrying out projects using Agile techniques (most likely IT and/or product development functions).

Although there are myriad ways to structure organizations successfully, so that any prescription for structural reform has to be prefaced by “it depends,” I’ll go out on a limb and give some prescriptive advice in this case: Integrate, integrate, integrate.

Why? First of all, it doesn’t make any sense for the PMO to be “traditional” if projects are being carried out using agile methods. The PMO should be a knowledge management center for all the types of methodologies in use on projects, providing coordination, learning and development, and troubleshooting whether the project is Agile, hybrid or what we call “predictive.” There’s no inherent conflict between predictive project management and Agile project management being used within the same organization, on different types of projects. But when an organization allows some areas to develop their own methodologies in isolation, a great deal of institutional knowledge can be lost, and there’s opportunity cost related to each department reinventing the wheel. This has always been a problem for project management, but it is intensified when there are multiple approaches possible. Establish methodologies, templates, guidelines on the EPMO level, however, and any project within any function has access to lessons learned and SMEs from across the organization.

Secondly, “traditional PMO roles and activities” are a moving target. With each iteration of our State of the PMO study, we have seen PMOs adding roles and functions, expanding both in operational and strategic directions. I’d recommend taking a look at the lists of roles in our most recent PMO study, as well as the top functions of high-performing organizations. You will find they are far from “traditional.” The most capable PMOs today not only provide an array of training and development services, but also manage project managers as well as projects and programs, and collaborate with the C-level via roles such as PMO Director, CPO, and Portfolio Manager. Schedulers and planners rub shoulders with knowledge management coordinators, methodology SMEs, and strategy management experts.

So, to sum up, it sounds to me like the conversation that needs to take place is this one: “How can we better integrate portfolio, project and program methods and responsibilities across the enterprise, all in service of streamlining and value creation?”

Want more on the PMO’s role as strategy execution engine? We will be presenting at PMI Global Congress in Los Angeles October 8 at 1 pm. See you there!

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