The Agile Project Management Office (Agile PMO)

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Summary:
Traditional program management offices (PMOs) are responsible for providing checks and balances to the development and IT organizations regarding budget and schedule. Oversight and management that comes from the PMO drives certain behaviors in the project managers and, therefore, in the project staff. Similarly, the Agile PMO provides certain checks and balance, but principally focuses on the holistic well-being of the project.

Using Agile metrics to manage projects and strengthen organizational transformation.

Traditional program management offices (PMOs) are responsible for providing checks and balances to the development and IT organizations regarding budget and schedule. Oversight and management that comes from the PMO drives certain behaviors in the project managers (PMs) and therefore in the project staff. Similarly, the Agile PMO provides certain checks and balance, but principally focuses on the holistic well-being of the project. This difference in 'tone' not only drives different behaviors, but also can help to support dramatic transformation within the organization. The driving force becomes encapsulated in the difference in perspective between traditional earned value reporting and Agile's achieved value reporting.

Devolution of transformations
The collection of documented Agile success stories are swelling, driving the process into the mainstream of software development. [i] However, in the past several years, we have also begun to see a phenomenon whereby successful transformations begin to devolve fairly rapidly, to the point where projects begin to slide and even fail. Many companies have even begun contracting in for services to re-enable Agile transformation, trying to recapture their early successes and perhaps making the transformation stickier the second time around.

So, are all Agile transformations unstable? I think not. What I think is more likely is that there may be active resistance to change acting as the outside force.

This situation brings to mind the old Newtonian adage: "Things in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force."

Typically, a process change is typically not deemed successful until there is consensus amongst the team members and positive results have been shown. This suggests that active resistance would have been weeded out prior to declaring the methodological shift successful. The alternative might be a passive resistance, or friction force that is slowing down or stopping the transformation. If we accept this, then in order to keep the transformation moving, we need to find something that can counter this resistance and encourage the teams to continue.

Consider, do the Agile projects in your organization get positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, or neither? And, what form does this reinforcement take, if it exists? In most development and IT organizations, there is a responsibility that belongs to the PMO to provide checks and balances on each project. It offers an independent review of budget and schedule for senior management as well as a periodic critique for the project managers. It is this critique that serves as possible reinforcement for the transformation.

What is the tonal difference?
There is what I would call a tonal difference between the critique from a traditional PMO and an Agile one. Traditional PMOs focus on variation from plan to date and quantify this as an earned value, the implication being that by merely making progress against the plan, the project is earning value for the company. Conversely, an Agile PMOs focus is on variation from commitment and quantifies the amount of value being released to the business. These are actually two very different measures - one allows the team to see how it is doing against its expectations and the other allows it to understand how it is doing against the business' expectations. The later is quantified as an achieved value.

{sidebar id=1}The tonal difference is established as a project-centric view for the traditional approach versus product-centric for the Agile approach. Project-centric refers to the act of completing the plan for the product and product-centric obviously refers to the product itself. To better understand this difference we need to ensure we understand the motivation behind the actions and

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About the author

Matt Gelbwaks's picture Matt Gelbwaks

Matt Gelbwaks currently serves as the Chief Agilist for Globant, a leading IT Outsourcing services provider based in Argentina. Prior to Globant, Matt acted as a Senior Coach at ThoughtWorks, one of the leading international consultancies specializing in Agile development as well as served as Director of Change and Product Management at Segway LLC.

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