Agile, People, Project Management, Uncategorized

#Agile PMO – A new hope #PMOT

On my most recent project, I have had the good fortune to be asked to help to lead the Project Management Office. (PMO) There had been multiple leads of the PMO before, but each one was not able to provide all the information that the senior stakeholders were asking for. Given my background in Agile, I was very interested in how I could create a PMO that was lean and focused on value as much as possible.

The Project

The project is an enterprise implementation of an SAP solution. All told, there are hundreds of sub-projects that are required. At any given time, there are 20-30 sub-projects that are executing at any one time.  It is a large, nasty, wicked matrix of sub-projects, requirements, and issues. Although I had done extensive Project Management and some Program Management, this was at a scale that I had less experience with. I did have three huge advantages though:

  1. Relationships – I had excellent relationships with the other teams and Project Managers in all of the different sub-projects. I also had previous relationships with the Chief Architect and Project Director.
  2. Trust – I had built up trust with the Stakeholders for the project. We had built up a relationship over the past year where we could have honest discussions on any aspect of the project.
  3. Experience – Although I had limited experience on leading a PMO for a project of this size, I did have the experience of seeing what the previous PMOs lacked. This gave me a head start of what I felt we needed to ensure this PMO delivered. Of course, we would need to validate this with the stakeholders.

My Approach

I knew I wanted to implement an Agile PMO, but what exactly does an Agile PMO look like? I needed to do some research…

Luckily I found the a book titled “The Agile PMO” by Michael Nir. This book was an epiphany. It provided grounding and affirmation on what I felt an Agile PMO should be. The book also provided clarity in the ways that PMOs can go astray. In particular, Michael Nir described the three typical types of PMOs mistakes:

  1. Tactical PMO – The Tactical PMO is created in response to the enterprise’s need for consolidated visibility on the all the disjointed projects that are currently executing. Sadly, there is usually isn’t analysis or planning on what value the PMO should provide other than providing consolidated information.
  2. Methodology PMO – The Methodology PMO is created to provide templates and standards in the hope that everyone executing projects using these standards will result in more predictability and visibility. Closely related to the Methodology PMO, is the Tool PMO where the adoption of standard tools is seen as the solution to being able to provide more predictability and visibility.
  3. Project Manager home PMO – The Project Manager home PMO is a PMO that gets created as a Career Centre for the corporations Project Managers in the hope that using standard Project Management will provide value to the corporation.

After I read these three types of PMO mistakes, I immediately recognized all the PMOs I had seen gone astray in the past. Sadly, I think most of my own previous PMO efforts were variations of the Methodology PMO. I felt shame.

Michael Nir then succinctly described the solution – the Value PMO.

Michael’s definition of a value PMO was :

“A PMO creates value through assisting the organization decide where to invest its resources for the optimal return on investments. Tools, methodology, techniques, processes are all nice to have, however they do not constitute an objective in themselves.”

awesome. We now had a vision.

Our PMO

Now that we had a vision, it seemed clear to me that we needed to confirm our PMO vision in three areas and gain agreement from stakeholders:

1) Confirm the Objectives that the PMO would have with the Project Stakeholders

2) Confirm the Value that these Objectives would deliver with the Project Stakeholders

3) Confirm the Service that the PMO would provide to the sub-projects themselves.

For points 1 and 2, the following matrix was developed and validated as being correct for the Project Stakeholders:

Objective Value
1) Validate planning standards across the program Minimize the probability and magnitude of changes required to the amount of project work by confirming that the project scope is understood.
2) Create a program level schedule for key development, testing, and implementation milestones – at the project and feature level Allow Stakeholder visibility on the plan so that we can ensure people are working the most important items. Also allows for Stakeholders to have a line-of-sight so that decisions can be made if the schedule is not acceptable. These decisions can be priority calls, people assignment, or scope inclusion/exclusion.
3) Assist projects in getting assistance with issues Help to resolve project issues asap and minimize the effect these issues have on the project and program
4) Assist projects in creating and executing mitigation plans for identified project risks Reduces the project risks and the effect these risks will have on the project and program
5) Provide consolidated reporting Allow Stakeholder visibility on the execution so that we can ensure people are working the most important items. Also allows for Stakeholders to have a line-of-sight so that decisions can be made if the schedule is not acceptable. These decisions can be priority calls, people assignment, or scope inclusion/exclusion.
6) Provide guidance on enterprise standards for project deliverables Provide consistency across projects to minimize the probability and magnitude of changes required to the amount of project work by confirming that the project scope is understood.
7) Validate Resource Plan across the program Minimize the risk of resourcing issues in the future by validating that adequate resources are allocated and that the resource plan is realistic and reasonable

For point 3, we perhaps set the PMO tone in the most important way. Instead of the PMO telling the project what they needed to do,  our focus was on asking projects how we could help them. For example, we asked:

1. Are there any obstacles we can help to remove?
2. Do you need any additional people, resources, or changes in priority  to keep to the plan?

The story so far

We have received extremely positive feedback on this new Agile PMO. I’ll create a subsequent post on how the PMO evolves as we work with the Stakeholders, but indications are that this PMO is positioned very well to succeed and provide true value to the corporation.

Mostly importantly the Project Stakeholders AND the sub-projects see value it what we are doing…

About Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

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