Since the arrival of Agility, much has changed in the management of organizations. Like many business entities, project management offices (PMO) are experiencing significant changes in their mode of operation. Their traditional role to overseeing projects has now turned into a supporting role. Today, I want to address the place held by project management offices and how it can be redefined to better serve the business needs. Some organizations may be using a different name or perhaps they don’t even have such an office? This post applies to all individuals who play a similar role, regardless of their designation.
What is a PMO?
Traditionally, the PMO represents a group or service that defines and maintains the project (or product) management standards and ensures that they are properly applied (i.e., documentation, processes, templates and metrics). In some organizations, the PMO also acts as the manager of the project portfolio and associated budgets.
How has the role of the PMO changed?
As is often the case with any change, Agile transitions rarely go smoothly. The initial meeting between the PMO and those in charge of the Agile approaches sometimes results in resistance from various stakeholders. Hence, the importance of understanding well the new role of the PMO.
As I mentioned earlier, now the role of the PMO is more of a supporting role than a directive one, as it was the case in the past. Therefore, the PMO aims to support the execution of projects under its responsibility. In the transformation of its role, the PMO could also be required to support the teams as well. In this context, and as the leader of the project (or product) management practice, the PMO must be attentive to the development and maturity of the organization and the entities with which it intervenes. Thus, it will have to adapt its mode of intervention; sometimes a more directive style will be required, other times only light support will be required leaving room for emergence from the teams. This change in perspective will facilitate the development of individuals, teams, and the organization while maintaining a necessary balance between dynamism and coherence.
The PMO is often seen as the guardian of the development process. Although consistency is desirable, results should be given more importance. If results are materializing, then the PMO must demonstrate openness, flexibility, and curiosity. The PMO should view the lessons learned by the teams as an opportunity to encourage sharing and collaboration between them.
- Show transparency
- Provide support (primarily for teams)
- Have perspective and adopt a systemic approach
- Facilitate interactions
- Focus on creating value
- Be proactive
An interesting analogy can be made between the evolving role of the PMO and the one of the Scrum Master across the organization. Positioning itself as a servant leader, the PMO focuses on the development of individuals, teams, and communities so that they perform to their full potential. For instance, it can be expressed by promoting the maintenance and development of teams over time.
A facilitator in decision-making
In its support to the governance, the PMO provides assistance so that actions and decisions are taken at the right level. For example, an action taken at a level that is too high will suffer from a lack of information, while an action taken at a level that is too low will suffer from a lack of perspective.
In organizations where the PMO is responsible for managing the project portfolio, a parallel can be drawn with the role of a Product Owner (PO). Being responsible for prioritizing projects, the PO will have to consider the strategic value above all. During regular and frequent planning, the PO will take into account the ability for teams to manage expectations and their success rate. He will build on a frequent rebalancing of the portfolio and, if necessary, make some difficult choices in order to achieve the highest value for the organization. In addition, the PMO will greatly contribute to improving the efficiency of the projects by reducing the number of projects executed simultaneously and by reinforcing the idea of completing one project before starting one or many more.
With regard to budget management, the PMO must plan iteratively to take into account the decreasing uncertainty level in order to reduce the risks related to an early investment, which comprises a large share of unknowns at different levels (technology, business, and people). Uncertainty must be considered as a reality and we must adopt a mode of operation that allows us to welcome it and benefit from it.
This first post allowed us to overview the changes to the role of the PMO in relation with Agile approaches. These offices become important generators of movement and innovation for our organizations while maintaining an optimal level of consistency. Changes in the approaches used by these groups and in the development of new skills among people making up these groups are to be expected. These efforts deployed will be rewarded with the opportunity for the company to accommodate more complexity, to create more value, and to benefit from dynamism that will allow it to remain competitive in a market that is changing rapidly.
Is your PMO in evolution?