What Is an Agile PMO?

What is an Agile PMO? Aren’t all PMOs supposed to be Agile and support transformative change? Does my organization need an Agile PMO? Keep reading to discover the specific set of features and organizational structure an Agile PMO offers that regular PMOs simply don’t.

Introducing the Agile PMO

Traditional forms of enterprise project management are constantly evolving as the field matures and expands. Although these ways of thinking have been successful in the past, changes to the ways we work, lightning-fast globalization, and the increased use of Agile across industries require a new way of working. 

As a result, structuring an Agile PMO is the next logical step. But what is an Agile PMO? 

In a nutshell, an Agile project management office (PMO) is a modern take on project management techniques. Its purpose is to adapt quickly to our changing needs and world in ways a regular PMO simply cannot. Although many of the goals are the same, an Agile PMO makes projects more flexible than traditional methods. 

The biggest differences between a traditional and an Agile PMO include:

  • The decentralization of control and planning
  • Agile budgeting and resource allocation
  • A system of workflow checks and balances that streamlines forward movement

What are the features of an Agile PMO?

A great Agile PMO looks a lot like a traditional PMO with a few key exceptions based on the philosophies of Agile methodology

  1. Project ranking
    Agile PMOs keep a catalog of enterprise projects that are ranked according to order of importance by predetermined criteria. 
  2. Grooming
    Backlog grooming in Agile means project organizing and tracking. Among its many benefits, an Agile PMO makes it easy to keep track of all upcoming and active projects in one place. 
  3. Team empowerment
    Team empowerment means allowing teams to be self-reliant, make their own informed decisions, and remove otherwise time-consuming approval processes. When each team member has complete visibility into project plans and data, they can all take ownership of the project so that there is no need for reporting to a manager each step along the way. 
  4. Project filtering
    In a traditional PMO, most projects begin without a clear approvals system beyond a simple sign-off. In an Agile PMO, there is a standard qualification filter that puts every new idea through an initiation and an approval stage before it gets added to the backlog. 
  5. Team communication
    In an Agile PMO, teams aren’t determined by the projects. Instead of ending and starting a new group for every new assignment, cross-departmental teams stick together. This may require some additional support members from time to time, but it’s ultimately more productive than starting from scratch each round. 
  6. Measure team velocity
    Regular PMOs count hours, while Agile PMOs measure team capacity and what they can complete in a given sprint. Not only is it a better estimation of how long certain tasks will take, but it also promotes a more productive way of doing things. 

What is the organizational structure of an Agile PMO?

Traditional PMOs rely on a top-down approach to their leadership and team organization. The organizational structure of an Agile PMO, on the other hand, is far more circular. At the top of a traditional PMO chain of command are business owners and PMOs. Agile PMOs also place business users at the top, but that’s where the similarities end. 

From there, the flow moves to the project team, which includes the product owner, Scrum master, developmental resources, quality assurance resources, and miscellaneous resources. The PMO offers project support and guidance to the Scrum Master, who provides progress updates to the PMO throughout the project lifecycle. Each resource category is owned and managed by the appropriate manager, i.e., the developmental manager oversees developmental resources and so on. 

In the organizational structure of an Agile PMO, the PMO plays the role of a consultant and not a manager. This frees the PMO to focus on making each team as efficient as possible. Instead of keeping tabs on basic project characteristics such as budget and time, they can instead focus on offering their insight into creating better systems while teams self-organize. 

Because the Agile PMO is no longer the middle man, it’s more important than ever to hire and train collaborative teams. You may even find that a hybrid approach is best for your particular group as you make the transition. 

Tips for building an Agile PMO

  • Create a PMO charter document before starting a project management office that outlines your mission statement, goals, and key performance indicators. 
  • As you create processes, make sure you also write down how you’ll measure and improve on them over time. 
  • Always introduce the stakeholders (whether they’re already Agile, Waterfall, or transitioning) to your team since your team will be the ones in charge of getting things done. 
  • Find ways to facilitate building relationships outside of projects with team-building exercises, social events, and dedicated office or networking coffee hours. 
  • Get crystal clear on how your business defines collaboration and identify if a person possesses that skillset or not when hiring. 
  • Focus on building and educating your dream team over time as this process puts more responsibility on them than ever before. 
  • Create high-value rewards for individuals to increase their motivation and creativity. 
  • Draft minimalist project templates to keep everything uniform but also allow for individual teams to put their own spin on things as needed. 
  • Trust your teams while also asking questions and keeping tabs on progress along the way. 

Common challenges for Agile PMOs

Inexperienced teams, micromanagement, and adoption struggles are three of the most common challenges for Agile PMOs. Here’s what they are, how to spot them, and what you can do to overcome each one. 

Inexperienced teams

This includes individuals who are new to the workplace or team and teams that are new to working with each other in this way. Inexperienced teams often have issues with communication, favoring the direction of an authority figure over stepping up to be a leader themselves. 

There are two reasons why that usually happens. First, they could feel that the company culture makes it difficult or even impossible for them to have their voice heard. Second, until a group of people find their rhythm together, it can be a challenge to negotiate the social and professional aspects of the project (both of which are very important in an Agile PMO). 

How to overcome it: Set new standards for hiring individuals who are experienced with collaboration. Then, consider the personalities of each individual before you group them together. And last but not least, work to create a consistently high-quality environment for everyone, especially those who may be part of a marginalized group. 

Micromanagement

Traditional PMOs often play the role of both manager and administrator as they assist teams. Micromanaging can look like taking over the duties of a team leader. It can also look like failing to delegate questions or tasks to the team members or not having clear-cut boundaries for your role. Contrary to popular belief, micromanaging in project management has less to do with any perceived personality deficiency and more to do with establishing formal lines of leadership and clearly defining project responsibilities from the very beginning. 

How to overcome it: An Agile PMO must transition out of the mindset of being a hands-on participant and into being an expert process consultant. Teams can and should support you in doing so. Make new procedures and chains of command clear at the beginning of every project. 

Adoption

It’s no secret that adopting Agile processes can be challenging, especially when teams are used to functioning in a certain way over many years. But for an Agile PMO to be effective, everyone has to get on the same page sooner rather than later. If they don’t, it could lead to communication breakdowns that keep Agile PMOs from performing their highest ROI duties and delay progress as teams struggle to work autonomously. 

How to overcome it: The right project management tool makes it easy to visualize and understand processes, tasks, and approvals, even for teams with zero experience with Agile. 

How to embrace Agile PMO methodology with Wrike

Wrike helps Agile PMOs prevent delays, support group productivity, and keep teams accountable to a customized plan. Centralizing all of your project information in Wrike helps keep everyone on the same page at all times. Whether it’s storing all supporting assets or looping others into project-related conversations in real time within the platform, our project management software eases teams into Agile methods so that they can adopt these new processes faster than ever before. 

Master Agile PMO with our two-week free trial and see for yourself how Wrike helps teams collaborate with unique Agile templates, Kanban boards, dynamic prioritization tools.

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