Agile Teams Need Agile PMOs

An agile PMO? Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? PMOs are generally viewed as the project police. They often seem to do everything they can to slow everyone down and promote mediocrity.

But wait. Appearances can be deceiving. Let’s start with a definition. What is a PMO? I’m referring to a Project Management Office, also called a Program Management Office. Large enterprises often establish PMOs to accomplish some or all of the following:

  • Set project management standards
  • Establish “best practices”
  • Define common project goals and metrics
  • Set project reporting styles and formats
  • Facilitate process improvements

In addition, PMOs often guide senior management in making strategic decisions about which projects to fund and how to prioritize them. All in all, PMOs perform a number of important functions within the enterprise.

Do they sound bureaucratic? Yes.

Are they agile? No.

Can they be agile? Maybe.

Here’s what the typical PMO must do to help their project teams achieve agility:

  1. Eliminate redundant, excessive and bureaucratic practices that slow down projects.
  2. Encourage openness and transparency within project teams by establishing suitable metrics.
  3. Be flexible in how projects are run and the approaches that teams use.
  4. Promote team training and socialization between project teams.
  5. Mentor project managers in agile techniques and re-train as needed.
  6. Adopt new tools and metrics that support agile development.
  7. Encourage smaller projects and short milestones.

It’s worth a try. PMOs are not going away. They need to stop policing and start mentoring. What do you think?

Updated: April 17, 2011 — 9:48 pm