Implementing a multi-speed delivery engine for digital initiatives? Incorporate agile teams as part of your PMO. But make some adjustments first.

To support digital initiatives, it’s essential your program office hire a product manager and move to a product-oriented mindset that incorporates agile approaches. Benefits include the following:

  • Better alignment of technology investments and business objectives
  • Increased velocity and speed of development

This is especially important as your organization adapts to more frequent customer feedback. However, these new approaches and multi-speed engines to boost your digital initiatives can cause two challenges:

  • How to align agile efforts with other activities
  • How to monitor progress of agile teams

If you address these challenges, business and technology leaders will become more comfortable with agile approaches. It will also help you better align agile delivery methodologies to a broader program or set of objectives.

Agile Teams and PMOs

Every organization and Program Management Office (PMO) is different, but below are five suggested modifications for agile teams and PMO professionals to support a hybrid environment.

#1 – Program and Project Planning

Use Product Roadmap and Release Planning activities to identify key milestones and deliverables to include in the overall Program Plan. Align the outputs of the agile process with other program activities.

#2 – Status Reporting

Utilize existing enterprise project management (PMO) tools to track progress against major milestones and deliverables, yet allow the agile team to manage their work across sprints using agile project management tools.

Make one of the agile team members responsible for updating the program-level status for the PMO, according to the PMO schedule. Focus on progress toward the deliverables/milestones or other key program measures.

To support further understanding and support for agile within the organization, consider including a couple key agile-specific metrics (e.g. burndown) that can demonstrate progress on agile projects within the status reporting.

Align the cadence of how the agile teams work with the PMO schedule to avoid rework while still providing up-to-date statuses.

#3 – Issue and Risk Management

Agile teams should be able to manage their issues and risks within their teams as long as there isn’t cross-project or broader domain impact.

When the impact extends to other areas that require cross-team collaboration or awareness, the team should use PMO issue and risk logs/processes to manage these items.

#4 – Project Standards and Documentation

Each type of project (agile vs. waterfall) will have its own set of standard artifacts, documentation and ceremonies. Sometimes you will need certain documents (e.g., project charters) for both types of projects to meet compliance, funding or other purposes.

Evaluate and adjust the templates to clearly outline the differences for each type of project. Certain document management standards (naming, retention, team libraries, etc.) should be consistent across both types of projects to support document retention requirements and cross-project visibility to key artifacts across the program.

#5 – Program Meetings

The agile team’s meetings/scrum events should take place according to your organization’s agile methodology.

On large programs, the agile team should be required to participate in select key program meetings to promote cross-project coordination and communication. If there are no project managers, one of the agile team members will need to act as a project manager to represent the agile team in these meetings. Other players should also be included in program level meetings, as appropriate, as part of their work.

Final Thoughts

As the organization becomes more familiar with agile projects, acknowledge that there are differences – and make adjustments, as necessary, to further embrace agile project methodologies into your PMO structure.

If agile teams are part of a broader program, the reality is that there will be some level of adjustment – and new documentation requirements – to improve coordination and visibility to the larger program.

Start small and light – consider what you’re trying to accomplish with your PMO and what makes sense for the organization. Resist the temptation to overburden agile teams with too much bureaucracy and complex documentation.

Here are some final tips to help you improve adoption of these changes to your PMO process:

  • Modify your PMO procedures or playbook with clearly marked sections ‘FOR AGILE PROJECTS’
  • Communicate changes to all project teams and ask for feedback or suggestions on how to improve things and minimize redundancy and busy work
  • Test changes and refine your PMO playbook, but don’t continuously change things or you’ll drive the project teams crazy.