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TransformationJun 05, 2021

3 Ways to Unlock Agile Transformation With the Program Management Office

Jake Parker

Is the project management office a remnant of organizational hierarchy past? In the midst of the agile revolution, what purpose does the project manager—Gannt chart and budget spreadsheets in hand—serve? These questions are arising in boardrooms across the country as corporations continue to embrace agile transformation goals and methodologies.

As we continue to see rapid change in the way IT departments are organized, it is imperative that leadership teams are aware of why—and how—to best use their project management resources in an agile development environment.

Credera’s experience in transforming large enterprises to agile development has helped us truly understand the benefits and pitfalls to be aware of as your organization makes this transition. Some of the key points to understand are:

  1. No agile transformation is absolute.

  2. Project managers should serve as the bridge between organizations.

  3. A right-sized approach to agile includes integration with the project management office. 

Key #1: No Agile Transformation Is Absolute

When organizations make the decision to go agile, things do not always go according to plan. In fact, up to 47% of agile transformations fail. Facing such numbers, it is imperative your agile integration and enterprise agile transformation avoid the common mistake of compartmentalizing your change. 

While the ideal state of an agile organization has all parts of the company working in harmony, the reality is there will be groups that are either resistant to or cannot change at the same pace as IT or product teams. Quarterly earnings statements and the resulting financial review cycle often lead to budgets and approvals for projects to be conducted months, or even years, in advance. Trying to demand that budgets and approvals arrive on a shorter sprint schedule can and often does only lead to frustration and discontent—resulting in a failure of the transformation and backlash against agile principles.

So what must management do for a successful agile transformation? The key is to look across all departments and assess their readiness and ability to change, then adapt the working model to ensure each department is comfortable with the new operating model. Business collaboration is a primary component of the agile manifesto and for an enterprise-wide agile transformation. Making compromises and creating ways of working with existing processes can be the difference between a successful transformation and another costly failure.

Key #2: Project Managers Should Serve as the Bridge Between Organizations

To enable this level of collaboration, many legacy organizations undergoing agile transformation benefit from having highly trained experts help facilitate communication and share ideas. Enter the project manager (PM), who possesses a base set of skills tailor-made for helping organize and drive large-scale change. 

There are three ways project managers propel transformation forward: 

1. Project Tracking

Whether aligning to SAFe, Scrum@Scale, or any other enterprise agile methodology, program-level and multi-team tracking and reporting enables executives to understand and drive the direction of their teams. Utilizing the PM’s skill set and communication skills allows for reduced burden on the agile teams to communicate progress in a collective manner. Communication can also increase buy-in from executives who are otherwise resistant to self-organizing teams.

2. Accountability

Often the decentralized and self-directed nature of agile is what turns executives off from participating in the process. This lack of buy-in and the resistance it creates can become the thread which unwinds all of the work the organization is trying to do. By inserting the PM into the mix, individuals run interference by taking accountability and responsibility for delivery to those executives—giving them the single point of contact they are used to and reducing any adverse impacts to the teams.

3. Institutional Knowledge

Project management offices are aware of the organizational hierarchy, communication channels, and project lifecycle expectations across divisions and departments. Using this institutional knowledge, the PM enables the agile teams to operate without additional overhead constraints and focus on their execution rather than interfacing with legacy business groups.

Key #3: Agile Transformation Done Well Works With the Project Management Office

Agile is, at its core, a concept in doing work in a more efficient way. Jeff Sutherland, the father of agile, describes scrum in the following way:

Taking these words into account, it becomes apparent that as agile expands beyond pure technology product organizations, the methods of agile need to adapt to ensure the process is delivering the highest value—better and faster. It is Credera’s point of view that integrating the project management office into a cohesive governance structure will lead to higher transformation success rates and help deliver on the promise of agile transformation. 

Want to know more about unlocking the benefits of agile in your transformation journey? Reach out to us at findoutmore@credera.com and let us help you unlock extraordinary.

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