Every PMO needs to manage the transition as their organization adopts Agile development practices and the Scrum framework to manage the work.  Here are 4 tips to successfully transition your PMO:

 Invest in Project Managers- Consider 4 Questions:

  1. Are the project managers on your team trained for their role within the new process framework?  Project managers need to know the fundamentals of Agile and Scrum: why these methods place value on principles and practices that seem counter-intuitive to  what has been done before,  how the mechanical processes differs from traditional waterfall, the defined Scrum roles, Scrum artifacts, and how to apply the Scrum process.  Some training is necessary and ScrumMaster or Agile Certified Practitioner training classes are both good options.
  2.   Are you staffed to support the Agile development practices your organization is utilizing?  Consider the role of your project managers and compare it to the number of products, Scrum teams per product, and releases your team supports.   In some organizations the project manager becomes the ScrumMaster after appropriate training.  But for larger organizations and programs, project managers are still necessary to coordinate the overall release.   In my experience with large programs, project managers coordinate across multiple Scrum teams (20-30), each with its own ScrumMaster, negotiate contractor procurements, track overall release milestones and budget, manage risk, escalate program impediments, and provide release level communications to all stakeholders.   Project managers need to maintain a sustainable work pace as well, so make sure your staff scales to their duties.
  3. Do the project managers understand the process enough to champion it?  A primary role of a project manager is to integrate all functions within an organization to plan, execute, and track a release.  With continued mentoring, project managers can reinforce the new process across the organization and assist functional owners who may tend to revert back to old, familiar form.  Project managers can be perfectly placed to help enforce the new rules if they truly understand them.
  4. Do your project managers understand the paradigm shift required of them?  Scrum calls for empowered, self-managing teams that own how, and to some degree, when the requirements are implemented (the Product Owner owns ordering requirements by business value).  This is a fundamental shift for project managers who are used to breaking down tasks, dividing those tasks across functions, and tracking percent complete towards a date.  Project managers now need to shift from controlling or managing tasks to leading teams to success by removing impediments, enabling the team to make decisions and resolve issues, and improving the process for the next iteration.   Instead of treating every feature request as being of equal importance, project managers will help manage stakeholders' expectations by assisting product management in streamlining their requests into a prioritized, ordered product backlog based on business value. Project managers will model these leadership techniques at the highest project level, which parallels what the ScrumMaster does at the Scrum team level.  Again, continued coaching and mentoring on Agile principles will help project managers ensure this transition.

Help Define the New Framework for Your Organization

Think back to the repeatable waterfall process you spent years honing.  Now review that process and determine:

  • what activities and templates are still required to meet your business deliverables
  • what should be removed
  • what can be streamlined or added to fit the new process
  • who owns which activities and what overlap can be reduced

Inspect each activity and adapt it to optimize business value.  If an activity provides minimal value and merely creates busy work, now is a good time to remove it.  Regular communication and checkpoints will guide and help educate your organization through the new process.

Deal with the documentation issue.  In a standard waterfall process, documents are used to communicate implementation so that downstream stakeholders can then define their work to support the release.  Scrum reduces the need to use documents for communication by forming fully cross-functional and co-located teams who own all the work required to create shippable products.   The dependence on highly detailed documentation as the only form of communication is hard to break and may not be completely practical immediately.  Your organizations’ cross-functional team formation may evolve over time, making some added documentation necessary initially.  If that is the case, streamline documentation into checklists or other simple formats and inspect and adapt as your documentation needs evolve.

Help define the tools needed to capture the prioritized product backlog, sprint backlog, and the progress of user stories.  The tools could be sticky notes and whiteboards, simple desktop applications, or something purchased from a vendor that specializes in Agile development tools.  Many organizations will also need to invest in more automation, test, and continuous integration tools for a more rapid development and test pace.

Use the Inspection Process to Adapt and Evolve

Create a forum to address the inevitable organizational resistance and impediments that come up.  Monitor the sprint retrospectives and poll the ScrumMasters and team to identify the roadblocks.  Use Scrum to create, prioritize and assign tasks in that forum. Then apply improvements to the next iteration or release.

Monitor the new ScrumMasters and Product Owners in your organization.  Are they enabling the team and the new process?  Are they functioning successfully in their new roles?  If the answer is ‘no’ to either of these questions, engage management to help take corrective action.

Utilize Scrum for Objective Reporting

Inevitably, executive stakeholders will still expect considerable functionality in aggressive time frames.  The PMO is integral in managing this natural executive tendency to the capabilities of the team.  Scrum advocates honesty, visibility, sustainable pace, and transparency along with frequent inspection.  This is a powerful combination for aligning executive expectations with reality.  Encourage your Scrum teams to manage and update their sprint backlogs and then use burndown charts to objectively report progress.  Demonstrating working functionality to executive stakeholders in regular sprint reviews and demos is invaluable for providing them with actual results.  Demos also give your executive stakeholders tangible evidence of progress and allow them the opportunity to provide early feedback.

We know that making the transition from a traditional waterfall process to Agile is challenging but worth it because of Agile's improved focus on business value, responsiveness to change, and continual improvement.  We can help you devise a transition strategy that accounts for the specific needs of your organization.  Contact us when you have questions or need assistance in evolving your Program Management Office to Agile development practices and Scrum.