How to Increase Agility Through Your Project Management Office (PMO)


Today’s PMO faces countless challenges. In addition to the continued demand to deliver products and services on time and within budget, the larger efforts toward digital transformation across the enterprise are having a significant impact on all forms of technology-based projects, whether a multi-year legacy system replacement program or the implementation of innovative products that need to be delivered to the market quickly. In all these cases the PMO is being drawn into transformational changes while it must continue to respond to traditional time-and-cost directives. 

Embrace the Agile Mindset to Improve Project Performance

So what can a PMO manager do? Actually, a great deal.

The PMO can take steps to begin its own digital transformation journey, without waiting for the organizational and technology upheaval that often comes along with enterprise-wide transformation. This starts by introducing an agile mindset into project management and its processes.

The Five Steps to Building an Agile PMO

  1. Introduce the cultural change. Traditional project staffing is based on filling functional and technical roles such as software developers and testers, but today’s PMO must rethink project staffing so it is more focused on delivering product value. When forming teams, draw people from different functional areas, including business analysis and testing, and encourage cross training with a focus on product development. For example, have the business analyst who knows the new product requirements participate in testing and have a tester take part in systems development work.
  2. Use agile techniques to build schedules. Introducing iterative cycles for development and testing work is a relatively straightforward way to begin an adaptive approach. Rather than attempting to determine a precise hour estimate for tasks and activities, use T-shirt sizing as you build out the schedule. For example, a small task is X hours, a medium task is 2X and a large task is 4X.
  3. Failure is an option. Many PMOs were originally formed to address the failure rate of projects within an organization. And they were successful at that; on-time and within-budget projects are now often the norm. But the goalposts have moved, and the PMO needs to not only support on-time and within-budget projects but also help quickly introduce new products. If a team stumbles at first, encourage learning from that experience and urge it to push on, rather than punishing them for being on the leading edge.
  4. Establish an initial set of metrics. Look at standardizing across the project teams’ defect rates, lead times and release frequency measures. Introducing these measures now will encourage the agile mindset by focusing on business-value drivers.
  5. Don’t sweat the tools. Often, members of a PMO who have a deep background in technology want to introduce new tools as a first step in any project. Don’t let that sidetrack you from helping the project teams understand and embrace the agile mindset.

The Path to Enterprise Agility

The path to enterprise agility can take time, but the PMO should not wait. Steps taken today will pay dividends immediately and pave the path to an agile organization. ISG helps organizations increase agility in the way they manage digital projects. Contact me to discuss how we can help your PMO become an agent of change.