The rapid adoption of Agile has many organisations wondering how it fits within the traditional PMO. We sat with Agile & Assurance Consultant Matt Sharpe to answer five critical questions.

There’s no doubt that Agile delivery is increasingly finding its way into organisational project delivery. However, the rapid increase in awareness and adoption has many business stakeholders pondering where it fits in the traditional PMO, particularly when waterfall or iterative delivery has been its usual modus operandi. What we do know is that PMOs need to be able to support Agile in some way, shape, or form.

Matt Sharpe is Quay’s Agile and assurance guru, so we sat down with him to take a deeper dive into understanding some of the myths, mistakes, and considerations that the PMO needs to address as part of their Agile journey.

Quay Consulting (QC): Why should a PMO consider going Agile?

Matthew Sharpe (MS): Agile in some form has been around for decades, and has demonstrated improvements in throughput, quality and satisfaction at the team level time and time again. Where the true benefit of Agile is realised, however, is when this culture and practices are expanded outside of the ‘traditional’ development teams and into the broader enterprise.

An effectively empowered PMO can act as the bridge between the IT teams and the rest of the business to realise the benefits of scaling up into an Agile enterprise, awareness of and responsiveness to the market and the customer at all levels, and it can turbocharge the quality and value that the development teams can produce.

QC: What are some of the most common myths about Agile within a PMO?

MS: Whilst Agile done well can have a transformative impact on a business, if it’s not done effectively it can have the opposite effect. The anecdotes, stories and first-hand experience of ‘bad Agile’ has given rise to many myths of why it can’t or won’t work.

Whilst it is true that Agile is not a silver bullet to a PMO’s issues, some of the more common misconceptions include the idea that ‘going agile’ will somehow make projects cheaper, quicker and higher value. The opposite is in fact often true – it simply isn’t possible to optimise all three of these project management levers.

What Agile can offer is a lower risk approach to ensure you are delivering the ‘right’ product at the ‘right’ time. On paper this may seem to require more resources to make that happen – the business reality is that delivering – or more commonly not delivering at all – the ‘wrong’ product is much costlier in the long run.

Agile is not about cost cutting. Agile is about staying focused on value creation and optimisation.

QC: What common mistakes have you seen PMOs make when adopting Agile?

MS: The most common mistake I have experienced is the ‘limiting’ of Agile – whether that means it remains siloed within a certain team or department, or is implemented via a time-boxed adoption that starts and stops as per a pre-agreed budget.

Agile is not a destination but an ongoing journey that should never end. The most successful Agile enterprises are always seeking for ways to be more agile. That means setting up deliberate practices to consistently inspect, measure, adapt and challenge their teams, their managers and their overall culture to improve.

Most ‘failed’ Agile adoptions generally start well with the best intentions but often lose momentum as people move on, priorities shift, things get ‘too hard’ or other barriers are put up. These experiences then add further fuel to the idea that Agile ‘doesn’t work’ and masks where the real issues lie.

QC: What issues should a PMO consider to maximise success when adopting Agile?

MS: One of the single biggest factors in determining the success or otherwise of an Agile adoption, whether that be led by the PMO or the broader business is securing effective buy-in.

Buy-in not only from the teams within the PMO who will be at the coal face, but buy-in at every level of the business. That means from department heads and GMs right up to the executive there needs to be a recognition that to truly benefit from ‘going agile’ this needs to be a wholesale and ongoing human, cultural and structural change management program with the right level of funding, resources and time commitment to make it succeed.

Getting this message across should be the number one focus for a PMO long before they consider what specific tools, processes and methodologies they need to implement to realise the vision.

QC: What are the trends in the Agile community and how should a PMO respond to these?

MS: Whilst the ideas and practices of Agile software development have been around for a long time, we are only recently starting to see mass awareness and adoption across all industries – not just the more traditional technology sectors.

The shift in maturity means we are starting to see a much more robust set of best practices and diagnostic tools emerge that are increasingly agnostic, broader in range, and more business aware than many practitioners are used to.

The increasing commoditisation of Agile as ‘just good business’ means that many organisations who have been on the journey for perhaps several years are now looking for ways to step up and improve adoption on their individual and deliberate pathways towards true enterprise-wide organisational agility.

PMOs should have, as part of their service, the continuous improvement journey to ensure knowledge, tools and techniques are up to date and delivering efficient, repeatable streamlined frameworks within which agile project delivery becomes increasingly successful.

The Wrap-Up: Agile Is a Journey, not a Destination

MS: There are many myths about what Agile is and isn’t, especially when it comes to the best ways to integrate Agile into existing waterfall or iterative focused PMOs. A critical takeaway needs to be that Agile is a journey, not a destination. That drives a very different mindset and behaviours compared to traditional project delivery. Cultural change is vital: It cannot be overlooked when moving to an Agile world.

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Want to talk to us about incorporating Agile into your PMO? Contact us here or call 02 9098 6300.

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