The PMO is dead; long live the PMO!

Today, the traditional Project Management Office (PMO) is being challenged as a viable model for project governance.  Back in the day when traditional waterfall process dominated IT project delivery, the PMO was king for larger organizations.  However, even when “PMO was king”, many people within an organization would consider the PMO unnecessary overhead, calling it, “Project Management Overhead” and criticize that the PMO was a cost center, not providing enough value for the cost incurred to maintain.

With the expansion of Agile methodologies along with scaling them to a large enterprise level, the PMO has been brought under scrutiny by many pundits leading project delivery in the industry.  There are two forms recently adopted in the industry, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and Large Scaled Scrum (LeSS).

One thing that should be stated first is to understand why PMO’s were formed in the first place.  Back in 1994, the Standish Group issued a report that stated over 80% of projects were either challenged or failed outright.  Clearly, that is not an acceptable success rate, unless you are batting for the Chicago White Sox.  Hence, PMO’s were born to observe and govern projects to decrease project challenges and failure.

Traditional PMO’s have the following objectives to reach that goal:

  • Governance –  Confirming the right people and right decisions are made, based on the right information
  • Transparency – Identify and address issues when they appear
  • Reusability – Providing consistency and simplicity through a single source of information
  • Delivery Support – Intended to provide project teams training, mentoring and quality assurance
  • Traceability – Track important project history for comparison and documentation to use for data mining and delivery intelligence

When it comes down to project delivery, communication is the most important factor in delivery.  Most projects fail because of lack of communication of real issues often because of lack of transparency (i.e. people are aware but keep them hidden).  Agile methodologies have helped increase transparency, thereby decreasing the ability to “hide the truth” and has therefore increased delivery success rate.

In my next blog, I’ll cover the latest ideas around PMO’s in our Agile delivery era.

The PMO is dead;  long live the PMO!

Published by Agile Mike

“Agile Mike” has over 25 years of experience with software development and product leadership. He is published under the “Built for Success” column in magazine and held the position of Vice President in the Agile Leadership Network. Michael has taught multiple SAFe courses for over the past three years to over 400 people and is currently an Enterprise Agile Coach at Lean Agile Enterprises and a certified SAFe SPC5, AWS Cloud Architect, Scrum CSP, and PMP.

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