The PMO phoenix is reborn

In my last article, I stated that the Project Management Office (PMO) is dead.  However, I also stated long live the PMO!

In Greek mythology, the phoenix is a fiery bird that would be cyclically be reborn from its own ashes.  I believe the concepts and the principles of a Project Management Office will be reborn like a phoenix and persist through project delivery no matter what new methodology or approach becomes popular and gets adopted by today’s modern businesses.

Some examples of newer approaches to the traditional PMO are Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) and Large Scaled Scrum (LeSS). Aside from the spiffy mix of capital and lower case letters, let’s dive into their suggestions on how to run a PMO.  For this blog, I’ll first focus on SAFe.

SAFe has been gaining adoption since its inception in 2007 and has been quickly popularized due to the visual graphical interface for showing the entire methodology on one page known as the SAFe “big picture” and “diving into” each component for further detail.

SAFe is broken into three key levels: Team, Program and Portfolio.  The team level is essentially Scrum based delivery.  If you understand Scrum, you understand Team.  The Portfolio is the strategic level where company leadership management, review and prioritize the major initiatives within the organization.  The Program level is where the current portfolio of projects are collectively executed and managed.  This is where the PMO would play.

SAFe is intended for organizations that have large software delivery divisions of at 50 or more cross-functional staff, really best suited for 100 or more employees in product development teams.  SAFe does have a PMO, which are intended “to shepherd large programs from development and deployment and provide status and financial reporting.  This function may even include the responsibility for defining the enterprise’s Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC).”

This matches the traditional PMO, but changes from the “command and control” focus of the past to a lighter weight more lean approach.  However, my main point is that this is merely a rebirth of the PMO and still directly matches with the five goals mentioned in my last blog, “The PMO is dead; long live the PMO“.

Let’s take a look:

  1. Governance –  Now decentralized, so shifts now into more of a support mode, inspect and validating delivery efficiency with a focus on security, regulatory, standards, quality and release requirements
  2. Transparency – No change at all, but expected to be focused more at the team level
  3. Reusability – This is intended to keep delivery light weight and changes are more from reusable waterfall to reusable Agile artifacts, going from traditional project plans to backlogs, velocity, burn down, and Agile release schedules
  4. Delivery Support – Now supporting the Agile Release Train (ART), delivery support focusing on the quality of the releases
  5. Traceability – Under SAFe, this follow the Measures and Lifecycle Milestones with metrics on epics and budgets under regular inspection of Production Increments and Releases under SAFe

As you can see, there are differences in how the PMO is conducted to follow the SAFe delivery model, but the overall purpose and function remains the same.  So like the phoenix, the PMO is reborn!

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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