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Paper Review: Evolving PMOs in an Enterprise Agile World

Gartner released a paper over a year ago called Evolving PMOs in an Enterprise Agile World. For those of you not familiar with Gartner – they are a research and consulting firm that provide “insights and expert guidance” to businesses across the globe. You might have heard about their ‘Magic Quadrant‘ which highlights which PPM tools they recommend.
Organisations subscribe to Gartner for thought-leadership pieces which are produced by their researchers. In this article we provide an overview of a piece of research which is applicable to PMOs, especially those that are supporting Agile, agility, Agile-at-scale etc.
Here’s the headline:

At numerous House of PMO sessions we’ve covered the same themes. You can check out sessions such as DevOps and the PMO – Supporting Continuous Delivery, Agile Frameworks: Implications for the PMO and many others here.
In this article, Gartner also provide advice on what the PMO could and should be doing to support organisations who are changing the way they deliver change – and also looking inwards at themselves and how the PMO itself needs to change.
The article focuses on organisations that are moving towards Agile-at-Scale, which means all their change activity will adopt Agile principles. As things exist at the moment, many organisations are still struggling with mixed methodologies when delivering change (using Agile for software development and digital components of projects whilst still using Waterfall approaches for the overall project or programme) and currently this is the main challenge PMOs are facing.
Is there anything in this research for you if your organisation is not going down the Agile-at-Scale route? We pick out some of the insights.
Here’s what Gartner are recommended based on their research:

So what does this mean for PMOs?



PMOs Will Have to Shift From a Control Mindset to Collaborative Enablement

This is related to the monitoring and control approaches such as stage gates which have long been a staple of PMO supported activity. Gartner is suggested that in an Agile-at-Scale environment, the PMO would not be using control approaches like this because the Agile teams themselves are using customer led feedback throughout their sprints – something called “feedback and learning mechanisms”. Gartner recommends “PMO leaders must largely back off controlling agile efforts during development”.
The research covers the different Agile-at-Scale frameworks that exist and how the different disciplines and roles are geared towards empowering teams and encouraging collaboration. It doesn’t recommend one Agile framework other another (not within this paper anyway!) but states that “PMO leaders must enable enterprise agile framework evaluation selection, configuration, evolution and integration”.
At the very least, the PMO should be familiar with  the different principles and practice of Agile and agility – and how some of the different Agile-at-Scale frameworks work.
To support collaboration, PMOs can introduce and provide ongoing support of communities of practice (CoP) which will enable better cross-team collaboration.

The Shift From Focusing on Skilled Individuals to Focusing on High-Performing Teams Will Alter but Not Eliminate Resource Management

Traditionally we see resources on a project as being individual people. They are assigned to projects and work packages, sometimes for the duration of the project, sometimes just for a short period of time to fill a particular need. In Agile-led change, the focus changes from individual to team. A team remains working on the ‘product’ – unless the team gets redeployed or reallocated. Resource allocation here is determined by product managers.
It’s an interesting concept but the reality is often different – such as what happens when someone from the team leaves, or a specialist resource is needed for a short time. The PMO support recommendation here is to provide oversight, identify bottlenecks, work on the supply vs demand challenges – which sounds exactly like the resource management challenges currently found in traditional-led projects!
There seems to be a recommendation missing which provides the product manager with assistance, if needed, from the PMO to help resource management challenges at that team level.

Complement Measures of Financial Value With Tangible Metrics That Maintain Traceability to Goals

This one is all about the switch in metrics such as time, cost, scope (traditional projects) to those of improving performance, customer satisfaction and agility (Agile-led). The PMO has a role to play in helping senior executives to understand the changes and what these metrics really mean.
The research talks about using a mapping goals and objectives to initiatives and their outcomes as one way to demonstrate the difference, an example is shown below:

OKRs are one example you can take a look at, you can see more here and in the Inside PMO Report on Metrics and Measures.
For many PMOs today, the benefits management process is already aligned with that of value management in Agile-led organisations. The paper also suggests that the whole funding approach to change (annual budgets etc) will need to change – including how and when projects get funding. Agile-at-Scale frameworks advocate for business cases with ROI information to receive funding however there are still problems at the portfolio level – or portfolio of portfolios level using this approach.
These two statements: “PMOs [have] to prepare for this dynamic by identifying and instituting quantitative benefits derived from agile efforts” and “there appears to be agreement that business value is a primary enterprise agile objective, but there is no universal agreement on how to measure it.”
That pretty much sums up where we are right now with the PMO thinking about how it supports both Agile-led and traditional projects – how do we make comparisons between them when reporting upwards to the senior executives?
It’s a question that the House of PMO continues to work on to find the practical solutions for it. Our senior executives need to know what’s happening in their portfolio of change and at the moment there is no clear guidance on how PMOs can do this.
What do you think? Learnt anything new from this paper? Why not let us know in the comments below.
In the meantime, here’s some previous sessions we’ve run which touch on this theme. Hopefully you will find them useful and bring you up to date.





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