book review: The Agile PMO

Agile-PMO-Book-CoverThe Agile PMO by Jennifer Stapleton (publisher DSDM Consortium)

More and more organizations have implemented or re-energized their PMO. Convinced that these PMO’s can and will bring additional benefits to the organization by doing the right projects and doing them right. But what does it mean if you start using, besides traditional project management approaches like PRINCE2 or PMBoK, Agile methods like SCRUM or Agile project management (DSDM Atern)?

Maybe some will say that a PMO and an Agile approach can not work together. A PMO will introduce unnecessary formality and bureaucracy. Or an Agile concept, such as ‘just sufficient’ documentation can seem to be completely counter to existing ‘best practice’.

For me, this is not only related to Agile approaches. This is always the case. Unnecessary formality or bureaucracy, or bulky, inaccessible and illegible documents will also not work or help in a more traditional PRINCE2 or PMBoK environment (see also my book PRINCE2 in Practice).

Major concerns are around governance. Typical questions are related to less precise business cases, prioritization of projects when benefits are not completely known, reporting that an agile project is running into problems, ad-hoc reporting versus time-driven reporting. How can we make the life of Agile projects easier and quicker while also serving the needs of the organization? This book will give you answers to these questions.

It gives you an overview of key characteristics that Agile PMO’s aim for and characteristics that are contra-productive and will limit the success. Looking at portfolio management you will get an overview of characteristics of annual portfolio reviews versus the Agile portfolio review.

Traditionally indicators like OTOBOS KPI’s can’t be used for Agile projects. The book gives you a list of KPI’s to be used without impinging too much work on the project teams: Velocity (delivery capacity in story-points of a team), cycle time (lead time), Boomerangs (defects or weak understanding of customer requirements) and customer involvement and satisfaction.

The book shows you the stage gate process and how to adapt this process to use for the DSDM approach. Several other topics are discussed and what it means for Agile projects. E.g. Benefits management, stakeholder engagement, project planning and monitoring, resource, risk and quality management. Not only for PRINCE2 but also for Agile methods you have to tailor. The book gives you a section containing hints and tips for tailoring DSDM.

As automatic support is key, particularly in areas such as testing, you get a set of criteria to select a suitable tool.

Key characteristics of an Agile project are fixed time, cost and quality and allowing the scope of the features to be delivered to vary. This means that traditional Change Control procedure is at odds.

One the final chapters is about knowledge management. It has to be the PMO to help overcome the problem that some knowledge gained in a project does not get documented and the lessons learned remain (due to the Agile Manifesto ‘Working software over comprehensive documentation’).

In the appendices you get brief introductions of DSDM Atern, SCRUM, a glossary, and a DSDM project health check.

For me a good pocketbook if you want to know how to cope with Agile projects in your PMO.

In one of my next blogs I will give a Quick Reference Card of the Agile Project Management method DSDM Atern.

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