Rss Feed Reddit button Digg button Stumbleupon button

Transforming To An Agile Project Management Office – A Study in Trust and Courage

Transforming Project Management OfficeArticle Written by Gwen Miller, PMP, APMC, CSM 

Agile Methodologies such as Scrum, XP, and Kanban are here to stay.  To keep pace, Project Management Offices (PMOs) need to transform from traditional command and control, task oriented organizations to lean and mean agile machines (couldn’t help myself, just sounded cool!!).  Can the PMO demonstrate the courage to take on the transformation and trust that it can facilitate processes that assist with adding business value and lead continuous improvement?  I say ‘Yes we can!!’ (‘Just do it’ was already taken). 

Let the Transformation begin! 

Or maybe not.  Here is where things get a little challenging.  Here is where traditionalists hold tight to the PMBoK and get on their soapbox.  How can the PMO support ‘lightweight practices’?  We need all that documentation and those processes otherwise what will we do.  Indeed, what will we do? 

In my experience, the PMO has always been the keeper of the project processes.  In a Agile PMO, that does not change.  In fact, it is paramount for the PMO staff to focus on ensuring that Agile Methodologies like Scrum are implemented as best as can be.  Process for process sake will sink any transformation.  Think waste reduction.  The concentration should be on helping scrum teams look for non value added activities to be eliminated from the process. 

How will we report on project status? 

Many PMO’s find themselves lost if they don’t have the standard MS Project Plan/Gantt chart that provides numerical and graphic representation of the project’s status at any point in time.  Agile makes the status of a project very visible.  The scrum team creates a task board that represents the activities to be accomplished during that project (I like to think of each sprint as a project) and updates it on a daily basis.  As those walking by notice that things seem to move on the task board and that represents progress. 

ScrumMasters track other metrics like burn down charts.  A sprint burn down chart graphically represents the work remaining over the duration of a sprint which feeds into the release burn down chart which represents the progress against a release plan.  Agile’s version of the gantt chart (in my opinion). 

Is that all there is? 

No, that’s not all.  But enough to get started and other articles will follow.  There is much for the Agile PMO to do to ensure success and it all starts with the process.  Trusting that the role of the PMO is just as important in the lean/agile world, if not more so, as it is in the traditional setting, and having the courage to adapt its role will ensure longevity for the PMO and start the transformation to a value added organization. 

Do you trust in the process and have the courage to change?


© 2011 Gwen Miller.  All Rights Reserved. 

Visit website Gwen Miller, PMP, CSM 

or Follow on Twitter  @GwenMillerPMP


Is It Possible To Change The Image Of The Project Management Office (PMO)?

Prpject Management OfficeArticle Written by Gwen Miller, PMP, APMC, CSM 

Can we take the Project Management Office, known to be a cost center, and make it a cost-effective center?  What would need to change to make this happen?  Is it even possible?  I think it is quite possible. 

Can we remake this image? 

During economic downturns, business programs are under scrutiny.  Every area needs to cut back costs.  One of the first departments that come under examination is the PMO.  Why does this occur so often?  The perception of the PMO being just a cost center.  While PMO resources are completing initiatives that enhance operational efficiencies and generate revenues, why would leadership have such a low opinion of the PMO? 

Should the PMO leader just surrender to the current perception and low opinion?  Or is this an opportunity for the PMO leader to demonstrate to the business the true value of the PMO?  Is this the right time for the PMO to make highly visible their value proposition? 

The PMO Extreme Makeover 

Time for the PMO constituents to confront the challenges that are influencing the perceptions of low or non value add services being delivered to the business.  The makeover needs to begin with a point in time evaluation.  Was a business case or PMO charter created that authorized the setup of the department?  

This document should drive the focus of the questions to determine where the PMO is missing the mark.  If nothing was created to establish the PMO and layout the services it was to deliver to the business, that might be one of the usual suspects for the perception dilemma.  Nonetheless, it’s never too late to use the evaluation as a driver to create the documentation that establishes the menu of services going forward. 

The evaluation should consider the strength or weakness of executive support, the commitment of the business, scarcity of resources for number of initiatives, project management expertise, and publishing of performance metrics.  Taking the temperature of these areas, plus others you may determine are important, will uncover the problems that are hindering a more positive attitude toward the PMO. 

Use the results to begin the makeover necessary for the elevation of the PMO’s value.  Make visible the business metrics you are measuring to demonstrate the value add, create a baseline of project performance measures that demonstrate improvement in project delivery (on time, on budget, with quality and customer satisfaction), ask for visible, consistent support from the executive by enlisting a champion for the PMO, create and distribute accurate status reports for projects in flight, and if there was no PMO charter or business case created when the PMO was established, now would be a good time to build one based on the outcomes of the evaluation and to drive efforts to generate and establish PMO value. 

It is never too late to set up the PMO for success.  Is your PMO at risk of being under-valued or have you created the right environment for a positive perception right from the start? 


© 2011 Gwen Miller.  All Rights Reserved. 


Follow on Twitter  @GwenMillerPMP

Using Project Management Interns

PM InternWritten by Gwen Miller, PMP 

I recently saw a question on one of my LinkedIn Groups.  The question asked ‘Have you ever been a Project Management Intern and if you would use an Intern into your Project Management shop?’

I had never been a Project Management Intern.  When I first started out in Project Management, you were lucky to be recognized in the role of Project Manager.  Never mind an organization considering an internship for that role.  In other organizations where I worked, there always seemed to be interns.  And of course, one area where interns are very popular is in medicine.

Opportunities to teach and learn 

I think it’s an excellent opportunity for any project management organization to utilize interns.  Whether it’s a paid or unpaid internship is up to the company.  I used to ensure funds were set aside in the budget so our PMO could hire an intern, twice a year, for a 16 week period, 20 hours per week.  The PMO team would work together to come up with a work plan.  In doing so you can focus the efforts of the intern and make sure that they get exposure to many different aspects of working in a PMO and the variety of projects assigned to the project managers.

While the interns are paired up with the project managers or the project coordinators, I observed the interactions on many occasions.  If only the PM’s could see themselves, how involved they would be in explaining the nuances of project management.  This was such a good exercise that gave the PM’s the opportunity to coach and mentor, practicing and expanding their skills.

But the interns were also ‘teaching’.  Teaching the PM’s some techniques that they were taught in school but never able to practice until now.  The PM’s would challenge the viability and the interns would explain the application further.  There were a few techniques that we adapted to our methodology and the intern understood that sometimes the theory does not translate in practice.  It was a win-win for all.

Finding Internship Candidates 

I worked closely with a local university that has a MSc, Project Management program.  As part of their program, the students had to be exposed to the practical aspect of project management.  They could not graduate without completing this component.

This relationship fostered other internship opportunities between the company and the university.  Another win- win situation.

An unexpected benefit 

Now you’re wondering, what unexpected benefit could you get from having an intern?  The interns we had were full of energy and enthusiasm and had such a positive attitude it became infectious.  Not only do they provide additional project support, but an intangible benefit in rejuvenating PM’s that have been in the trenches for a long time.

I have had such great experiences having interns on my team.  Tell me about your experiences with interns.  We can compare notes.

© 2011 Gwen Miller.  All Rights Reserved


What is the difference between Portfolio Management and the PMO?

Article Written by Gwen Miller, PMP

You may look at the question and say ‘duh, anyone can tell the difference between Portfolio Management and the PMO’.  Could the PMO be a Portfolio Management Office that is responsible for Portfolio Management? Or could it be two separate and distinct items in the Project Management world.  Let’s take a closer look.

Portfolio Management

Portfolio Management is a group of processes used to manage the portfolio of project and programs for an organization.  Those processes include identifying, selecting, prioritizing, monitoring and reporting.  While the portfolios can big or small, they are aligned with strategic business goals to attain business value.  This could be increased market share, improvement in cash flow, etc.  There is some ‘benefit’ obtained by the components of the portfolio that have a direct effect on the bottom line of the organization and the monitoring and reporting provide the insight into whether that benefit will/will not be obtained.


PMO – Which one is your flavor?

The PMO is a group or department in the organization.  It could be a Portfolio Management Office, Program Management Office, or a Project Management Office. This department could report to the CIO, CFO, CTO, or even the CEO.


The Portfolio Management Office

The Portfolio Management Office is a strategic group or department that works closely with executive leadership to focus organizational resources on those initiatives that align with corporate strategy. This group executes and refines the processes that were defined in Portfolio Management above.  In some organizations this is called a Project Portfolio Management Office (PPMO) so its function and focus is not confused with the Project Management Office (PMO).


The Program Management Office

The Program Management Office (PgMO) unlike the Portfolio Management or Project Management Office can be temporary in nature and only exists as long as the program for which it was established continues.  Once the program completes the Program Management Office can be dismantled.  Most organizations would have established more than one program and the Program Office would live on.  The focus of this department is the methodology, tool and techniques to realize the efficiencies of managing the constituent projects of the program as a whole rather than individually.  The Program Manager manages the interdependencies of the program as a whole and in doing so, has increased the probability that the organization will successfully derive the benefits that the program was intended to deliver.


The Project Management Office

The Project Management Office (PMO) is the department that usually defines and refines the standardized project management processes.  By instituting standard processes, which are consistently used by all departments for managing projects, the organization should reap the benefits of better managed projects with more predictable results.  The PMO is a resource for project management documentation, governance, and project metrics.  This group reviews their processes to continually improve project delivery.


A portfolio of projects and programs can be administered in a Project Management Office and/or a Portfolio Management Office.  The organization’s leadership will determine the name of the department and the services that it will provide.  There are many different configurations with different names that deliver relatively similar services.

Just remember that Portfolio Management is a process and the PMO is a department where that process is executed.  Who said this stuff was boring?


© 2011 Gwen Miller.  All Rights Reserved.


Can You Whip Me Up One Of Those PMO Thingies? I need it by Thursday.

Article Written by Gwen Miller, PMP

I can tell the economy is improving.  I have seen so many calls for ‘HELP’ in the past month.  But it was one 9-1-1’s in particular that got me pondering, ‘Do the executives really understand what it entails to set up and deliver a Project Management Office (PMO)?’

This distressed young man stated, ‘I was just hired by this company and was told that we are going to set up a PMO for the company.  Oh, by the way, NONE of us are Project Managers.’ (there were others to take on this raft over the falls).

I could feel the tension in his words, ‘here I am just starting out my career with this company.  Really thankful to have a job.  Want to do really well on my way to a successful career.  What did I do soooo wrong in my life to be tasked with creating something I know absolutely nothing about.’

I could tell there were others in these discussions that were just as disgusted as I was, (ARE YOU KIDDING ME??  ARE THEY TAKING THIS SERIOUSLY??), as we inundated this poor, lost soul with our own flavor of what he should do.

It shows that organization has no concept, or lacks an understanding, of just what a PMO is (and I know there are many more offenders out there).  Perhaps that is because we have yet to come up with a standard definition. There seems to be as many ‘flavors’ of PMO’s as Baskin and Robbins ice cream.

Just reading all the responses, I thought ‘If I were in his shoes, what would I do?’  Now that he is mulling over all the information provided to him through the group discussion.  And then there are all the websites he can glean further information in which to begin formulating his CYA plan.

I kept hearing those immortal words from Dragnet, ‘just the facts ma’am’.  So the facts are the leadership of the organization or whoever the PMO sponsor is, will need to provide some insight into ‘what’ the team will be expected to deliver.  For example, they might need an Administrative PMO.  This type of PMO focuses on documenting and reporting on the projects in progress.

I would hazard a guess that is what they are going for (and I am going out on a limb here).  They need information so they are tasking a group to get it for them.  For the other types of PMO’s there needs to be an understanding of the project management to create a standardize methodology, tool and templates, program and portfolio mangement, resource management, training, and strategic planning.  I hope my guess is right.

So once there is clarity and expectations are understood, document this knowledge in what is known as a PMO Charter.  In simplistic terms, the PMO Charter is the authorization to establish the PMO and its role in the organization.  It will include such details as whom the PMO sponsor is, the services that it will offer, the staffing necessary to deliver those services, and who the customers will be.  It should also provide a start date when the services will begin to be delivered.

This is where the advice gets a little tricky.  Since there is no PM on the team, I can’t just say ‘now treat it like a project, define the tasks needed to get the PMO implemented, and provide the project plan to the team, give leadership the delivery date and lets go!!  Not that simple.

At this point the team will need to begin determining the tasks to get to the end game.  Time for team brainstorming.  Assuming each team member understands their role; have them write down tasks on a sticky note.  No debate, no conversation.  Quantity not quality.

When everyone is done, paste the sticky notes, in random order, on a blank sheet of paper where they can be viewed with the rest of the team.  Start looking for logical groupings.  Before you know it, and you may have a couple of stragglers out there, you have at least enough information to understand what needs to be done.

List the tasks in a spreadsheet.  Assign who on the team will complete the task and ask them how long they think it will take to complete.  At this point, you will have a very rough and primitive plan to implement the PMO.  Hopefully, there is enough time allotted in the PMO Charter to get everything set up in time to begin service delivery.  Hopefully the PMO sponsor understood time would be needed to get set up.

On a wing and a prayer.  I have not seen any further correspondence from this young man.  I hope he is busy fighting in the trenches to get the PMO implemented.  I do hope he will come back to the group for more guidance if he runs into issues.  I secretly wish that his leadership will somehow come by this article and give some thought to ‘Is she talking about us?’

What needs to happen to get company leaders to understand what Project Management is?  Do your leaders get it?


© 2011  Gwen Miller, PMP