Before we get into specifics of how PMOs are run in these two methodologies, let us outline a Project Management Office (PMO).
As per PMBOK 6th edition, a PMO is defined as an organization structure that standardizes the project-related governance processes and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques. The responsibilities of a PMO can range from providing project management support functions to the direct management of one or more projects.
Every organization defines or refines their PMO model, structure and responsibilities as per their needs and maturity. As Waterfall has been used for a while, it’s readily accepted in many organizations, while Agile is still relatively unknown to most organizations. A PMO plays an important role making management and executives aware of both the benefits and the challenges of either Waterfall or Agile. When it comes to managing PMO in Waterfall compared to Agile, here are some of the differences at the highest level.
1. Managing the Golden Triangle: In Waterfall usage, the standard definition of a project is used. You have a start and end-date (timelines), a fixed budget (resources), and a project scope. PMO/PM uses metrics centered around these definitions to monitor and control the project. A detailed project plan shared in a tool such as MS Project, allows you to monitor timelines and the deliverables (scope). MS Project 2016 also has enhanced features to manage and budget resources.
In Agile, although you may or may not have a target date, the end goal is a deliverable. Finances can be fluid depending on many factors in a sprint or sprints-like need of specific resources and size of the deliverable (if it can’t be broken down into smaller units) etc. Metrics such as burn-down charts and velocity are most commonly monitored and controlled. Tools like Version 1 and Rally give a dashboard visual capability which PMO utilizes to monitor and control the project..
2. Tracking Project Artifacts: PMO makes sure that project artifacts are finished and completed as per the PMO standards. In Waterfall, you have a project charter, a project management plan, a scope document, a schedule and a budget. Communications and stakeholder plans, risk and issue management plans, test strategy plans, go-live plans, post go-live plans, and lessons learned are all carefully documented from one process to the next.
Most of these documents have to be approved by a selected set of authorities in order to move forward. Microsoft Project is the most often used tool to create a detailed project plan. In Agile, there are fewer artifacts, but they are updated and maintained on an almost daily basis. Sprint & Release planning is done between the Product Manager, Scrum Master, and the team which defines the end date of the project, but it can be more fluid. Newer tools like Version 1, Rally etc. are great platforms to create sprints and then view them in a dashboard form. It visually displays each sprint with a tentative start and end date. As product and backlogs are developing, these sprints can be populated with the new information. At each sprint, you have a daily log of what you accomplished yesterday, what you are planning to accomplish today, what impediments stand in your way, burn-down charts, velocity view, sprint review and retrospective documents. All of these assist a PMO to monitor and control production. One of the common challenges facing both Waterfall and Agile, is defining the scope or a product backlog. PMO can assure the project scope stays within the initial intent. In Agile, Product Managers are business PMs who sometimes cause delays by not being able to predict proper product backlog or product unavailability. a PMO can intervene in such situations having the ability to predict backlogs or product unavailability.
3. Resource optimization: One of the key responsibilities of a PMO is to provide resources for the projects. They negotiate with departments and functional managers for the resources needed. In Waterfall, different resources are required at different stages within the project. For example, a resource can be allocated at just 25%. A resource request can be better planned due to skill-sets not necessarily being very stringent; whereas in Agile, an SME is expected as a resource. In a true Agile environment, a resource must be available 100% to the project and must be an SME which often requires extra work for the PMO to procure these resources. It becomes even more complicated when you have a matrix organization and are geographically dispersed. Once you have procured that resource, a PMO ensures that the resource is 100% utilized (capacity planning).
4. Best practices, processes and procedures: According to the PMBOK 6th edition, the supportive role of PMO provides best practices for projects, training, access to information, and templates for gathering artifacts etc. In Waterfall methodologies, PMs can utilize all of these processes as they become standard practices leading to governance by a PMO. . In agile, a team is constantly evolving and changing as per the retrospect and review recommendations. As the team matures, practices become standard; but after the project is completed, the new team has to start to all over again. There are very few standardized templates in Agile. In both methodologies, PMO ensures that standardized tools for Project Management are available and are correctly utilized.
To conclude, running a PMO in any environment is challenging. With Agile, the PMO directors need to be more fluid with documentations and processes, and have the trust of the team to do the job right. In the Agile environment, a PMO director’s role is to be a forward thinker, and remove impediments before it stops the momentum of the project.
About The Author: Vivek Chaudhary, PMP, is highly successful in leading application software development, infrastructure, and database projects in Waterfall and Agile/Scrum methodologies; working very closely & effectively with C-Level executives, cross-functional departments/groups, business units, vendors, outsourced, and offshore teams.