The PMO Series (5): The PMO as the Driving Force of Agile Transformation

Linh Tran, Wednesday 24 May 2017 | Reading time: unknown

Agile is on everyone’s agenda and it’s one of the most popular topics in project management at the moment. How does this ‘trend’ affect the work of the project management office (PMO)? 

The last part of our PMO blog series will try and answer this question. Implementing ‘new’ agile methods such as Scrum or Kanban will have a significant impact on the PMO, as it’s the project management center of the organization. So it is important that the PMO reacts to these new developments in project management as soon as possible.

Agile is the trend

“Agile” is one of the biggest buzzwords in project management and other industries at the moment. Everybody talks about agile and everybody wants to be agile. Many organizations are hoping that by implementing agile methods, they will be able to improve their employees’ self-motivation and self-efficacy, react more flexibly to changes in the project environment, and develop a strong team spirit. But agile is not a magical cure-all, every organization should evaluate if going agile is the right step for them, i.e. if going agile adds any value to the business. Traditional project management might still be the best option for some businesses or projects.

As the project management center the PMO should adapt their operation and processes to the way the project teams are working. Which means that they need to adapt to agile methods, if that’s how the project teams they’re managing are managing their projects. This doesn’t mean that you should replace your current project management methods with agile methods. It’s better to perform a detailed analysis to find out which PM methods (traditional, agile, or hybrid) work best for your organization.

Taking stock and creating a methodological concept for the PMO

It’s the PMO’s task to take stock, i.e. to analyze the current project management situation in the organization. Asking the following questions will help the PMO with this task:

  • Which PM methods is the organization currently using?
  • How often are these methods used?
  • Are project managers satisfied with the current methods and the successes they achieved as a result of using these methods?
  • Do project managers feel restricted by some methods?
  • Do project teams want other or new methods?

Taking stock will enable you to see whether you can improve your current project management by introducing new methods or not. Every organization will get different results from this analysis, as each organization will do project management differently. If you have determined that introducing a new PM method will have a positive effect on your organization, you should create a new methodological concept for your PMO.

The goal of the concept is to determine which methods can complement your current PM methods, and which of your current methods can be discontinued. Feedback from the project teams is vital if you want to create an accurate concept. After you’ve finished a concept draft, send it to all project team members and request their feedback on it. This will help you check the practicability of your concept and ensure that the concept fits the needs and requirements of your organization.

After you’ve integrated change requests and improvements from the feedback into your final concept draft, start implementing it.

Offering PM training

One of the main functions of a PMO is to coach and train project teams and to maintain PM standards and quality in the organization. Changing the PM methodology means that the coaching and training of the project teams will take up a lot of time in the beginning. They have to learn a completely new methodology after all. It could also be useful to offer agile certification courses as well. The PMO should offer trainings on the new methods to all project team members to establish a strong foundation for the new methods in the organization. It’s also important to review and revise PM frameworks and processes.

Conclusion of the PMO series

This post concludes our PMO series and we would like to summarize the most important aspects covered in these five posts. The PMO is the project management control and support center of the organization and is responsible for establishing and maintaining PM standards and frameworks across all departments and project teams. This is what distinguishes the PMO from the project assistance, as the latter only supports one project at a time. The size and human resource requirements of the PMO depend on what its responsibilities and tasks are. One personnel decision is particularly important: choosing the right PMO manager, because the quality of the PMO greatly depends on the skills of the PMO.

There are three fundamental PMO types: the strategic PMO, the controlling PMO and the operative PMO. When implementing a PMO you can follow these four steps, regardless of the PMO type: Analyze the current situation, create a concept, implement the PMO, and transition into normal operation.

Because of the PMO’s cross-organizational nature, it’s one of the biggest driving forces of agile transformation in the organization. As the PMO establishes the PM methods of the organization, it should always react to new trends and developments, such as the rise of agile.


Previous articles of our PMO blog series:

PMO 1: Definition and Function of a Project Management Office

PMO 2: The Most Important Project Management Office Roles

PMO 3: The Different Project Management Office Types

PMO 4: Implementing a Project Management Office



(Original text by Kathrin Jungwirth, translated by Linh Tran) 

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