Planning for PMO Evolution

Planning for PMO Evolution

Realization of business Agility transforms PMOs from the perception of “auditors” into true strategic partners by delivering organizational mission value. 

The goal of this transformation effort is to fulfill the PMO’s governance mandate by providing a big picture view – the 50,000 foot view across all projects in the enterprise.

This wide-angle view provides the PMO with visibility into project efforts throughout the organization, ensures that best practices are shared across project silos and identifies project-based risks early. In this way, project risks can be identified and mitigated based on the value proposition. The PMO is now a strategic partner with its business counterparts across the organization. The PMO is no longer a “late arrival” providing 20/20 hindsight. Instead, the PMO can track and highlight leading metrics to allow senior leadership to review projects and make decisions early in the value cycle.

This recommendation of a business value-based approach also accounts for multiple Agile-like efforts happening at the individual project level, with or without PMO involvement. In these cases a PMO may struggle with obtaining visibility into project efforts, often because the projects claim “it’s Agile, so there is no planning.”

In some cases, development teams may awkwardly convert Agile artifacts into a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) that meets the checklist requirements for project management governance but otherwise provide no true value. Ad-hoc Agile efforts such as these cause heartburn for a PMO, as resources to provide Agile guidance, consultation and governance assistance are often scare. In addition, PMOs are often further challenged because Agile maturity models are poorly defined or not defined at all.

Business value driven Agile accommodates these PMO challenges, by providing guidance and an overriding management framework.  


To realize business value in complex organizations, we identified a process with the following five elements. We recommend implementing the five steps in the sequence specified, to leverage and build on the value of each step. The sequence of the Agile steps are defined with the initial steps requiring less investment,  so the organization can make the decision to invest additional resources for the more complex efforts based on early value delivered.  In turn, the organization has the flexibility to terminate efforts should the costs exceed the value provided.


The first step in a business value approach is developing a training program.   The training program will deliver Agile education specifically designed to shift organizational paradigms, by delivering foundational experiential learning sessions to adapt and implement Agile principles. Training will focus on the identification, delivery and realization of business value so that Agile is firmly identified with business value—not as a singular function of an IT department.

The training program will be developed and delivered by Agile practioners.  Each class will be grounded in the reality, introducing real world examples to participants, so they will know what to expect as the transformation begins. Each class will be designed to deliver working knowledge that can be immediately applied to benefit the organization’s delivery efforts. In keeping with the overall value-based approach, the value of a session will be measured by the value realized in the work environment. Output-based metrics such as attendance and participant self-evaluation will be used and analyzed, but mapped to true work-based, business value outcomes.

In order to align costs with benefits realized, we recommend beginning with three classes a month, each tailored to different audiences. In this way each targeted group (leadership, PMO members, Agile practioners, user community) will attend at least one relevant class per month.
Targeting senior leadership is purposeful. Once trained they become the strongest advocates for Agile transformation efforts moving forward. Most training programs focus on team-level frameworks, such as Scrum or Kanban or enterprise-wide one-size solution such as SAFe, which are valuable but often are multi-year, expensive efforts in which business value is not explicitly addressed.

Educating the PMO on understanding Agile, will empower them with the knowledge to evaluate Agile projects instead of relying on Agile project teams to evaluate themselves. The PMO can adapt their existing processes and metrics to provide value to and from Agile projects.
Training for the user community, which is defined uniquely for each organization, will focus on the identification of user needs which will then provide the foundation for selecting and prioritizing work across the enterprise. Including the user community in the earliest stage of the Agile transformation effort is key to the whole concept of business value.


The coaching process will be rolled out in waves. The first wave will provide coaching to senior leadership and leadership within the PMO. The second wave, will provide direct coaching to support a small number of pilot Agile projects.

The goal of Agile coaching within the PMO is to build the PMO’s capability to provide Agile consultation and guidance to project teams. For example, coaches provide the actual consulting service, while being shadowed by a PMO member with the goal of reversing the roles as quickly as possible. Training will be tailored towards building the requisite knowledge to enable self-coaching, by focusing on topics such as common Agile problem scenarios, PMO members can recognize and resolve scenarios as they occur.

The goal of Agile coaching with leadership across the organization is to identify business value for each branch or department. This initial focus on identifying business value at the highest levels of the organization will help create Agile advocates and sponsors who can then use their cultural currency to generate the necessary buy-in. The goal is to have each department understand how Agile will deliver value in their unique context by addressing their key problems or concerns.

The second wave of the coaching effort will be to support one or two pilot projects to make the shift towards Agile. Identification of these pilot projects is critical.  The selection criteria could include: likelihood of success criticality, highest return on investment, highest risk or closest to Agile culture.

Portfolio Oversight

The PMO will have the capability to provide guidance on best practices regarding Agile tools and processes for project teams. These activities could involve the PMO identifying a list of tools for Agile teams, then ensuring that the tools have been approved and are available within the organization so teams do not have start from zero each time. This could include the identification and maintenance of an enterprise-wide Agile tools to standardize practices across teams and enable rolling up of key metrics. Shared key metrics will enable organizations to compare teams to identify risks and other missing components (comparing apples to apples) and leverage best practices across the enterprise.

Additional elements of the portfolio oversight process include mapping current project-management frameworks with Agile processes, so that both the PMO and the individual project teams understand the required and optional deliverables and outcomes at every stage. For each project, leading indicators and risks are identified so delivery value can be measured and risk can be mitigated earlier in the project lifecycle. 

Having the pilot projects transitioning to Agile would enable validation of processes and targeted metrics to determine if fledgling Agile projects are achievable and validate that the metrics accurately reflect the project risk and value delivery. Since members of the PMO would be working with the Agile coaches as they assist the selected Agile projects, they will be assess the metrics and processes to through qualitative observations and first-hand knowledge.

Value Pipeline

Once the project processes are in place and key metrics identified, the organization is in place to scale Agile maturity for subsequent Agile project transformations. A key element in Agile maturity is the identification and establishment of value streams across the organization. Value streams can originate from business units (where work is often initiated) through the organization, from IT to support services (facilities, logistics, etc.) to the users/consumers (where work value is validated). Similarly, the overall feedback cycle would span the entire organization so initiated work is based on user identified needs. There would, of course, be a considerable number of smaller feedback loops within the enterprise-level feedback cycle, which collectively would enable identification of changes that impact organizational goals.

Once the training and coaching components have delivered an enterprise-wide shared understanding of Agile and its value proposition, then the value pipeline process would include more targeted training and coaching around the specific activities required to build solid Agile delivery processes, such as around requirements gathering, enterprise architecture, configuration management, operations, security. The investment made in these foundational processes will ensure that the value delivered by good Agile teams is not constrained by the wider environmental processes. Value is easily reached by end users or customers. 

As an example, for enterprise architecture, this could involve identifying experts or practioners throughout the organization and bringing them together to define best practices for the enterprise as well as providing technology sandboxes to encourage innovation and prototyping in a risk-balanced approach. This is in contrast to bringing in an Agile expert with a solution. Building acceptance, since the people doing the work will have shaped the process, takes into account the reality of organization’s rules, norms, complexities and needs.

Key IT Project Transformation

Once value pipelines for the foundational processes are established and functional, the organization will have achieved the requisite level of Agile maturity so that work can begin on transitioning a major IT system to Agile. As an example, at USCIS a key project transformation was the ELIS project, which moved the filing and adjudication of USCIS benefits from the current paper-based model to a “person-centric, account-based business model.”  An equivalent effort could be HR Connect, which is the primary human resource system that provides a broad range of applications, services and information for several agencies in the federal ecosystem.

Obviously, it would take several pages merely to list the high-level actions involved in transitioning a complex business and IT system to Agile, and a standard list would not be helpful without understanding the specific cultural, organizational and technological context of the current system and the desired future state. Therefore, we would recommend further discussions with subject matter experts to create a customized roadmap and map it to the desired outcomes to provide true value.

The value of this approach to Agile transformation for the PMO is the fulfillment of its governance and oversight for all projects, either using Agile and or other methods. It would also transform the oversight function from strictly project-based to a more holistic oversight capability across the enterprise, crossing silos of vertical business units, information technology and other horizontal “support” units and the users, both internal and external. 

This process and the underlying framework would map actions of each of the “actors” to an outcomes-based organizational values such as oversight, accountability, transparency—to align actions and needs of each entity, which is foundational in establishing the PMO as a strategic partner within the organization.

What will it do: 

Recommend Lean-Agile business-value first approach that represents less cost and risk than traditional Agile transformation efforts by enabling the PMO to lead the transition in a way that brings business value, technical resources, and vendor support in a synchronized manner
This approach ensures early emergence of results, early stage adaptation of processes and the subsequent evolution toward continuous improvement mindset across the organization
Focusing on horizontal business engagement from the beginning ensures business intent, customer value and results are delivered early and continue throughout the process

Benefits to the organization:

  • PMO becomes strategic partner to business unit

  • Business units recognize their value proposition, so that they can evaluate work being done as good return on their investment as measured by business value realized

  • Establishes baseline standard for Agile initiation, maturity and transformation efforts which in turn reduces the learning curve and therefore cost

  • Identifies leading metrics which enable recognizing of risk earlier in the project lifecycle

  • Enables sharing of best practices across organization

Outcomes expected :
Within 6-12 months

  • Build Agile capability within the PMO so that they can provide guidance to fledgling Agile efforts throughout the organization

  • Agile coaching efforts begin working with leadership and users across the enterprise to lay foundation for business value identification and realization

  • PMO identifies baseline standards for Agile efforts and maps deliverables and outcomes to existing processes

  • Establish customized Agile maturity model for the organization

  • Agile training program established within the organization
    Within 12-24 months

  • PMO members work with Agile coaches to support pilot projects (2-3) in successfully transitioning into Agile

  • Portfolio / program management process established for Agile efforts

  • Baseline standards are shared within the organization and have received threshold level of acceptance

  • Value streams are identified across the organization so that targeted process improvement efforts can be prioritized for maximum impact

From Requirements to a Backlog

From Requirements to a Backlog

Case for Business Agility

Case for Business Agility