DevOps and the PMO – Supporting Continuous Delivery

Consider this image we shared in a session a couple of years ago now.

You might have heard the term ‘bimodal’ – adopted to demonstrate that the PMO supports both traditional waterfall projects and Agile-led projects. But that’s not the case, the term if anything should be ‘trimodal’ because the PMO is increasingly supporting DevOps too.

The PMO is there to support any type of change delivery and over the last five years or more the focus has been on understanding change being delivered using Agile philosophies.

In this article, we turn to understand the third one on the list – Continuous Delivery – or DevOps as it’s known.

DevOps is a combination of software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops) and is focused on continuous delivery. An example would be an ever-evolving financial or business app – there is no end date as such. Another way of looking at it is not so much project management as product management.

DevOps is not an area that PMO Flashmob has explored in any great detail but we have so many questions.

  • What are the differences between project and product management?
  • What challenges are there with DevOps work and teams?
  • What are some of the main areas the PMO needs to be thinking about if we are to support DevOps teams and work?
  • What stays the same and what changes in the PMO?

Consider this from our guest speaker for the evening session:

In many organizations, the project deliveries are monitored by a function called a project management office (PMO). Does a PMO still exist in a product-oriented enterprise? The answer is yes, but to operate, the PMO will need radical reengineering.

We share the video session and insights from the evening – and what becomes clear is that there are no prescribed ways for the PMO to provide support… yet!



The session was delivered by Jon Ward who has been instrumental in educating PMO professionals with the Lean-Agile PMO course over at PMO Learning.

Jon had recently written an article called – Project to Product: Fact or Fiction? – which not only eases us into the subject, it also looks specifically at DevOps from the PMO angle.

We advise you to read it first!

The Video Session

You might find it useful to use my notes from the session as you listen along, click to download as a PDF.DevOps and the PMO

What You Need to Know

The key takeaways from this session are the parts that you as a PMO professional need to understand about DevOps. It might be a case that your organisation is not delivering change in this way – and that’s fine but who knows if that’s likely to change in the future or you move roles to an organisation that does.

  • Understand the basics about what DevOps is and isn’t – it’s links to Lean and Toyota are also interesting – an absolute beginner article is always good.
  • Understand ‘development value streams’ – we had a session on SAFe – the scaled agile framework and there is a link there. Check out the SAFe session as well.


SAFe and the PMO

  • It’s the portfolio management side that the PMO can definitely help support – the front-end, the planning and governance part as outlined in the image below:
Value Streams

Credit: MicroFocus

  • Value steams have their own metrics – there are no stage gates and the PMO will need to understand how progress can be checked. The PMO will also be instrumental in sharing those metrics with senior executives and providing insights:
    • We looked at flow velocity; flow time; flow efficiency; flow load and flow distribution.
  • The PMO will also have a role in supporting the whole process in terms of monitoring the process; release planning; the portfolio management aspects; and the customer focus.
  • From a budgeting point of view, the PMO will need to understand how the organisation is, in effect, funding a production line. There is no project-level funding and that’s a real change for the organisation so they’ll be needing support.
  • There’s the whole field of continuous improvement that the PMO can be supporting – we can, of course, learn a lot for the continuous improvement of the PMO.


Credit: Xpirit

  • There is the all-important reporting aspects to DevOps too – what is it the stakeholders want to see in the reporting? How often?
  • Change readiness – is the PMO supporting the organisation in knowing that they’re ready for change? Who helps with the assessments? And the actions that need taking?
  • The Lean business case – how does it differ? Are we able to offer support for those completing the business cases?
  • And what about the pre-work that needs to happen – the PMO can provide a supporting role in innovation and certainly in scoping and sizing.


What the PMO Flashmobbers Thought About?

  • How prevalent is DevOps? Anybody here uses it?
    • Thinking about using it? IT use it – we (business change) don’t. But we need to work in harmony with IT & DevOps 🙂
    • Seen it attempted in a few organisations but not yet seen it done very well anywhere
    • So many software companies will use DevOps approach
  • Is it new? Is it not just a formalised workflow system for dynamically prioritised small changes?
    • Like many ‘new’ methodologies there’s usually a lot more to the implementation and performance tuning than people think.
    • The concept of a project is dissolved into incremental units of change, larger changes are co-ordinated delivery of batches of related changes.

It kind of requires more of an agile Product mindset to better understand DevOps

  • Age and size of the company and ‘tech debt’ are big factors. Start from scratch with everything in Azure cloud, where everything is built ‘cloud-native’, then it is easy for teams to be DevOps. When you have an organisation that separates the development from operations (projects vs ITIL) and you have separate code teams and infrastructure teams, then DevOps is hard to achieve.
  • A useful book – The DevOps Handbook
  • Also check out these books – all very useful for understanding the transition towards a DevOps approach from classic large waterfall project approach – The Phoenix Project and The Unicorn Project
  • With the focus being on the end customer it’s about delivering what the customer values by them investing their cash into the product.

PMO is best to be able to help DevOps teams focus on continuous improvement and sharing of observed best practices from other product lines.

  • The PMO can also help support the development of the ‘business case criteria’ for prioritising changes.
  • I think the starting point of DevOps from a PMO point of view is to gather the relevant key stakeholders to understand the implications that a DevOps model will incur.
  • At the team level, the focus could be on helping them establish the right processes, navigate business processes that block/impede processes and pull together metrics and KPIs that enable effective decision making. Regarding planning and prioritizing value streams, then there is a role to drive the prioritization process and work with finance / other business units to agree on finance/budgets.
  • Getting one product pipeline in place and functional becomes an iterative emergent design in the early stages – once it’s running then it can be replicated.
  • Standardisation of practise and sharing of best practice and performance tuning would be what I’d look to be doing.
  • I’d also be tempted to get involved in the innovation side of things where the ideas will come from.

Really inspiring session!

More About Jon

Programme Director for a number of International Strategic Change and Regulatory Programmes. Including Agile organisational change $100 million, Agile IT Transformation, New Product Development $28 million, Project Audit and recovery activities. Certified Scrum Master with experience of TDD, BDD, CI, and Agile Transformation with SAFe and Disciplined Agile. Certified PMO Value Ring consultant.

As head of change delivered a portfolio of $68million established portfolio and governance processes reducing costs by 10% in six months. Established an Agile PMO, set up and ran a PMO as part of a £10million ring-fence activity, delivered a number of regulatory programmes.

Jon also teaches the popular Lean-Agile PMO course for PMO Learning

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About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay is the founder of PMO Flashmob and a Director at PMO Learning - the sister company to PMO Flashmob and the best training company for PMO people in the world! She's also the creator of London's first dedicated PMO Conference; Director of Arras People and PMO enthusiast. Loves dogs and gin.

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