PMO Agile Governance

Back in June I went along to an event hosted by p3m global to talk about the latest PMO Conference (ended up making a webinar about that here). The evening was all about PMO – specifically about Agile PMO. Before the main evening event we had a roundtable discussion about Agile PMO too (more about the outcomes of that later in the post).

The main speaker for the evening was Chris Davies from DSDM Consortium and he was talking about a subject that I know many people within the PMO are interested in – what services or support does the PMO provide for their organisation’s Agile projects? And specifically what needs to happen with governance?

First of all, let’s just remind ourselves what governance actually means, I like a lot of Graham Oakes’ work and this is lifted from one of his many presentations on governance available via Slideshare:


OK so back to the session on Agile governance. I thought Chris did a good job of giving some highlights to think about if you’re finding that the PMO has to start getting involved with this stuff.

First off Chris talked about the framework in which Agile projects need to be governed. He is absolutely of the mind that Agile projects are not self-governing – that Agile projects can fail too without good governance. He talked about good governance being the opposite to document driven, autocratic, process heavy and subjective. That in Agile the motto is “Trust but Verify”.

So the framework includes eight principles to work to; includes just one governor role, that there are three checkpoints and that there is a virtual governance authority in existence:



The eight principles, listed below, are all areas which the PMO can provide support or services in order to ensure governance is in place for Agile projects in your organisation and ensure that there is a process, that decisions can be made, everyone knows who needs to make those decisions and then track those outcomes.


Eight-PrinciplesTaking a closer look at those principles, here’s what they all mean in an Agile and PMO context.

1. Appropriate Accountability

This is about ensuring that all areas of the business – those impacted by the project – are aware of the risks and hold some accountability for the outcome and how it affects their part of the business. This is the virtual governance authority – all those areas of the business should be aware and involved in decision-making. As depicted on the diagram below, is the PMO in the right place to become the “governor”? Isn’t it an obvious place to provide support to the wider organisation?

I must admit the word “governor” had me thinking of all kinds of East End gangsters but I’m sure that’s not the mental picture intended!


2. Resource projects adequately

It once again comes to an area that lots of PMOs struggle with – supporting the resource management capability and capacity for projects and Agile projects are no different. We still need to provide a service that focused on resource allocation, ensuring the right skills are available at the right time.

3. Scale the governance

There was a good quote here from Eric Marks, CEO of AgilePath Corporation, “That governance is best that governs best with least.”  Too much governance, process, documentation etc can hamper any project not just Agile ones but the premise of this principle was about self-scaling dependant on the project, governance that is event-driven too rather than a one size fits all. The PMO should take responsibility for setting up the Virtual Governance Authority (VGA) – choosing the right people to be a part of it. Chris also suggested that the VGA wouldn’t even have regular meetings but rather be event-driven as and when needed.


4. Ensure adequate contingency

Could the PMO provide support or give spot checks on whether Agile projects have adequate contingency in their plans? Does the Agile team need this kind of service or support to ensure time, cost, or features are covered in the contingency?

5. Planning throughout

The PMO can attend relevant stand ups, reviews and retrospectives to ensure that plans are sensible and “just enough” planning principles are being followed. Does this mean that the PMO has to have more experience and training in Agile processes and techniques in order to know that the plans are sensible – or should this be left to the “self-organising” teams with the PMO only verifying plans? It suggests to me that PMOs, at the very least, need to undergo some training here.

6. Transparency of process and progress

Which means different tools and techniques are used. Whether it’s a Kanban board or an online tool like Trello – the PMO potentially has a whole host of new tools and techniques to understand. It may even be a role of the PMO to source the right supporting tools for the team – removing blockers that hinder the team’s work. The PMO may also need to get creative in its support of Agile teams – especially if remote collaboration is needed. And what about the physical space – is it available and visible for stakeholders and customers? The PMO suddenly becomes the Facility Manager for the team too.

7. Outcome based reporting

Perhaps one of the biggest areas a PMO will be getting involved in – reporting. The difference here is we are focused on the value delivered – not the effort or activity. Essentially burndown charts will become something the PMO has a keen interest in (the work left to do is the “backlog” versus the time):


Chris said the PMO should report only facts – ideally from the tools that are controlling the work – popular ones are JIRA, UFT, QC and TFS which the PMO should have access to.

8. Review viability frequently


The other area mentioned in the initial framework are the three checkpoints.

Three Checkpoints

I think both slides below give a clear insight into where and how the PMO could support:

checkpoint one

checkpoint two

The Agile PMO

After the discussion at the roundtable earlier in the day, then listening to Chris give his talk on Agile Governance, it got me thinking about the possible areas the PMO has to investigate further if it is to support Agile projects within their organisation. I got scribbling and produced this:

Agile PMO Doodles

Agile PMO Doodles

I’m particularly interested in understanding the role of the PMO in these five areas – and has you can see there are a lot of avenues to explore in just these little doodles. Like anything, when you start to understand the basics – it begs the next question – how do you do some of this stuff?

If anyone out there can call themselves an Agilist PMO Practitioner (not my words) we’d love to hear from you because I have a sneaky suspicion that there are quite a few PMO practitioners that would like to pick your brain.



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.

One comment

  1. Thanks for the interesting post. I don’t have any good answers but my experience working with PMOs has seen a lot of problems in the areas you mention, particularly Governance and Support. Often the PMO is seen as a source of problems rather than a proactive facilitator …

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