Top Tips for PMOs Working with Agile

AgilePMOAt the end of February, Ticketmaster International hosted the latest PMO Mini-Masterclass on Agile PMO in Practice. With 40 PMO practitioners in the bar (yes they have a bar!), the evening kicked off with John McIntyre, Head of PMO at Ticketmaster organising and running the event in an Agile way. If you want to see the whole session, take a look at how you can do that here.

First part of the evening - the agenda sprint

First part of the evening – the agenda sprint

As each PMO Flashmobber arrived, they were asked what they wanted to get out of the event – creating a product backlog – which drove the agenda for the evening.

With the first half of the evening the PMO Flashmobbers wanted to understand more about the concepts of Agile and how they manifest themselves in a real example. They learnt about self-organising teams, sprints, interations, retrospectives and burn down charts.

In the second part of the evening – Sprint Two, the session was all about the “PMO supporting Agile”.

So what top tips did John share during this part of the evening? What does the PMO actually do when it is supporting Agile projects?

1. The PMO has a role to play in helping and removing blockers that hinder self-organising teams

“One of our big challenges is going to be that, the whole idea of self-organizing, cross functional teams rest on the assumption that we have amazing talent and an environment that supports Agile working. And the harsh reality is that often we don’t. It could be our teams struggle to self organise. It could be that our teams are geographically dispersed, it could be that our finance systems simply don’t align with Agile. Sometimes the problems are around the technology. Maybe we have complex dependencies, maybe the release management process is convoluted. In all of these cases, the PMO plays a vital role in removing blockers, building communication and creating an Agile culture. Where the PMO are the glue that hold it all together in conventional project organisations – the same is true in an Agile organisation.


2. Don’t get into calling it Wagile or SCRUMbut

It sounds like we’re apologising for using different methods, like it is a bad thing, but it’s not! There’s nothing wrong with mixing methods together and choosing the right way forward. We just need to be careful to keep an eye on things and where we choose to draw the line. You can use Agile within a controlled environment, especially the DSDM way.

3. Agile can be about getting rid of process waste

Yet the PMO has to be sure that what they’re getting rid of is for the right reasons not just because it’s fashionable to do so. You’ll only get of rid of some processes because there is something there to replace it.

4. Agile teams can’t do this alone

The business has to work in an Agile way too. The finance team has to understand how they are working too, especially when it comes to changes in delivering by iterations.

5. Don’t use Agile for the first time with a big bang

Don’t use it for the first time on an important project! Look for the teams who already work in an incremental way. Get coaching and development for them. Ensure a training and coaching scheme is in place – not just for IT, but for the sponsors and the business. The IT team cannot be Agile in isolation. Start small, get the process right, get them self-organising, get the business closer. Everyone has to be up for it.

6. Make sure they have the right tools for the job

Whilst Jira is fantastic, simple free tools like Trello can also work well. If they are not co-located then messaging and video conferencing from desk are also important. Help them work with facilities to get physical scrum boards up on walls to increase visibility.

7. Help them develop standards

A clear definition of ‘Done’ is important and examples of ‘good’ User Stories that can be used for modelling. Whatever is blocking the team, help them, keep the team moving.

8. Facilitate retrospectives

They will benefit from having an outside facilitator and you will benefit from the insight into how they are getting on.

9. Model some of the Agile techniques in your PMO

Hold regular PMO Retros; run daily standups etc. etc. If your PMO are running Agile, you will be better positioned to support and coach those around you.

10. The PMO is still needed!

There are still many blockers that can stop Agile teams from working well, the PMO gets involved. There are still dependencies across Agile projects, these are still highlighted and supported by PMO. There is still a upfront process – before the project becomes a project – that needs prioritisation for example.

There is still a need for RAG status reports. Each Agile project has a weekly report – the burndown charts. The PMO also has the dashboard – reporting on the finances, when they’re going to capitalise on things. Burndowns against capacity models that Project Managers have committed to. Forcasted delivery also still needs communicating out to the right people.

Coaching and training is also a big PMO job. It’s not about telling them what to do – more getting them to understand how they are going to work together and how they’re going to make that happen.

The PMO at Ticketmaster is all about reducing the blockers, keeping the energy up, helping the Agile teams to self-organise, they even run a Kaizen improvement scheme for the organisation too.

If you couldn’t make the event and you’d like to view the full Mini-Masterclass, take a look here. There’s a cost involved, but that’s to help support us with other future events like this too.

Massive thanks to John and the Ticketmaster PMO team for sharing their insights.

Want to watch the full session? Take a look at PMO Mini-Masterclasses revisited here

Agile PMO Sprints

Agile PMO Sprints

PMO Flashmobbers working in self-selecting teams

PMO Flashmobbers working in self-selecting teams

PMO Retrospectives

PMO Retrospectives

John McIntyre, Head of PMO at Ticketmaster

John McIntyre, Head of PMO at Ticketmaster

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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