Enterprises are recognising a growing need to improve overall agility and responsiveness to customer needs, leading to a mix of approaches in scaling Agile. Going Agile requires a degree of Agile maturity, and reasonable Agile experience at the team level. By the end of the article, you’ll be able to see how change governance to Agile governance may just be the solution for you.

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development jointly proclaimed they valued:

  • Individuals and Interactions over processes and tools,
  • Working Software over comprehensive documentation,
  • Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation, and
  • Responding to Change over following a plan.

That is, whilst there is value in the items on the right, they value the items on the left more.

A typical PMO’s Governance activities would focus on facilitation of processes / tools, ensuring documentation is being completed, contract requirements are being met, and ensuring that the plan has been followed (i.e. all the things on the right).

In a recent conversation with a client, we heard that they had ‘discharged’ their PMOs as part of their ‘Agile’ journey; citing that they did this because ‘there are no PMOs in Agile’.

Now, adopting an Agile delivery model is one thing, but to then drop the ball on GOOD governance is another. Whilst the premise of a PMO may not be a part of the original Agile Manifesto, it certainly does not replace the need for good governance.

The result of ‘discharging their PMOs’ has been an eye opener for them; as they’ve lost the ability to govern their Projects adequately. This has caused confusion, lack of visibility, resource contention, duplication of effort and severe impacts to their schedules. Delivery teams are distracted as they are now forced to pick up many of the traditional responsibilities of a PMO, such as management reporting, resource management and processing invoices. However, this is often disregarded, and Project Managers become more and more overworked.

A traditional PMO may not have a place in an ‘Agile Delivery’ environment, but there is certainly a need for some structure, rigor, governance and support.

Agile Governance Approaches

There are several governance approaches that support an Agile development model, however, if the level of Agile maturity is low, adoption of these processes can be haphazard. This leads to challenges as benefits and prioritisation processes become less clear. It can be difficult to go “all in” with Agile (e.g. due to vendors and/or internal culture that requires time to shift to a more Agile mindset), but PMOs can provide governance across both Agile and waterfall programs at the same time. Interdependencies between projects/programmes of different types can be managed through arranging regular “synchronisation” between the two.

The PMO can continue to perform traditional activities (investment funding, program oversight, reporting) but doing so in an Agile manner – key Agile mechanisms that can be used to perform these functions include lightweight business cases, Agile estimating and planning techniques, decentralized decision making, and objective, fact-based measures and milestones.

Agile Good Governance Challenges

Through my experience across Waterfall and Agile environments, and across organisations that have created a hybrid model, I’ve identified several gaps and missed opportunities for good governance. Moving away from a traditional delivery model to a more Agile model does NOT replace the need for good governance. Without good governance, a number of issues like those mentioned earlier can and will arise.

  • Significant changes may be needed to existing delivery governance and toll gate processes,
  • Scaling to the Portfolio levels can make it difficult to provide an overall coherent overview for the whole system, and
  • The cookie cutter approach will only get you so far; determining the next steps post-Agile requires context and forward thinking.

Where Agile and non-worlds collide, quality issues will arise. These issues if not resolved quickly, and actions in place to prevent them from reoccurring, can cause a lot of angst and frustration.

Lack of Good Governance results in:

  • Waste from rework,
  • Re-developing material, processes and tools repetitively,
  • Re-initiating with often same stakeholders again and again, and
  • Doing many of the same things or new things, either way disrupting the flow.

What Does Good Governance Look Like?

Providing good governance is an integral part of any Project or Program, as governance done well is an enabler. Likewise, if governance is to be an enabler of agility, it should never become a burden in the day-to-day operations of a Project or Program. Agile Management Office’s – AMO Method delivers non-burdensome and consistent ways to collect data across the organization, in a collaborative way. Doing so by ensuring active participation and integration across the value chain.

As an example, a traditional PMO model will see PMs feed pre-defined reports into the PMO who will then collate for management reporting. These reports are often at a point-in-time and are easily manipulated to ensure a green status. In an Agile environment, the AMO (Agile PMO) are used as the conduit between Projects and Governance teams. They embed themselves into a normal Project’s day-to-day operations (i.e. retrospectives, iteration planning workshops, etc.), and ask the RIGHT questions that support the creation of these reports. Ultimately, these types of reports are completed by the AMO, and allow the PM more time to focus their energy into managing delivery.

Furthermore, where there are Agile-based tools to support delivery (i.e. JIRA / Confluence, etc.), we Upskill AMO teams in these tools; enabling them access to real-time information, rather than requesting that data be exported to, and manipulated within PowerPoint / Excel templates for the sake of alignment to a reporting pack. We therefore avoid duplication of effort, and again free the project teams to continue with development.

We avoid placing square pegs in round holes, by working collaboratively with the PM community and not enforcing processes that may be seen as unnecessary overheads:

The AMO Method was in part developed to provide good governance, and with its unique approach, it helps solve for many of the current gaps in an Agile delivery environment. The AMO Method supports Agile delivery through flexibility and adaptability in application, whilst ensuring good governance requirements are met or exceeded. There are several significant benefits that come with good governance, but not having good governance can lead to significantly more consequences.  An AMO acts as the integrator from organisational strategy through to operations, whilst ensuring alignment across delivery and governance teams.

Governance as an Afterthought

Governance is often an after-thought. Often, a PMO is brought in or set up, only not empowered to deliver good governance, the way a Program Director/ Project Manager is supported to deliver the Project or Program. In many organisations, stakeholders do not see the need or benefits of governance of projects or programs. This may because they’ve experienced the rigidity of the traditional governance waterfall model which inhibits adaptability and flexibility. The importance of getting it right the first time is lost in complexity of processes and procedures.

PMOs are there to provide governance and support, although despite how well a PMO may run, it’s the first to be cut when budgets are tight. PMOs are often the single most efficient way of ensuring good governance across a Portfolio or Program, although what many fail to realise is that a good governance model should incorporate more than just the Projects and Programs that are being supported, it needs to focus across the value chain.

So, what does your Governance Model look like, is it effective? Are stakeholders on board? Are their gaps and missed opportunities?

Listen to our podcast episode on Agile governance and what it even means to learn more!

You can also check out our workshop on Agile in the PMO to upskill your teams.