April 10, 2018

PMO as change agent!

Category: Agile, Management, PMO, Program Management, Project Management — David @ 5:44 pm

Agile PMO as Change Agent

I wonder what the challenges of PMO and (Agile) change management are! Some of our experienced PMO leaders think that one failure of (Agile) change management is to couple scrum master and project managers responsibilities into one role! Most of practitioners confess this as a major challenge of Agile transformation in organizations. A project manager is usually responsible for all aspects of the project; planning, scope, schedules, staffing, budget, etc. At the extreme end some project managers are even responsible for Profit and Loss (P&L)! Scrum master is a tactical (coaching) role to increase value creation of the team while training them to become a unit that creates value streams. Scrum master is a servant leader who leads by example. On the other hand, a product owner become the product’s visionary (for goal setting), with some responsibilities of a product manager.

With almost the same catch-all, the responsibilities of a program manager (in some instances) are blurred! In most enterprises project managers climb the ladder of their career, being promoted within their department. They are then asked to handle other aspects of their function, and hence are called program managers!

Agile on the other hand is the mindset, it is a way of doing things, it is not a process or set rules to do things. Agile is not bound to a given process or set of activities, rather it is a way of life! We learn if and when we do something; learn from our failure and use the lessons-learned on our next approach, and this has been how human grows old.

The PMO on the other hand has to decide and propagate the direction of programs. Some (of our) practice indicates that in certain organizations senior (and executive) mangers have high level view of how events go through their organization, while each of sub-mangers know how to handle their responsibilities in their area. Then they (the sub-managers) too, do not know how (exactly) matters move through the company! Hence the PMO shall come up with the philosophy, tools and directions to direct PMs to execute their assignments using ways that they succeed. Dysfunctions apart, the role of a PM is to be “in charge” of the (success of) project; planning, staffing, budgeting, tasks, etc. The scope of “in charge” in many cases does not include P&L, or the business success (or leadership). PMO, even though a bit clouded, is the overall owner of successful processes, tools, metrics, guidance, and practices of projects in different area and expertise. These obligations enforces PMO members to utilize any framework that leads to success. Consequently PMO members in general define how PMO (at least in a given organization) is reputed. From enterprise level - with many concurrent projects of various technical and business nature, PMO members define and lead organizational value creation processes, thus we shall incorporate re-usability and scalability of “lean Agile mindset” and promote it as a cultural change towards triumph.

Upward and Forward,
David Bakhtnia

September 5, 2017

PMO, Personality Types, Strategic/Tactical Agile; an Active Dialogue

Silicon Valley is the hub of innovative technologies and ideas to push boundaries. From novel technological advancement to collaborative production, San Francisco Bay Area incubates the forward-pushing human desires time-and-again!

I attend many professional gatherings and meet ups to meet and learn from experienced technical professionals whenever I have a chance. One of these small but highly thought-provoking is the PMO meetings of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter. Below are just a few points of interest among attendees of past couple of months:

- Based on Enneagram institute, considering nine (9) basic personality type people do not change from one basic personality type to another, even though not every description of the basic type applies to a person all the time. However, people do not accept or reject a behavioral model in its totality. Personality Types

- Agile way of accomplishing tasks is both strategic and tactical. From the planning of a software development lifecycle (strategic) to the alignment of cross functional team interacting to accomplish a set of tasks (tactical), Agile thinking and doing elevates both policies as well as methods. Applying Agile principles in our fast growing organizations is a testament of using the Agile models in both strategic planning as well tactical operations.

- Business Analysts analyze needs and define requirements (based on business needs). This set of activities help functional managers to align their (portfolio) needs. Project managers and scrum masters follow planned activities to motivate project team to execute and iteratively adapt to better creation of tools to overcome needs.

- Most hybrid method (with respect to PMOs) has been successful in many cases, especially when the C-level executives support them. This also may depend on the organizational structure (i.e. CIO & PMO inter-relations, etc.)

- The question is how to incorporate Agile into PMO? One may think that the PMO is whatever executives decide and dictate to execute! So their function is to respond to upper management needs.

Your comments and thoughts can help to better support our PMO community.

May 7, 2017

PMO Topics with Active Dialogue

Category: Agile, Management, PMO, Program Management, Project Management — David @ 2:58 pm

Last month we had another active dialogue concerning persistent (or otherwise urgent) issues with our projects and programs leads to best practices after a knowledge sharing conversation.

Below is a highlight of items we discussed at our April PMO meeting of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter. Contributors are senior expert matters sharing their best practices regarding (technical/functional/business) PMO and Program Management issues and success stories.

  • Understanding Agile processes as a guideline, and optimizing the golden triangle (of Scope, Schedule, and Cost) of project management to optimize outcome as value-add to our organization.
  • How PMO can add value to smaller organization where C-Suite and managers are working shoulder to shoulder?
  • Engage upper management to buy their influence, especially in a scrum (creating product backlog, backlog building/grooming, etc.) if possible. Create engagement and visibility.
  • Once executives are present and engaged, the processes would increase conversion factors = trust.
  • Concentrate on the results than methodology of doing how; action builds trust, that builds value-add.
  • Remember that in Agile method everyone shall see the process and org. based collaboration and creates value.
  • Involving C-level at project/program level makes that project/program a strategic value-add.
April 9, 2017

Knowledge Sharing Among PMO Members

Category: Agile, Management, PMO, Program Management, Project Management — David @ 2:38 pm

Dynamic discussion regarding PMO and pressing issues leads to practical knowledge sharing.

Below is a short snippet of items discussed at our past PMO meeting of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter where participants shared their views and experience regarding PMO and (technical/functional/business) Program Management issues and success stories.

  • PMO contribution to executive committee consists of strategic setting of capital/budget of programs, programs benefit definition, and mobilization plan and report (to upper management) REF1. PMO also shall plan/conduct rescue plans (for various scenarios) REF2.
  • PMO deals with business cases much more (and in higher level) than they oversee the requirements.
  • PMOs provide check list of healthy metrics, hidden problem corners, while they do not have ownership, they keep track of the health of projects and programs with guideline to move from “range” to “green” health lines. Online search of these issues would lead to hundreds of useful resources.
  • What brings people to PMO meetings? We talk about different projects/programs and their health.
  • PMO acts as a diplomat in real life, especially with respect to customer-facing programs.
  • PMOs do not have a fixed ID in different organizations (consult PMO member of i.e. PG&E, Kaiser, Salesforce and cross-reference their input!)
  • PMOs are more fit to waterfall method than Agile, as for instance, there is no start-end in scrum setting! However, one may argue that PMO can help to streamline other Agile driven methods (like Kanban or Lean Manufacturing).

REF1: More on this can be found on IBM’s developer Works

REF2: More on rescue plans of PMO are available on Top-10 PMO Tips and other resources such as “Business Driven PMO Setup” and “Rescuing the Problem Project

January 22, 2017

PMO Thoughts & Experiences (1)

Category: Agile, Management, PMO, Program Management, Project Management — David @ 2:41 pm

Following is a blog made from Discussion Topics of 01/11/2017 PMO meeting

PMO thoughts an dexperiences - 1
I attended PMO breakfast meeting of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter where participants shared their views and experience regarding PMO and (technical/functional/business) Program Management issues and success stories. Below are bulleted items of a few points made by attendees. I appreciate suggestions and comments by viewers to further enrich PMO topics.

  • How to create/promote PMO from the grass root? How to create it from foundation in any organization?
  • - Recently many have perceived the significance of project management principles. Apparently most team players realize that some projects are falling through cracks as the number of projects become overwhelming while well-equipped PMs stretched in schedule, cost, or scope of their endeavors!

  • How to change project management culture in a matrix organization?
    - The iron triangle (cost/time/scope) works fine, yet what about resource availability? Doing projects without qualified resources leads to disasters! The (main) success of the “iron triangle“ is to “focus” on for instance, one leg and accept proceeding of other legs! As an example, on January breakfast meeting of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter in Mountain View one member commented on the lack of qualified developers, causing lag of time/schedule/scope!
    - Another option is to create a manpower schedule and get management approval.
    - Support of leadership in necessary to a successful PMO & PMs in general.
    - For every successful project, there are 3-4 failures! How to change this trend is another task of PMO.
    - Another factor is being consistent in processes and follow-throughs.
    - Also, getting people to engage and participate requires “repeated” efforts! Especially when we are required to change course (change management!)
  • In small-to-Mid size organizations need-to-have PMO starts somewhat late, or only when the needs grow to necessity!
    - This may not be true when comparing to military units as their projects are usually well defined.
    - How about promoting PMO as cultural change-agent on the organization (to properly manage projects)? As in some establishments, mid-level managers resist implementation of proper Project Management processes (waterfall or agile) as deterrent to their established positions!
  • It’s suggested trying the PMO handbook (by PMI) as guideline, or at least as a reference point helps in many occasions.
    - The standards then can be expanded based on organizational needs and culture.
    - Following the standards (and building on top of it) is helpful base point regardless of PMO, Agile (Scrum, Kanban, etc.) or hybrid PM methodologies.
    - Creating a (color-coded) chart (of KPIs and metrics) as percentage of progress sharing with the team would help to streamline efforts. This (heat map) can also help in determining budget or resource allocation/shortage to communicate with upper management. This shows data and allows smart decision making and proper change (management).

Your comments and thoughts can help us all to better support our PMs.

May 12, 2016

How PMO can help SMB to streamline their operation?

Category: Management, Technologies — David @ 1:09 pm

What are the basic building blocks of PMO that could help small businesses to grow in the Internet era? I think the lack of appropriate fund, clear objectives, basics of applicable Project/Program Management (PM), as well as the absence of knowledge-matter expert/coach, or even missing support from senior management/owners add to the distancing of PMO and SMB! I think timely analysis of pain factors, formulating realistic plans, creating compelling tasks, implementing measurable solutions, reviewing and improving success factors, documenting lessons learned and retrospectives, simplifying complexities, and devising reusable procedures will go a long way ahead.

Some (PMO) are strong drivers, like Steve Jobs and Elan Mask as technical drivers who push for design and functionalities while leading to the next vision of products and market place. But I wonder how PMO would fit into this picture where a single-or-two personalities drive! And then, how PMO can have any affect in this environment? Now the question is if senior executives have any belief to support PMO in their organization! PMO is doomed to fail if executive sponsors do not trust and enforce their functionalities. This is the same with “Agile” method of doing business- the method will not succeed if executive-agilest(s) not on-board! PMO may work better in a centralized or governmental structure. How about in a smaller structure like an IT consulting/engineering practice, an automotive servicing firm, or a mid-size pharmaceutical business?

Even though (I think) PM is a strong driver of innovation, organization, and fast delivery of clean products, it is fair to say that a few Small/Medium Business (SMB) owners may perceive a project manager as an expensive cost or even a sort of road blocking factor (a bureaucrat!)

I think any business regardless of their size needs to apply improved practices into their business procedures.  Lean Process and a strategy of continuous improvement will play an important role at the center of business activities (as well as change management and business transformation). Having a single point of contact and focal-point for all projects will ensure effective prioritization and coordination during projects lifecycle, as well as improving internal communications.

PMO and project governance is not just for IT departments and high tech industries (with urgency and needs for prioritization of tasks)! Greater visibility of projects across the organization will help to avoid duplication, to enhance communications, internal awareness of the quality work in a timely manner and within their projected cost scheme.

Any small business owner craves to add discipline and structure to their operation and embrace end-result (increase Profits & control Loss). Any relevant process that can be applied to business processes to increase quality of products/services, contain and learn from associated risks, bring excellence to operations, devise consistent use of resources, employ the best use of computing technology, and plan process monitoring scheme in order to increase profit and organizational size organically. And these all can be effortlessly modeled using quantifiable results applicable to many projects within the organization.

Keeping these in mind, I am in the process of creating a small PMO to one of my small business clients where we are creating and practicing processes and documenting know-hows as we are planning for rapid business growth. I am using Agile (Kanban) method of performing tasks with built-in quality, reduced cost, and increased productivity engineered into our plan.

I will report our progress in some detail in my later blogs. Please stay tuned!