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15 Nov 2015

How PMOs can use Agile

by Melanie Franklin

The concept of IT project management is being challenged by agile development methods. I know I have written about this before but a meeting with another PMO this week highlighted the issue.

PM is dead – long live the PM

I believe the fundamental problem is that scrum (an agile approach to developing new products and services, most commonly used in software development) does not recognise the role of Project Manager.

Instead there is a role called Product Owner which as the name suggests takes responsibility for the creation and on-going development of a product. This role represents the views of the users and those most affected by the product and takes responsibility for prioritising the requirements. As Product Owners are close to the business it is assumed they are the best decision makers for what needs to be done.

The challenge for Project Managers is to justify what they can add over and above the role of Product Owner.  By extension this also throws open the challenge to anyone in a PMO. The ‘Agile’ argument is that teams are self-organising and any management role adds an unnecessary level of bureaucracy.

Top 3 justifications for project management

I think the case for effective project management in an agile world includes:
1. Product Owners prioritise work based on the needs of the product but do not have the wider context to prioritise work based on an understanding of the strategic direction of the organisation.

2. Managing the development of a product fails to establish the work as a discrete effort that can be compared to other ideas to check for duplication of effort or identification of which initiatives create the most value for the organisation.

3. Product Owners do not report on progress to a wider stakeholder group so the development function can become isolated from the rest of the organisation.

AgilePM is the answer

The reason I like the AgilePM approach from DSDM Consortium is that it creates all the information needed to manage a project whilst enabling the development team to work in an agile way. It fully embraced the idea of work being done using a scrum approach without losing the important project management activities.


If you are a Project Manager or you work in a PMO it’s important to develop your understanding of agile methodologies. Armed with this knowledge you can be alert to the challenges and start to address them in your organisation.

Melanie Franklin
15th November 2015