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Agile Project Management: the Agile PMO and Product Owner as the Key Roles

Agile Project Management vs Agile Software Development

When it comes to Agile Project Management, Project Managers are needed. In some Agile Software Development methods like Scrum, there isn’t a role called Project Manager. Others, like DSDM, include the Project Manager role. Agile Project Management requires freedom from command and control, so the Project Team is self-managed. But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t any Project Manager. On the contrary, when there isn’t a specific Agile Project Manager designated, the whole team performs the role of Project Managers. So, each of the team members need to have knowledge on Agile Project Management methods.

The Agile Coach in Agile Project Management

For helping them to learn the Agile Project Management methods, an Agile Coach is needed; in case of using Scrum, they call him the Scrum Master. The Agile PMO drives the learning process of the Agile methods along the organization. Depending on the project, the Agile Coach can be a member of the team or a member of the Agile PMO.

The Product Owner (or Agile Project Director) in Agile Project Management

As the Project Team is self-managed, now all the members are Project Managers. But there is a need for business direction. This is the role of the Product Owner. The Business Ambassador/Product Owner is the critical role in Agile methods because he is the Project Director (PD).

Agile Projects vs Waterfall Projects

Both Agile projects and traditional projects require a Project Plan, but in an Agile it will be less detailed and therefore more agility in the planning phase. In a traditional waterfall project, from the start of the project, there is a Gantt Chart with detailed activities and project deliverables. In an Agile project, there is a Product Backlog with the deliverable requirements, which is receiving new requirements throughout the project. That’s the reason why a Project Director as an Agile Ambassador/Product Owner is required. He is the person responsible for managing this Product Backlog and ensuring the business value of the work that the Agile Team performs. The Product Owner maintains business communication, the continual gathering of new business requirements, and publication of the Product Backlog with the next Project Team work visible for everyone. This way, everyone knows what will be the new features delivered on the product.

Potentially Shippable Products in Agile Project Management

Agile is based on potentially shippable product increments. It is the responsibility of the Product Owner to define these Potentially Shippable Products (PSP) that will be included in the Product Backlog and establish their priorities for the Agile Project Team. Then, both will establish the stated set of features that will probably form the release (sprint) as the Minimum Marketable Feature (MMF) and the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). As you can see again, the whole Agile Project Team has the role of Project Managers (making project decisions), and the Product Owner is the Project Director of the Agile Project.

The Agile PMO in Agile Project Management

The Agile PMO is the orchestrator for making all this happen! The Agile PMO needs to drive the Agile methods in the organization. A company usually is not a democracy. Outside the Agile Project Team walls, there is a command and control organization. Therefore, there is a need of accurate project reporting using traditional management methods (project charter, business case, project baselines, budget performance, etc.). The Agile PMO makes possible both worlds. The Project Team and Product Owner can focus on delivering business value when at the same time the company gets the best value for their investments. An Agile PMO needs to have the ownership of the Project Portfolio and Project Programmes and reports to the Managing Director. The Agile PMO directs all the Projects in the company so that all they make all sense to the business strategy. The Agile PMO works very closely with the Product Owners to help them perform their Project Director role for their assigned project and the Project Team in their Project Managers role.

So in conclusion, as you can see, the Agile PMO is not only an Agile Coach/Scrum Master for helping in methodology issues, but moreover it is overall Chief Project Director of the organization.