The Agile PMO: Leading the Effective, Value Driven, Project Management Office



By Michael A Nir

Massachusetts, USA



This article depicts the best practice approach for integrating Agile approaches and specifically Scrum development with traditional overarching linear approaches, specifically waterfall methodology. The Agile PMO, properly defined, can be positioned to secure Agile-Scrum benefits while maintaining the necessary overarching control.

The challenge

Over the last two decades, various Agile approaches have been introduced and practiced. Of these, in the last 5 to 7 years, Scrum has gained the most popularity resulting from a combination of simplicity, ease of use, and effective public relations. Scrum success in software development organizations has been a powerful driver for roll outs across products, industries and businesses. It was exacerbated by focused marketing efforts on part of Scrum evangelists. Unfortunately, most of these organizations were not structured in a way that supports Agile-Scrum. Even more so, scrum in its raw and pure form is not suitable for some organizations.

The concepts which are presented and embodied in Agile-Scrum are too good to be ignored; however implementing it outside pure software development requires adaptation.

Complex scenarios for Agile

The main hurdle in achieving the benefits of Agile- Scrum outside software development is integrating it with existing top down control mechanisms. These control mechanisms are stipulated by various organizational prerequisites and are normally actualized implementing Linear Waterfall methods. Four of these typical organizational prerequisites are depicted below:

  • Big global corporates – in these hierarchical matrix organizations, top down portfolio control is the rule of the day. The free spirited agile approach has a tough time adjusting to the rigorous controls. Specifically the inherent Agile plan-free concepts, make Agile-Scrum difficult for the organization to swallow.
  • Highly regulated industries – some industries are required by compliance and governance bodies to have a strict binding control mechanism. These can be for example medical equipment, aircraft, and pharmaceuticals research and product development business units. While individual teams might operate Agile-Scrum, the development process must follow rigid Linear Waterfall methods for traceability and governance.
  • Complex predefined products –integrated products which include hardware, software, are developed as a contract with an end customer based on predefined requirements. In these cases the degree of requirement flexibility is small, though larger than what is anticipated initially. Agile-Scrum concept of a fully flexible backlog suffers considerably in these cases.
  • Generic IT departments – much of the daily and weekly activities in maintenance driven IT departments is ad hoc. Changes to the daily schedules are numerous and immediate. Constant interferences with the team work are the norm. The concept of time boxing and no interference is difficult to maintain in these situations.

Often the four discrete categories detailed above, mix; so it is common to find a complex product in a global big corporate which is required to comply with firm regulation.

Based on practical experience, the recommended approach to manage these scenarios is by structuring and empowering the Agile PMO; it acts as an enabler, driver and translator between the emerging Agile-Scrum teams and the Linear Waterfall elements.

Refer to the table below for specific guidelines.


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 2nd annual University of Maryland Project Management Symposium in College Park, Maryland, USA in June 2015. It is republished here with the permission of the authors and conference organizers.


About the Author

pmwj37-Aug2015-Nir-PHOTOMichael Nir

Boston, MA, USA



Michael Nir
, President of Sapir Consulting US LLC – PMP, Scaled Agile Consultant, has been helping clients overcome business challenges and achieve their potential for over 16 years. He is passionate about Gestalt theory and practice, which complements his civil and industrial engineering background (M.Sc. and B.Sc.) and contributes to his understanding of individual and team dynamics in business. Michael authored bestsellers on Influencing, Agile, Teams, and Leadership. His experience includes significant know-how in the telecoms, hi-tech, banking, R&D environments and petrochemical & infrastructure industries. He develops creative and innovative solutions in Agile project and product management, process improvement, leadership, and team building.

Michael’s professional background is analytical and technical; however, he has a keen interest in human interactions and behaviors. He holds two engineering degrees from the prestigious Technion Institute of Technology: a Bachelor of civil engineering and Masters of Industrial engineering. He has balanced his technical side with the extensive study and practice of Gestalt Therapy and “Instrumental Enrichment,” a philosophy of mediated learning. In his consulting and training engagements, Michael combines both the analytical and technical world with his focus on people, delivering unique and meaningful solutions, and addressing whole systems.

Michael can be contacted at [email protected]