#Agile PMO – A new hope #PMOT

On my most recent project, I have had the good fortune to be asked to help to lead the Project Management Office. (PMO) There had been multiple leads of the PMO before, but each one was not able to provide all the information that the senior stakeholders were asking for. Given my background in Agile, I was very interested in how I could create a PMO that was lean and focused on value as much as possible.

The Project

The project is an enterprise implementation of an SAP solution. All told, there are hundreds of sub-projects that are required. At any given time, there are 20-30 sub-projects that are executing at any one time.  It is a large, nasty, wicked matrix of sub-projects, requirements, and issues. Although I had done extensive Project Management and some Program Management, this was at a scale that I had less experience with. I did have three huge advantages though:

  1. Relationships – I had excellent relationships with the other teams and Project Managers in all of the different sub-projects. I also had previous relationships with the Chief Architect and Project Director.
  2. Trust – I had built up trust with the Stakeholders for the project. We had built up a relationship over the past year where we could have honest discussions on any aspect of the project.
  3. Experience – Although I had limited experience on leading a PMO for a project of this size, I did have the experience of seeing what the previous PMOs lacked. This gave me a head start of what I felt we needed to ensure this PMO delivered. Of course, we would need to validate this with the stakeholders.

My Approach

I knew I wanted to implement an Agile PMO, but what exactly does an Agile PMO look like? I needed to do some research…

Luckily I found the a book titled “The Agile PMO” by Michael Nir. This book was an epiphany. It provided grounding and affirmation on what I felt an Agile PMO should be. The book also provided clarity in the ways that PMOs can go astray. In particular, Michael Nir described the three typical types of PMOs mistakes:

  1. Tactical PMO – The Tactical PMO is created in response to the enterprise’s need for consolidated visibility on the all the disjointed projects that are currently executing. Sadly, there is usually isn’t analysis or planning on what value the PMO should provide other than providing consolidated information.
  2. Methodology PMO – The Methodology PMO is created to provide templates and standards in the hope that everyone executing projects using these standards will result in more predictability and visibility. Closely related to the Methodology PMO, is the Tool PMO where the adoption of standard tools is seen as the solution to being able to provide more predictability and visibility.
  3. Project Manager home PMO – The Project Manager home PMO is a PMO that gets created as a Career Centre for the corporations Project Managers in the hope that using standard Project Management will provide value to the corporation.

After I read these three types of PMO mistakes, I immediately recognized all the PMOs I had seen gone astray in the past. Sadly, I think most of my own previous PMO efforts were variations of the Methodology PMO. I felt shame.

Michael Nir then succinctly described the solution – the Value PMO.

Michael’s definition of a value PMO was :

“A PMO creates value through assisting the organization decide where to invest its resources for the optimal return on investments. Tools, methodology, techniques, processes are all nice to have, however they do not constitute an objective in themselves.”

awesome. We now had a vision.


Now that we had a vision, it seemed clear to me that we needed to confirm our PMO vision in three areas and gain agreement from stakeholders:

1) Confirm the Objectives that the PMO would have with the Project Stakeholders

2) Confirm the Value that these Objectives would deliver with the Project Stakeholders

3) Confirm the Service that the PMO would provide to the sub-projects themselves.

For points 1 and 2, the following matrix was developed and validated as being correct for the Project Stakeholders:

Objective Value
1) Validate planning standards across the program Minimize the probability and magnitude of changes required to the amount of project work by confirming that the project scope is understood.
2) Create a program level schedule for key development, testing, and implementation milestones – at the project and feature level Allow Stakeholder visibility on the plan so that we can ensure people are working the most important items. Also allows for Stakeholders to have a line-of-sight so that decisions can be made if the schedule is not acceptable. These decisions can be priority calls, people assignment, or scope inclusion/exclusion.
3) Assist projects in getting assistance with issues Help to resolve project issues asap and minimize the effect these issues have on the project and program
4) Assist projects in creating and executing mitigation plans for identified project risks Reduces the project risks and the effect these risks will have on the project and program
5) Provide consolidated reporting Allow Stakeholder visibility on the execution so that we can ensure people are working the most important items. Also allows for Stakeholders to have a line-of-sight so that decisions can be made if the schedule is not acceptable. These decisions can be priority calls, people assignment, or scope inclusion/exclusion.
6) Provide guidance on enterprise standards for project deliverables Provide consistency across projects to minimize the probability and magnitude of changes required to the amount of project work by confirming that the project scope is understood.
7) Validate Resource Plan across the program Minimize the risk of resourcing issues in the future by validating that adequate resources are allocated and that the resource plan is realistic and reasonable

For point 3, we perhaps set the PMO tone in the most important way. Instead of the PMO telling the project what they needed to do,  our focus was on asking projects how we could help them. For example, we asked:

1. Are there any obstacles we can help to remove?
2. Do you need any additional people, resources, or changes in priority  to keep to the plan?

The story so far

We have received extremely positive feedback on this new Agile PMO. I’ll create a subsequent post on how the PMO evolves as we work with the Stakeholders, but indications are that this PMO is positioned very well to succeed and provide true value to the corporation.

Mostly importantly the Project Stakeholders AND the sub-projects see value it what we are doing…


On the Importance of Words…

It is part of our culture at Protegra to carefully choose the words we use to represent ourselves and communicate. It is understood how important the very words are themselves and what they say about us when we use them. For example, we don’t use the term employee or manager as those words imply a hierarchy and categorize people. We routinely create new terms for industry terms not to be difficult, but because we feel the industry terms do not communicate the true intent and possibly communicate the wrong message.

I must admit that sometimes I feel we fuss too much about the terms we use. I have often thought that the discussions would be quicker if we just adopted the terms that everyone else uses. I mean we know that know that we don’t have managers and employees, what would be the harm in using the manager term to just have a common language with other people? We could communicate quicker and there would be less back and forth and miscommunication. Right?

A lesson from my Son on Father’s Day

On Father’s day I took my son and daughter to our favourite place, The Manitoba Museum. Little did I know that my son would teach me the importance of the words we use.

Anyone who has been to the Manitoba Museum probably knows the Buffalo diorama right inside the entrance.


As we walked up to it, my son informed his sister that the diorama was depicting a First Nations Buffalo Hunt and the First Nations hunted the Buffalo for food and clothing.


As my son talked about the First Nations as we walked through the Museum, the First Nations were talked about with equality and respect. Maybe some of this was due to the absence of terms that in the past created a hierarchy between First Nations and Canadians that immigrated here. Regardless of the cause, I thought about how important the words we choose are. The words can determine the image we portray and whether it is a positive or negative image. I then appreciated the work that has been done over the past decade to implement the First Nations term. In provides my son and daughter a much better image of the respect and duty the First Nations people are owed by the rest of Canada.

And it also reminded me how important words are when we interact with people in our teams and in all aspects of life.

The Impact of the #WinnipegJets

“It’s one of the most powerful ways, to me, that sports exists in our society is the connection with the community and the far-reaching effects of the memories it evokes for families, friends,” Troy Westwood said. “It’s related to spirit, when we have something as a province and a city that can help galvanize us and instil a pride in us. We have the Bombers that create that feeling, and now we have the Jets. I think that just makes us stronger as a community. And anything in this day and age that can bring us closer together and help us feel like we’re one is a wonderful thing.”

Truer words have seldom been spoken.

Iteration 2 Bio

Terry Bunio is currently a Principal Consultant at Protegra. Terry never wanted to be a Project Manager. He started as a software developer and found his technical calling in Data Architecture. Along the way Terry discovered that he enjoys helping to build teams, grow client trust and encourage individual career growth, completing project deliverables, and helping to guide solutions. It seems that some people like to call that Project Management.

He has helped to build awesome teams, grow client trust, encourage individual career growth, and provided Data Architecture and solution leadership for organizations such as Manitoba Public Insurance, LPL Financial, Assante Asset Management, Moventum, Government of Manitoba, Government of Canada, and Investors Group.

As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical book agile and the real world approaches. Terry considers himself a born again agilist as Agile implemented according to the Lean Principles has made him once again enjoy Software Development and believe in what can be accomplished.

Terry is a fan of Agile implemented according to the Lean Principles, the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, Data Architecture, XML databases, and asking why.

Dear WordPress, should I be given the access to edit comments?

Dear WordPress, should I really be given the access to edit comments from other users?

I guess there may be the situation of some inappropriate comments submitted, but being able to edit them just seems to smack of censorship and a feature that can be used for evil rather than good. Maybe the decision should be made to just not publish those comments. The edit feature seems to give me the ability to create content and have it appear to come from another user.

For all readers out there, as long as the comment is relevant to the topic, professional, and doesn’t use profanity, be assured that the comment will be published and I will not edit it in any way.

I first learned about Agile from Canadian Hockey

I’ve been trying to put this post together for a while and I finally got my four points completed. This post has been sitting around in an unfinished state and I figured I needed to complete it before the NHL returned to Winnipeg. 🙂

Go Jets Go!

The four Agile rules I learned from hockey

Play for the crest on the front of the jersey rather than the name on the back – Simply put, the individual cannot have a personal agenda or an ego. Every member of the team must be willing to do whatever it takes to have the team succeed. This is seen again and again in the Stanley Cup playoffs. You never see a good Canadian boy saying he doesn’t get the puck enough.

Mistakes cause you to lose games – Mistake or defects cause you to lose a game and also have bad projects. These things just cannot happen. Good teams do everything they can to eliminate these mistakes and defects. Good coaching can eliminate mistakes from a hockey game and Test Driven Development can eliminate defects from a Software Development Project.

Winning the game/satisfying the client is the only thing that matters – It doesn’t matter if you scored a hat trick, had 7 assists (sorry Darryl Sittler, but I’m a Habs fan), or delivered just what the contract stated. None of that matters at all. The only thing that matters is if you won the game and the client was delighted. Too often in both Hockey and Software Development we seem to be more focused on these small victories and sacrifice the end goal.

Shoot the darn puck/deliver the darn iteration – You can’t win the game unless you shoot the puck at the net. You can’t succeed in satisfying the client unless you actually deliver something to the client. Iterations and trying to score often is at the heart of success in both Hockey and Software Development.

Editor’s note: Sorry Don Cherry, I tried and failed to think of an analogy for fighting. 😦

Lagavulin 1993 Distiller’s Edition

Yes it is true. I have a new member of the family. Along with being passionate about Agile and Lean Software Development, the Lagavulin Single Malt is also a passion of mine. If you have a soft spot for Islay scotches I recommend it with all my being. It is a wonderful 1993 Lagavulin that has been double matured. The following is a quote from the review:


“The answer is a definitive yes when considering any Lagavulin bottling, but even more so when its the 16-year Distiller’s Edition. This bottling is finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks for several months, after nearly 16 years in its initial bourbon cask. The sherry cask (Pedro Ximenez being the most unctuous and sweet of all sherries) has the effect of adding body, flavor, and color to the already very, very good Lagavulin 16-year (their most common official bottling).

The scotch is orange-amber in appearance with occasional greenish glints on the surface. The nose is a mix of bonfires, smoke, barbecue roasted pork, caramel sweets, and the smoky smell that lingers on your clothes the day after you’ve spent all night sitting in front of a bonfire beside a lake on a cool summer evening. The palate is dense and textured, with flavors of smoke and bonfires, overripe, melt-in-your-mouth raspberries, crushed black szechuan pepper, and caramel. The finish starts bitter with abundant smoke that gives way to savory toffee sweetness which itself slowly gives over to cotton candy.”

It is overwhelmingly good and the flavours are balanced perfectly. Highly recommended dram for a cool spring evening.