The program management office (PMO) is an essential part of the workflow in today’s organizations. The PMO controls and manages the process for all initiatives, including how to identify risks and allocate resources. However, as of late, a new kind of PMO has emerged. This new PMO – the agile PMO – focuses more on collaboration and achieving results quickly with short feedback loops. Its flexibility is one of the main reasons many business owners opt to fully implement it or create a hybrid approach to complement the traditional PMO.
This article will go over what roles an APMO can play for your organization, why these roles are essential, the benefits that come from them, and the roles in the APMO itself.
What is an APMO?
There are many roles that an agile program management office can perform for a company, but the main focus is on efficiency and speed instead of bureaucracy. The APMO’s role varies from organization to organization and initiative-to-initiative based on what organizational goals and objectives are prioritized. APMOs vary in size and range from a single agile program management office member, to an entire department of people with different roles and responsibilities.
The main goal of the agile approach is to make sure that the team can meet deadlines, stay on budget, and keep stakeholders satisfied by consistently delivering quality products. Simply put – the role of the APMO is to coordinate, optimize, and manage all programs in an organization’s portfolio.
This is done by following a prioritized portfolio roadmap that provides a comprehensive view for stakeholders. The main difference between agile and traditional program management is how they handle change requests during the process of managing initiatives. For example, in traditional organizations, change requests typically come from employees at different levels within an organization. In agile organizations, change requests usually come from customers who want something done differently than originally planned.
The APMO is an integral part of any successful program management strategy implementation. It provides guidance on maintaining initiative velocity while mitigating risk exposure to both internal and external stakeholders. It is also one way to ensure accountability across an organization’s value stream – from suppliers through design partners down to customers – so that everyone has a say in how the final product will be delivered.
Roles assisting the APMO
Agile methods emphasize working closely with business stakeholders from the beginning of an initiative to deliver value quickly through incremental releases. It focuses on providing customer-driven solutions rather than following predefined processes or lifecycles without considering changing needs or requirements. The four prominent roles that assist an APMO include Business Owner, Enterprise Architect, Release Train Engineer, and Solution Train Engineer.
The Business Owner is primarily responsible for governance, compliance, and return on investment (ROI) for the solution designed by the Agile Release Train. They determine who is responsible for business outcomes, who should participate in planning, who should eliminate impediments, evaluate quality, approve plans, and coordinate with other departments. During planning, they assign business value to PI objectives in order to track and measure value delivery to the customer.
The Enterprise Architect is responsible for establishing a strategy and portfolio roadmap to support business capabilities. They rely on continuous feedback to foster adaptive design and encourage programs and teams to maintain a shared technical vision. The Enterprise Architect also assists the APMO to identify and design development value streams.
Release Train Engineer
The RTE’s main responsibility is to facilitate ART level events with the goal of delivering value to the customer. They communicate with stakeholders, remove impediments, and drive continuous improvement. The RTE maintains transparency and assists with economic decision-making such as capability estimation. They serve as the connector between the program and team levels, as well as maintain alignment of program execution and operational excellence with the APMO.
Solution Train Engineer
The STE is a servant leader responsible for coaching the Solution Train by facilitating and guiding the work of multiple ARTs in the value stream. They allow businesses to build large and complex solutions by aligning multiple ARTs to a shared mission. They make fast and effective decisions related to value stream budgets. They assist the APMO for the Solution Train in much the same way that RTEs do for the Agile Release Train.
Role of APMO in initiatives
The program management office is a critical component of any successful initiative. The APMO may serve as the steering committee, where its members are responsible for setting up and managing the roadmap for each phase of an initiative. They also monitor progress on both processes and deliverables to help ensure that everything goes according to plan.
The APMO can be thought of as the glue that holds together all other components and ensures they are working in unison to achieve desired outcomes. Without an agile organization, programs may suffer from a lack of structure and consistency in their work. Some typical responsibilities for the APMO include facilitation, providing guidance on using tools efficiently, communicating with stakeholders about what is happening with initiatives, establishing timelines for programs, and ensuring deadlines are met or exceeded.
Within the agile framework, development teams are empowered to self-organize and make decisions in a fast-paced environment. This is possible because of the APMO who ensures that programs stay focused on their goals and strategic objectives. There are four important roles that this group fulfills:
- They help maintain a product backlog with prioritized features for release;
- Ensure all programs have an understanding of the current state of work progress;
- Provide regular metrics reports;
- Facilitate stakeholder communications with external stakeholders (customers, end-users, etc.) and internal stakeholders (product managers, development leads).
To be successful, the APMO needs to have a strong understanding of how they can help improve business agility and deliver better execution of initiatives faster. They also need to understand that it takes more than just being assigned tasks or delegated work – their role is much more profound. The APMO is there to aid programs at the portfolio level in reaching business goals in the most cost-efficient way possible. Resources saved can include time, or be related to finances and other factors.
One of the most important functions of an APMO is to facilitate communication with stakeholders. They also have an essential role in understanding and fostering stakeholder relations with external ones (customers) or internal ones (product managers). To succeed, they need first-hand experience of what the initiative goals are and the resources at their disposal. This will ensure that the backlog created is an accurate representation of work. It facilitates efficient decision-making by ensuring correct prioritization, business value visibility throughout all delivery stages, and programs designated to handle them.
Additionally, the APMO also has day-to-day responsibility for managing cost, risk, quality, and scope to deliver on the agreed time frame at an acceptable level of functionality. The agile program management office reflects a well-established adaptive approach: they develop new skills through experimentation (with emphasis on learning from failure), iteration (at every stage), and continuous feedback loops (involving real stakeholders).
An APMO is responsible for continually improving the delivery process and work environment of his or her organization. They are also tasked with establishing an organizational culture that values agility, transparency, experimentation, and continuous learning. This includes developing a shared understanding of both iteration goals and best practices; monitoring performance against agreed-to targets; contributing to strategic decision-making around prioritization. They serve as a liaison between programs working on different phases of an initiative (e.g., requirements engineering, design development); provide feedback loops back into the software lifecycle where they can have an impact at least every 12 months to improve their efficiency while executing more effective operations continuously.
The end goal of the PMO is to deliver maximum value for the time and money available, balancing risks with quick responsiveness across the portfolio. An excellent APMO ensures that initiatives are delivered with maximum value, and the value maximization is done through the live and visible prioritizing of work aligned with business goals. Furthermore, by making work visible and bringing the right people together early, risks are minimized, and efficient decision-making is enabled. And last but not least, breaking initiatives into more manageable chunks to be delivered at a slower pace but with shorter development cycles throughout the year allows organizations to better respond to changing business needs.
The i4 Group provides excellent training services for agile methodology. The most applicable to the PMO is Lean Portfolio Management training. If you want to learn more about how an APMO functions in the workplace and prepare to be a part of it, this is the course to take.