Agile Projects: Impact on a Programme Office

I was asked recently to provide a few thoughts on running a programme office in agile software development environment.

Agile teams run with considerably lower overhead in terms of governance and reporting. If you impose too much overhead, then the teams’ progress will slow considerably. I’ve found that in most organisations, a lot material produced for (say) routine monthly reporting isn’t looked at. One approach is to engage senior management as a distinct stakeholder and ask what their “must-haves” are in terms of reporting and governance. Obtain some requirements/stories from senior management and seek to integrate these with one of your projects. If your company is using a popular project management framework such as PRINCE2 or PMBOK, there are plenty of web resources to suggest integrating these with agile methods to get the best out both approaches.

For projects that have external customers and/or suppliers, there are increased communication needs between these and the project team. Expectations need to be set and diaries managed. It’s possible that contracts will need to be amended to ensure that there is enough flexibility for the Agile team to deliver.

The profile of the risk log differs from that of a plan-driven project. Risks such as non-availability of key staff assume greater importance, whereas those relating to on-time delivery assume lower importance, as agile teams will always deliver on time – albeit sometimes with pre-agreed reduced scope.

Two other points to note:

  • Planning does not only occur at the start of each iteration – but in addition high-level planning, covering the whole project, occurs at its start. Subsequently, this high-level plan is reviewed every two or three iterations.

  • The Project Manager may assume the role of Facilitator as you suggest but you still need someone to liaise between the agile team and senior management.

An associate, Keith Richards, after looking over this text has also suggested that the communications plan should address the fact that the communication in agile teams is more informal than in conventional methods.