is the enterprise pmo an agile anti-pattern?



· 3 min read

there is a pattern in Silicon Valley where product management is its own discipline and interacts with a separate engineering silo to bring their product to market.

in the context of all the large enterprises this pattern is replicated under a different nomenclature. we talk instead about "the business" and "IT".

and in these enterprise contexts there is usually a middleman of sorts that takes ownership of "the delivery", usually called the PMO (or project management office).

this is a siloed separation of concerns that aims to achieve economies of scale. this paradigm is fundamentally a product of the industrial revolution which was all about the use of capital and machines to achieve economies of scale. the separation into silos merely extended this pattern to all parts of running a business.

In his 14 points of management, W. Edwards Deming says: "Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service."

now, Deming was working in a manufacturing context, much like the industrial revolution, and he identified the need to break down silos as part of a new management paradigm for the modern age.

this is even more true when we move to knowledge work. the agile manifesto speaks to this in the principles as: "business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project."

so I would argue, the PMO is an agile anti-pattern. the further removed the people who understand the customer need are from directing the efforts to satisfy the need, the greater the dysfunction.

to formulate "the business" (or product management) as stakeholders to a software development process is to move important information and decision making from the people who should be making those decisions.

it is vital that there is total alignment of accountability and authority in decision making and it is the key to ensure success.

in reinforcing the silo, the PMO moves the organisation further from the fundamental principles of agility. i see the role of the PMO as one of providing the expertise as a subject matter expert in the successful delivery of initiatives and not to take accountability for that delivery.


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a technological optimist. an agilist. a cook. a foodie. a music producer and dj. a cat lover

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