Want to Boost Your Scrum Projects’ Success Rate by 50%? Run Them Through a PMO

Want to Boost Your Scrum Projects’ Success Rate by 50%? Run Them Through a PMO

By J. LeRoy Ward, PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, GWCPM, SCPM   |   Executive Vice President – Enterprise Solutions, IIL

Catch LeRoy’s presentation, “Agile: The One Bandwagon You May Want to Jump On!,” at the virtual Agile and Scrum conference on May 4th.

The 2015 State of Scrum Report (the most recent) released by the Scrum Alliance has several interesting, if not head-scratching, findings. Here are two that really stopped me dead in my tracks.

First, the report stated that “the overall success rate of projects delivered using Scrum is 62%.”  

This floored me. Why? Given all the hype and hoopla about Scrum and all of its intended benefits, I would have assumed that this number would be quite a bit higher. Heck, 62% isn’t much better, if it’s better at all, than projects completed with more traditional methods.  Why go through some wrenching organizational change, the change that Scrum often means for large traditional IT shops, when, in the end, the result is the same?

But it was the second finding that got my attention, and fast.

The report also disclosed, based on the respondents answers, that “Scrum projects run through a project management office (PMO) have a 93% success rate.”  

That’s a 50% improvement over Scrum projects not run through a PMO. A 50% improvement in almost any measure is simply astounding. Hey, look at it this way, if your boss called you into his office and gave you a 50% raise that would get your attention wouldn’t it? You bet.

Unfortunately, the survey offers little if any insight as to why running Scrum projects through a PMO results in such a performance boost. Apparently, they didn’t have any follow-up questions such as “Why does the PMO matter so much?” Or, what’s the ONE THING a PMO does that really makes a difference when implementing Agile?” Too bad. That’s a lost opportunity to help organizations understand what services a PMO provides that can lead to such gains. Maybe the Scrum Alliance will add those additional, clarifying questions, in their next survey. I hope so.

Let me offer a few plausible reasons why a PMO can help improve Scrum project success.

To do so, I reviewed the results of a number of “State of PMO” and “State of Agile” reports for some answers. In one report, when respondents were asked “Why is Agile difficult to implement?” the answers included:

  • Changing the culture
  • Changing from traditional methods
  • Right leadership to drive change
  • Upskilling teams
  • Understanding Agile’s value
  • Motivating teams to use Agile

Perhaps running Scrum projects through PMOs who were catalysts in changing the culture, who helped folks change from traditional waterfall to Scrum with concrete suggestions, who had the type of bold leadership required, and who made sure all the folks involved in Scrum projects were trained, and not just the Scrum masters, were reasons for greater success.

Other findings in these various surveys reveal that not many PMOs are taking the “bull by horns,” or any other sensitive place (like the tail!), to help with a transition to Agile methods. For example, when asked “How are PMOs supporting Agile?” only 4 in 10 said they were providing Agile training, and only a third claimed they were helping with a new methodology, approach or new reporting processes. Twelve percent didn’t even know how the PMO was helping. That’s not a significant level of engagement.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations have bought into the promise of Agile, yet by all accounts an overwhelming majority are struggling to implement it.

The PMO has a huge role to play, and when done well, working in conjunction with a committed Senior Management team who invests in Agile training and change management practices, the results can be astounding.

A 50% improvement in project success should have every Senior Executive working with his or her PMO manager to see if they can realize those types of gains. Sitting around bellyaching about poor project performance when opportunities to improve are staring us all in the face should prompt action, and FAST.

More insights await at the virtual Agile and Scrum conference, going live on May 4th. 5 keynotes and 20 sessions to choose from, plus networking and PDUs/SEU®s.

Ready to improve your project success rates? IIL can help. Request a free consultation today.

LeRoy Ward

About the Author

J. LeRoy Ward is a highly respected consultant and adviser to Global Fortune 500 Corporations and government agencies in the areas of project, program and portfolio management. With more than 38 years of government and private sector experience, LeRoy specializes in working with senior executives to understand their role in project and program sponsorship, governance, portfolio management and the strategic execution of projects and programs. 

1 Comment

  • Nadine Bride on August 31, 2016 3:20 pm Reply

    Would have liked more “meat” with those “potatoes”. Was hoping to find out why a PMO would enhance the Agile transition. My company is struggling with the same issues stated in this article and no end in sight. We are now bringing back more Waterfall process because management’s viewpoint is that “it worked” and Agile is not working.
    Thanks for the information.

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