The Project Management Office: Waterfall, Agile, and Hybrid Methodologies

Project Management Offices (PMOs) partner, control, or serve the organization by providing structure in the form of project management methodologies.  However, it gets more complicated when there are different project types – and different approaches to managing them. It is especially complicated when some approaches emphasize local, decentralized management – and need to support it from a PMO, which by nature is centralized.  This article explores how PMOs can be supportive of various methodologies and help make localized efforts more effective.

This is the second of a series of four articles on the Project Management Office (PMO), where we explore the various aspects of this complex, controversial organizational entity that, in practice, has produced both resounding success and miserable failure.  This article, Part 2 in the series, “Waterfall, Agile, and Hybrid Methodologies,” looks at how PMOs can handle the complexity of managing a variety of methodologies across the enterprise. Part 1, “The Three Flavors of PMOs”, looks at the primary types of approaches that PMO’s take.  Part 3, “What to Look for in PMO Software,” surveys the range of functionality [provided by PMO software, and how to choose what’s best for your PMO. Finally, Part 4, “The One Thing That a PMO Must Do”, distills it all down to one make or break consideration that trumps all others.  

There are challenges to a PMO to support multiple methodologies, but they are not at all insurmountable.  They just require knowledge on the team across the spectrum of approaches needed within the organization, and likely need skill in choosing the right combination of approaches in a hybrid fashion.

Here is a synopsis for the challenges and opportunities for applying waterfall, agile, and hybrid approaches within an organization

  1. Waterfall – Waterfall is by no means gone as a methodology.  It simply requires situations where there is strong familiarity with what needs to be done, including experience estimating, planning and doing tasks, and measuring progress.  Waterfall is often use for construction projects because they tend to be much more predictable across these dimensions. A PMO may have a subset of projects of a type that would best be served using waterfall methodologies.  Understanding that, knowing where to draw the line, and having the skills within the PMO to draw on the waterfall methodology is important.
  2. Agile – Agile is most often associated with software projects, but it can also be used effectively on other projects.  The fact that there is so much change occurring across so many business areas means that agile approaches are worth considering and applying, at least in part.  The rapid pace of change is a good reason for PMs and the PMO to adopt an agile mindset in any case, but also to support through training and support the use of agile on appropriate projects.  The PMO will need to have buy in and support from the top level to implement and support agile throughout the enterprise.
  3. Hybrid – Hybrid approaches refer to the employment of parts of waterfall and agile in unique combinations.  Most projects require a schedule at some level. The degree of detail of the schedule will indicate how agile, or how waterfall the project is; the more detailed the schedule, the more waterfall the project is.  The less detailed, and more high level, the schedule is, the more agile the project will tend to be. PMO managers need to identify the ‘seam’ between waterfall and agile and ensure that the two will work well together.  To effectively support agile projects, the PMO will benefit from having ‘hybrid skills’, where PMs are comfortable with both waterfall and agile and are skilled at implementing the right combination of each approach in a harmonious way to achieve project objectives.

Can you give an example of waterfall, agile, and hybrid projects within your organization?

This Post is Part of the Series: The Project Management Office

This series of four articles on the Project Management Office (PMO) explores the various aspects of this complex and controversial organizational entity.

  1. The Three Flavors of PMOs
  2. Waterfall, Agile, and Hybrid Methodologies
  3. What to Look For in PMO Software
  4. The One Thing That a PMO Must Do