By Kevin Korterud
I’m frequently asked how program managers can synchronize projects using waterfall approaches with those using agile or other approaches. As programs are launched to address larger and more complex business problems, harmonizing a program’s projects becomes an essential component of success.
In my last post, I shared two tips for achieving harmony: remember that there’s no such thing as agile or waterfall programs, and make the correct delivery approach choice before a project begins.
Here are two more tips.
3. Establish a Program PMO and an Agile COE
One of the critical success factors for any large program is the program management office (PMO). The program-level PMO enables the program manager to spend time on higher-value activities while the PMO creates the operational governance, reporting and overall management foundations required to run a program.
As agile and other delivery approaches mature, there is a great need for a COE (Center of Excellence) model that fosters efficient and effective delivery approaches for projects on programs. Just as PMI has created a consistent approach to project management, agile and other delivery approaches are at a point in their maturity cycle where consistency is needed for them as well.
An agile COE can facilitate this consistency while serving as a clearinghouse for improved agile practices. This COE can also address different variants in waterfall, supplier and governmental delivery approaches, thus resulting in an overall harmonized approach for program and project delivery.
4. Speak the Same Metrics Reporting Language
George Bernard Shaw once said, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” Being a program manager with projects utilizing multiple delivery approaches can feel like living in one country separated by multiple languages!
On a program, it is essential that no matter their delivery approach, projects need to be able to both accurately describe their progress and do it in a way consistent with other projects. When dealing with projects with multiple delivery approaches, a suitable translation needs to be in place for progress metrics. This is particularly necessary for stakeholders such as finance, human resources or other business functions where an easily understood definition of progress is critical.
For example, agile projects do a great job in counting projected versus actual requirements and their weighted points. Using the total and completed requirements, a percentage completion can be calculated that is consistent with a waterfall delivery approach. Other agile-specific metrics such as effort per story point can be used to supplement the core progress metrics.
In addition, even between waterfall delivery approaches there needs to be defined a consistent approach for earned value structures, tracking actual cost and other progress essentials. (Note that aside from progress metrics, the concepts of risks, issues, dependencies, milestones, cost forecasts and governance escalations all remain the same no matter the project delivery approach.)
Program managers are orchestrators of both project delivery and the attainment of business results. They need to be always thinking about eventual business outcomes, no matter which delivery approaches are in play. Remember: no one chooses an airline or car model because the company used agile or waterfall on their projects—it’s all about the experience.
What methods have you seen employed in programs to handle multiple delivery approaches?