To scrum or not to scrum? How project managers are changing.

As the principal partner of Solutia SDO, Jackie Clark has had a direct role in managing the people behind technology that’s transformed businesses across Canada. When IT projects stall, she knows how to manage people to get them running again. In this bi-weekly column, she’ll be sharing her insight on navigating the issues and pain points that hijack the success of large projects. We’ll be sharing the most common questions Clark hears from her clients and her responses to them. Do you want your project management problems solved? Leave a comment with your question or Tweet Jackie @sdosolutia.

Q: A lot of my clients are in the process of transitioning from traditional project methodologies to Agile. There is also talk about Scrum Masters replacing the typical Project Manager role within the Project Management Office (PMO). Is this something I need to worry about? Will the PM role eventually become redundant? What do I need to do to continue to make myself marketable?

A: Agile is here to stay. Back three or four years ago the jury was out. Was this yet another fad sold by consultants to weary execs who were fed up with their projects taking so long and not delivering what they wanted? The answer is no!

Traditional Project Management Office practices are fundamentally incompatible with agile because they’re based on an entirely different set of principles related to waterfall methods. Continuing to utilize entrenched habits and existing processes is the number one barrier to successful adoption of agile practices. Similarly, outside the PMO, failing to change wider organizational capabilities such as finance, audit, IT development, QA and enterprise architecture also leaves agile teams unable to reap the benefits of faster delivery.

All of this means that existing project roles are changing. Organizations need to adopt a compatible agile PMO to align and create visibility across the organization and remove barriers to delivering the most valuable ideas and solutions to market as soon as possible. In this new PMO, traditional PM responsibilities are divvied up among the agile team members: task management, quality management and day-to-day decisions revert back to the Project Team. Scope and schedule management become the responsibility of the Product Owner. The Scrum Master is the conductor of the orchestra, really just facilitating the agile methods and ensuring the team is behaving in an agile fashion.

The primary responsibility for providing direction to the project shifts more to the business represented by the Product Owner. This is quite different than how non-agile projects are managed. It’s putting pressure on the business to make sure their Product Owner is equipped to perform this role – but’s that’s another story. In the agile PMO, more emphasis is placed on providing business value rather than managing project costs and schedules.

Having said that, not every project is a candidate for agile methods so PMOs and PMs will continue to support multiple methods (package, waterfall and agile) for the foreseeable future.

So your skills are still in demand. But if you’re looking to the future, you should invest in agile training. It’s good for the resume!



Jackie Clark
Jackie Clark
Program and change management expert in digital and data transformation, and technology system reengineering.

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