Coexistence Model between Traditional PMO and Agile Development

I know there is a lot of debate if coexistence between traditional PMO and agile is possible. A friend of mine usually say that being agile or not is pretty much the same as being pregnant or not – you are agile or you are not. Instead in this way, I like to think of this topic like agile is an art of possible. Sometimes is just not possible to adopt all agile practices, because of a thousands of reasons. At least is not possible in short time and for a whole organization.

A month ago I was involved in an initiative to establish such coexistence between traditional PMO and agile  development. It is a quite large organization where agile development grown bottom-up, so a number of development teams already practicing agile (mostly Scrum) for some time. Because of a good results, a consensus in high management resulted in initiative to better organize work between PMO (which is still organized traditionally) and agile teams. After a discussion, I proposed a model like this:

An idea is to enable agile teams to function as much agile as it’s possible inside large organization which is still mostly organized in a traditional way. So, let me explain this idea:


Every agile team is responsible for a single product (application). Notice that I did not say project, but product. Every agile team has Scrum master (SM) and Product owner (PO). So, this part is fully agile and use Scrum.

From the other side, there is a PMO. A PMO will designate a Project manager (PM) for every project they decide to start. PMO is influenced by stake holders, some boards etc. This is a traditional side of story.

So, where is the bond between these two sides? An idea is that PMs will work with all POs whose products are related to a particular project. PMs will influence POs to adjust their Product backlogs to fulfill project goals. Also, PMs will do all administrative project tasks and generally all job that they are familiar. At the same time, development team is isolated by SM and they do their job in an agile way.

Some early results of such approach are very good. A good thing is that only PMs had to modify their behavior, but only partially. Another important thing is to look at this model only as a step in a process of making all organization agile. Any other goal doesn’t make sense.