Want to boost your Scrum projects’ success rate by 50%? Run them through a PMO

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 9.07.05 AMThe recently released State of Scrum 2015 by the Scrum Alliance had 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 you’re boss called you into his office and gave you a 50% raise, that would get your attention wouldn’t it? You bet.

Unfortunately, the ScrumAlliance offers little if any insight as to why running Scrum projects through a PMO results in such a performance boost. Apparently, they did not have any followup questions such as  “Why does the PMO matter so much?” Too bad. That’s a lost opportunity for the Scrum Alliance to help organizations understand what services a PMO provides that can lead to such gains.

Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 11.28.52 AMLet me offer a few plausible reasons why a PMO can help improve Scrum project success. To do so, I have to look at the results  of ESI International’s recent Global State of the PMO Report for 2015 for some answers.

In the ESI report respondents were asked “Why Agile is so hard to implement?” The answers included:

  • Changing the culture (53%)
  • Changing from traditional methods (44%)
  • Right leadership to drive change (43%)
  • Upskilling teams (31%)
  • Understanding Agile’s value (31%)
  • Motivating teams to use Agile (20%)

Perhaps running Scrum projects through PMOs who were catalysts in changing the culture, who helped folks change traditional waterfall to Scrum, 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.


You gotta grab him somewhere!

You gotta grab him somewhere!

Other findings in the ESI survey 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 PMO’s supporting Agile?” only 4 in 10 said they were providing Agile training, and roughly 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 of organizations have bought into the promise of Agile, yet they 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.



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