Reinvigorating the PMO to Support Your Organization’s Transition from Project to Product

The allure of the project to product movement is that it offers real hope to global enterprises that they can master software delivery at scale and compete with the tech giants. According to Gartner, 55% of organizations surveyed are looking to move to a product-centric mentality. At the same time, there’s no escaping the fact that for many IT and business leaders another transformation sounds daunting…

Does moving from Project to Product mean even more work? More investment of time and money? More…dare I say, recruitment and hiring? Not necessarily; the good news is that given a mindset of continuous learning, career growth opportunities abound within your existing team talent. Especially for those who understand the need to adapt and are willing to explore new ways of working to support and drive the transition. A transition that is fuelled by experiments, incremental wins and continuous improvement to enable your organization to trend in the right direction. 

As advancing IT organizations start managing work by product, traditional roles are changing. PMO roles—such as program and project managers—are expanding and evolving due to the reorientation of IT organizations toward value-based outcomes. That value will be defined by the organization – whether that’s ROI, profit, revenue or earnings per share. However value is defined, the goal is to make it visible.

To help reach that visibility goal—a long-term dream of the PMO— new roles have emerged to help answer that age-old question from the business, “Hey, where’s my thing?!”

With disruption comes opportunity

As with any transformation, which in reality is ongoing, investment in training is essential. But hold off on that recruitment drive for now. You may already have the folks in-house who can grow their role and career. Who can help with the seven key areas—budgeting, timeframe, success, team, prioritization, visibility, and risk—that need to be addressed to move to a product-centric operating model. 

We’ve seen three new roles emerge to date: 

  • Value Stream Architect
  • Product Journey Champion
  • Product Value Stream Lead

These roles are focused on creating and protecting the value that matters most to your business. These roles spell opportunity and career growth for traditional project management roles, who can harness their experience—their strong business relationships, their knowledge of vendor management, risk management, and revenue management —to reinvent themselves. They can be instrumental in helping the product create value for customers. 

The PMO can become the VMO – the Value Management Office. To transition from scope based outcomes to value-based outcomes, it makes sense that the PMO transition to effectively help optimize business outcomes at a program level.

Value Stream Architect

The Value Stream Architect focuses on architecting the software delivery value stream for flow. These people are:

  • Optimizers – study bottlenecks and identify how to remove constraints 
  • Influencers – add work to product backlogs to drive necessary change 
  • Consultants – work with product, engineering and delivery managers to drive high-level decisions about workflow tooling 

The Value Stream Architect role is less about structuring the software components, and more about optimizing the delivery pipeline itself, treating the pipeline as a product. Architecting not just for speed, but for visibility too, helping business owners see exactly where their requests are and when they are likely to be delivered – a dream for any PMO. Value Stream architects also ensure built-in feedback occurs across the value stream to catch problems earlier and identify data-driven continuous improvements.

Product Journey Champion 

Sometimes c-level executives are completely bought into the need for change. But when the teams attempt to implement the changes, they lack the skills and the know-how to do so. And if there’s no internal champion (high enough in the organization) to help coach team leaders, the desired change can fall flat.

The Product Journey Champion is the answer to this conundrum. They are the business-level owner of the transition from project to product.  They work with key executives and managers across IT and different lines of business to adopt a product mindset to optimize technology and staffing investments:

  • Apply Systems Thinking to scale lessons learned and patterns
  • Coach and mentor value stream architects, Agile & DevOps practitioners, and PMO to adopt product thinking.
  • Capture and celebrate the victories of the transition.

The Product Journey Champion is a cross-cutting consultant who sits above the value streams, skilled at political savviness to weave cohesiveness across departments and keep the momentum and engagement up.

Product Value Stream Lead 

A Product Value Stream Lead has intimate knowledge of the product and is responsible for all aspects of the product value streams in terms of:

  • Business: Vision, design, customer happiness, costs, pricing, market changes.
  • Operational: Processes (both engineering and product), licensing, etc.
  • Technical: Agile teams, estimation, architecture.

In some organizations, the Product Value Stream Lead may sit above the engineering manager and product manager in their respective product value stream. In this structure, they can draw from the expertise of both disciplines and then make informed decisions that strike a balance to best serve the desired business outcomes.

Getting Started

When you move from project to product, you move from cost center thinking to profit center thinking – where the teams that build, deliver, maintain the business value, can be invested in. One good way to start is to invest in the knowledge gaps. When it comes to specific skills that might be helpful for program and project managers to learn, consider the following knowledge requests:

  • Describe the desired business results for the value stream
  • Identify the product value stream’s customers & pain points
  • Locate the work process and workflow within and across tools from intake to delivery
  • Find artifacts in the toolset that can be identified as features, defects and debts
  • Map out the artifact states, and recognize active work states vs. waiting states
  • Locate where the product value streams work items are in the various tools used by the product value stream
  • Identify dependencies on teams and practitioners upstream and downstream from their functional area 
  • Design experiments that improve efficiency and velocity, and be willing to present and share results with other teams
  • Identify an internal champion to identify which skills to train people on. Perhaps this champion works in the VMO to help influence mindset. Makes the skills gaps visible so people can discover what skills and knowledge are considered valuable.
  • Implement a dojo or other training opportunity where people can learn in a safe environment. Feed learning into daily work and the general culture of the organization. 

A product-centric way of working is the future model for success

Provide people and teams the opportunity to reinvigorate and elevate their knowledge and continue to be relevant during turbulent change. The new emerging roles of Value Stream Architect, Product Journey Champion and Product Value Stream Lead offer splendid opportunities for career growth.

Ask yourself, “What is the potential of existing teams? Do we risk attrition, or do we invest in our people?” Consider closing the knowledge gaps by investing in existing talent with a learning mindset. Give your valuable people the opportunity to level-up their careers while shifting to a way of working—a product-centric way of working—that can keep your company competitive.

Learn more about how the PMO can help your product transition

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