Site icon Joanna Vahlsing, PMP

PMO Directors Series: Thoughts on the evolution to product-based teams in 10 Steps

Note: You’ll notice that I’m not including any posts on “how to sell this concept to executive leadership.” That’s because I’m assuming that the transformation has likely kicked off and you, as the PMO Director, have been brought in as part of the leadership team to help with the execution. The only caveat I make is that whatever transformation the company is going through, if it’s a tech product, please be an advocate for product based teams at their core: durable, cross-functional teams aligned to a goal/outcome. If the transformation is simply to implement Scrum (or some other agile process), then your organization will be missing a substantial part.

Okay – so now you and your leadership have bought in to durable, cross-functional product delivery teams. What do you do?

Below are some first steps – all of which can be done while your team members are working on their current projects. The new framework needs to be about 90% baked before any implementation can start – otherwise you’ll burn cycles with a number of unknowns, confuse team members and have some opportunity cost by disrupting the work in-flight.

Note: You’re probably thinking – what about infrastructure and traditional backend teams that do the “guts” to support the work of the front-end teams. There are a variety of ways to organize this work, and I’m only focusing on what are traditionally “feature” teams in this post.

Note: It may seem efficient and effective to try to convert an existing project team working on a project for a prioritized product area mid-flight; however, I have seen that go off the rails because of the mix of processes. Usually, it was simpler to start fresh with a new set of work and mindset after wrapping up what’s in-flight.

Note 2: Also, don’t forget to look at opportunities to STOP projects that are in-flight that might not deliver on the assumed value to convert to this model. This may seem scary; however, I have seen it be the appropriate call to get the team working on higher value activities, especially validating assumptions in Discovery.

So, as a PMO Director, where do you get involved? That was a long explanation that seemed to impact Product – why would I, as the PMO Director, get involved?

Well – everything that was laid out is a plan that requires knowledge and keeping track of who’s working on what; estimates of when it will be done and what the person’s next “assignment” is to be assigned to the durable product delivery team; detailing where there are gaps (i.e. risk), the budget impact from filling those gaps and managing the execution of the plan and adjusting as needed. You probably also have a point of view on skill sets needed for the teams, opinions on who is a subject matter expert is in an area and any dependencies that need to be tracked and managed.

Let’s also not forget the other teams (infrastructure and BE) that I haven’t covered – what’s the process for working with them? That needs to be defined and documented.

That’s how you can enable this transformation. Oh, and there’s also working with Finance, HR and other stakeholders to help inform them of this shift and work through any other company-wide processes that need to change, e.g. annual budget and/or capitalization. All of these require you to leverage your strong stakeholder management skills.

The transformation can also benefit from your change management and change leadership skills, as well as your eye for continuous improvement once the changes begin to be implemented.

There’s plenty of work for you – if you’re up for it. Product and UX leadership will need to ensure that their teams are master Discoverers, Engineering leadership has a host of work that needs to be done to remove coding dependencies and allow for teams to work autonomously (especially if the current state is a monolithic codebase situation). You can also begin to define the operating model: What’s the framework for monitoring how the teams are doing against their KPIs? How is there transparency and communication regarding what teams are all currently working on, their needs and their major decisions? The answers to these latter questions will depend on your organization needs.

The next post is on other activities that need to take place to support this transition.

Previous: Product-Based vs. Project-Based      Next: Other activities to support the transition

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