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Digital transformation projects, which involve changes throughout the company's value chain, present significant challenges for a project office. The most common ones are: a more or less clear strategy, resistance to change, lack of resources or the complexity of the project itself.

In response, the project management office (PMO) must of course demonstrate strong leadership and exemplary project management. But it must also demonstrate a good ability to adapt. It must make the organization capable of "turning on a dime" as they say!

It is to meet this last need that the Agile methodology, first developed for software development projects, is gaining more and more followers in the broader field of management and governance.

A transition to agility throughout an organization brings several benefits: increased involvement (engagement), more efficient collaboration, flexibility of execution. Without going into the methodological details, we will outline these benefits in a little more detail.

Agility:

A process

The approach consists of an interactive and iterative strategy that begins with the expression of the "why" (the raison d'être) and continues with the definition of business objectives. It then produces a roadmap that allows the company to plan its strategy based on the following fundamental questions

  1. What are our main challenges, and in what order will we tackle them?
  2. What are the related costs?
  3. What are the measurable success criteria?

Then it's about execution, which means that once the strategy and objectives are identified, test solutions, measure the results, then adjust the solution and measure the results again... and so on. This is the essence of the iterative approach.

Measuring results also includes qualitative feedback from stakeholders. An agile project team will have direct access to them. Does the solution meet the needs of customers, users, employees, partners, management? Another name for this approach is "fail fast", since we are not afraid to test solutions that we know are imperfect or incomplete, the value being as much in this consultation and co-creation process as in the final result.

A driver of innovation

This approach facilitates innovation as it creates opportunities for continuous learning about the needs of the market and the broader organizational ecosystem. By developing a solution to a problem, one often comes to identify other problems, in addition to learning how to better solve the problems already known. This multiplies business opportunities and increases the company's ability to adapt to change.

A risk reducer

On the other hand, we can see worries or needs while they are still small and we act on them immediately. This means that we are better able to manage risks. Of course, we cannot seize all opportunities or eliminate all risks. This is why the agile approach also consists of constantly re-prioritizing initiatives on the roadmap - a roadmap which, you guessed it, will evolve from quarter to quarter, without ever losing sight of the vision, the mission (or strategy) and the business objectives.

A vehicle for transparency

What agility also brings to organizations, which is crucial when it comes to initiating digital transformation projects, is transparency - the transparency of "bottom up" management. Agility allows the company to be more responsive to its employees at all levels and allows them to contribute in a meaningful way. Obviously, this translates into much greater job satisfaction.

In conclusion, agile organizations can be more innovative, more resilient and (yes!) more agile because they foster a culture of collaboration and transparency where all ideas are welcome. In the best cases, they facilitate access to real-time data (operations dashboards and performance metrics) to empower everyone to validate actions taken upstream or to adjust their focus. This is what some people call "evidence-based management", a topic we'll probably cover in a future article!

André-Claude Potvin
Director, Program Management Office (PgMO) 

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