This article provides an overview of the waterfall project methodology and how it works with a Project management office (PMO). It contains information on the 6 typical checkpoints for an IT project.

A project management office, abbreviated to PMO, is a group or department within a business, agency or enterprise that defines and maintains standards for project management within the organization. The PMO strives to standardize and introduce economies of repetition in the execution of projects. The PMO is the source of documentation, guidance and metrics on the practice of project management and execution.
Often PMOs base project management principles on industry-standard methodologies such as PRINCE2 or guidelines such as the Project Management Book of Knowledge.
PMOs may take other functions beyond standards and methodology, and participate in strategic project management either as facilitator or actively as owner of the portfolio management process. Tasks may include monitoring and reporting on active projects and portfolios (following up project until completion), and reporting progress to top management for strategic decisions on what projects to continue or cancel.

The degree of control and influence that PMOs have on projects depend on the type of PMO structure within the enterprise; it can be:

  1. Supportive, with a consultative role.
  2. Controlling, by requiring compliance for example.
  3. Directive, by taking control and managing the projects.

PMO can be one of three types from an organizational exposure perspective:

  1. Enterprise PMO.
  2. Organisational (departmental) PMO.
  3. Special–purpose PMO.

As part of supporting, controlling and directing changes, PMOs can implement a flexible gating mechanism that can be applied to any business change that introduces checkpoints at appropriate points to ensure expected outputs have been delivered, understood and approved before the change can progress to the next step. The number of tollgates applied to a change are based on the risk of the change.
PMO tollgate methodologies can follow either Agile or Waterfall approaches:

  1. The waterfall model is a sequential (non-iterative) design process, used in software development processes, in which progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall) through the phases of conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, production/implementation and maintenance.
  2. Agile is a non-sequential iterative approach, which uses fixed-length iterations, called Sprints. Sprints are no more than 30 days long, preferably shorter. Scrum teams try to build a potentially releasable (properly tested) product increment every Sprint.


The role of agile within a tollgate methodology for software development:
A Tollgate Methodology and Agile are not substitutes for each other. Rather Agile is a useful micro-planning or project management method that can be used within a tollgate methodology to accelerate certain stages.
Tollgates have long been popular as a method for driving new products to market, but it is not a project management or micro-planning model per se, rather a tollgate approach is a comprehensive and holistic idea-to-launch system and a macro-planning process. It is cross-functional (i.e. involves technical product developers, but also marketing and operations etc.). It is also an investment decision model (proceed or stop), where the gates pose two vital questions: Are you doing the right project? And are you doing the project right?
By contrast, Agile development is designed specifically for product developers as a way to rapidly develop the working solutions. In practice, the development stages could consist of a number of sprints, where each sprint or iteration produces a working product (executable code or software that works) that can be demonstrated to stakeholders (i.e. customers). An iteration may not add enough functionality to warrant a market release, but the goal is to have a potentially available release at the end of each iteration. Multiple iterations are usually required to release a product or new features.
Therefore Agile is a micro-planning or project management tool designed to get a working end-product quickly. Agile is best used within a toll gating approach during the combined requirements, design, build and test stages of project, but not for the entire project from end-to-end.
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