AmTrust Project Management Office Transitions to Agile Project Management

Topics: AmTrust News

Summary: The AmTrust Project Management Office recently adopted an agile project management mindset. Find out what this means for AmTrust’s PMs and what the benefits the transition will bring to the organization as a whole.

By Alycia Morgan and Deanna McNutt

Switching Our Thinking: AmTrust PMO Adopts an Agile Mindset

In celebration of the new year and in the spirit of resolutions, the AmTrust U.S. Project Management Office kicked off an initiative to transition our behaviors, processes, tools and artifacts to AmTrust Agile. Working alongside our Agile Coaches, the PMO Center of Excellence has developed the AmTrust Agile Project Management Framework.

The new project lifecycle aligns with AmTrust’s System Development Lifecycle (SDLC) and incorporates Project Events that act as built-in quality checks throughout a project. In true Agile fashion, the rollout will occur iteratively, with the PMO team on pace to complete the initial rollout and training of this new Agile-focused framework by the end of the first quarter.

Jeremiah Steinman, Project Management Office (PMO) leader, recognizes how the business transformations AmTrust has made over the past several years have shaped our adoption of Agile business practices. “AmTrust is undergoing a meaningful and positive transformation. Initiatives such as IT 2020, AmTrust Forward, and now AmTrust Momentum are well aligned with our current focus on working in AmTrust Agile ways of working,” he explained.

What is Agile Project Management?

Agile project management is defined
as an iterative development methodology that values human communication and feedback, adapting to change and producing working results. The characteristics of agile project management include having a sense of ownership and authority, the ability to change direction quickly and easily, and being resourceful and adaptable.

There’s no doubt that many project types in today’s world have high levels of uncertainty associated with them. Agile project management focuses on the overall management of the project from start to finish and has become the industry standard for project management.

Agile project management uses an iterative approach to managing projects, focusing on working in small batches, building and improving processes along the way. It’s not so much a methodology as it is a mindset, a form of thinking collaboratively to problem-solve. Efficient communication is key; communicating face-to-face rather than through complex email chains or multiple meetings is preferred.

Finally, the goal of agile project management is to produce tangible, working results after each iteration. It’s about transparency, focusing on the customer, adapting to change, effective leadership and continuous improvement.

AmTrust PMO: Embracing the Agile Mindset

After implementing AmTrust Agile in the Development and Infrastructure delivery teams, it is now time to align our Project Management (PM) framework and the PM roles and responsibilities with Agile business methods. As a PM, we must adapt and adopt the right mindset to manage projects in an Agile manner effectively. So, we’re being deliberate by putting a lot of time and consideration into how we need to change to better serve the enterprise.

Per Jeremiah, “As a PMO organization, we want to transform the way we work in order to effectively engage and align with the Delivery teams. In line with an overall AmTrust Agile mindset, we also want to ensure that our internal PMO processes are built to maximize efficiency and effectiveness within our Agile atmosphere.” To do this, the PMO has identified some key goals:
  • All PMs will be trained to understand and adopt the Agile Mindset and Approach
  • PMs will act as a natural extension of the delivery team to eliminate the “us vs. them” mentality
  • PMs will be considered part of the process without adding heavy governance
  • PMs will be the key point of communication between delivery heads, stakeholders, business partners, and the Delivery team on complex projects
  • Ensure that our internal PMO processes are built to maximize efficiency and effectiveness within our AmTrust Agile culture
  • Help PMs understand their roles and responsibilities when managing a project that involves AmTrust IT Delivery or Infrastructure teams
  • Provide AmTrust PMs with an understanding of AmTrust Agile and ensure they can apply the relevant PM methods and techniques that lead to successful Agile projects

The Benefits of Transitioning to Agile Project Management

Some of the benefits that we expect to see as a result of this initiative include:
  • PMs enabled to deliver projects to the agreed standards, rigor, and visibility required by AmTrust PMO while at the same time enabling the pace, change, empowerment and delivery provided by the AmTrust Agile framework
  • Promotion of trust between Agile Delivery teams and PMs
  • Ensure PMs can and will rapidly respond to change to benefit the project and the business
  • PMs will have knowledge of both Agile and more traditional techniques and will have opportunities to utilize both frameworks to achieve project goals
  • All AmTrust projects have the oversight and control needed to support successful delivery

AmTrust Agile’s Approach to Agile Project Management

With our key first step being the move from Gate Reviews to Project Events, U.S. project managers attended their first training session led by Kate Palley on January 14th. There they learned how to facilitate a Project Review event. This event is similar to a Sprint Review and focuses on demonstrating and discussing what features will be included in a scheduled project release/go-live. Much like the events typically included within the Delivery Teams sprints, this new Agile project event offers project sponsors and stakeholders the opportunity to provide feedback quickly and often to facilitate the most value-add releases/go-lives.

Alycia Morgan, PMO Director and member of the Agile PM team, stressed that “this won’t be a cookie-cutter approach. We're well aware this isn't an overnight process; it will take time and many iterations.” This is precisely how we’re approaching this change – iteratively and with agility at the forefront.

The Agile PM team is actively identifying the processes and governance methods that we need to align to AmTrust Agile, resulting in significant change for the PMO. We desire to be thoughtful and thorough and review and update all our policies to ensure they align with AmTrust Agile.

We would like to manage these changes through training and collaboration with other enterprise teams. We have begun collaboration with the SDLC Steering Committee and the COE leaders to introduce the Agile PM initiative. The goal of this collaboration is to ensure alignment and buy-in across all enterprise initiatives.

Alycia Morgan, Director of IT Project Management, joined the company in July 2014. She began her career at the company serving as an Infrastructure Project Manager until promoted to the position of a Director within the Project Management Office. She oversees the operation of the PMO Center of Excellence which is responsible for development, enhancement, and training of the project management staff on PMO standards, tools, framework, and templates; along with the IT Agile transformation directed by her Agile coaching staff. Prior to joining AmTrust, she managed multi-hospital system implementation projects as an Application Manager for Epic Systems.

Deanna McNutt, Project Manager II, joined AmTrust in March of 2017 as a Business Analyst. Deanna helped introduce Demand Processes while working with IT Portfolio Management. She continues to assist with bringing positive change within the IT PMO as they transition toward Agile Project Management. When she’s not busy trying to figure out the best way to do all-the-things, she’s carting her kids to volleyball or flag football and dreaming of nights around a fire with her husband and good friends on a cool summer night.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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