According to industry experts, a majority of efforts to establish a Project Management Office fail because leaders do not sufficiently assess organizational readiness for change. How do you know if your organization is ready to take on the challenges and embrace the opportunities of implementing a Project Management Office?
The best time to assess an organization’s readiness for change is well before you begin implementing a solution. The importance of assessing your organization’s readiness for change cannot be underestimated. Projects, resources and work will form the core of any PMO; hence, project management maturity is a critical factor in determining what systems or practices should be introduced and to what level of functionality.
But remember, just because you are not operating at top levels in every discipline of a Program Management Office does not mean you’re not ready to take the plunge. Deployment of a PMO is a journey–one that goes through many iterations and cycles as it grows and matures.
To begin with, don’t be surprised if you end up spending the bulk of your design session answering just the basic questions. It’s imperative to identify the pain points before finding any kind of solution. The challenge here is that this is often a “rubber hitting the road” moment, where different departments and groups realize for the first time how different they think core processes are managed. Looking at these symptoms will help you to determine whether the need for a PMO exists in your organization:
- Project Inventory: Do you have a clear record of every project and initiative under your area of control? One of the most basic functions of a PMO is to gather record and track progress of all initiatives so you can make informed decisions on which projects to invest in and on which projects to pull the plug.
- Strategic alignment: If there is a lack of strategic alignment of individual projects with the overall objective to achieve desired results, the effectiveness of projects delivered will always be unsatisfactory. This is often called “doing the right projects”.
- Project intake and selection: Without a well-defined project intake process, there is no way for the business to effectively prioritize new investments with business priorities.
- Project overload: If there are too few resources available to meet project demand within an organization, it will extend the project delivery time and provide very little visibility into individual projects
- Resource bottlenecks: An immature resource management process can lead to resource contention, underutilized resources and late project delivery.
- Lack of established processes: Without established processes and consistent use of the processes, the risk of project failure rises.
- Lack of approved tools: A lack of approved tools can result in each project manager using a different set of tools and will likely be overloaded without a way to make smart tradeoffs.
- Lack of visibility: An organization that has little or no visibility into the various projects that are currently going on is essentially sailing blind. The ability to monitor projects in various businesses and align them with the strategic plan is vital to a company’s success.
The next step would be to gauge the maturity level of the organization by just looking at some of the most fundamental processes already in place for different projects across the system. For example:
- Are processes clearly defined or are they ad hoc?
- Do users use the same tool consistently or is everyone on their own when determining what tool works best for them?
- How are projects being managed at different task levels?
The answers to the questions will not determine if an organization is ready for a PMO–they will help you set expectations for what is possible and where to focus your energy to set realistic and achievable objectives for deploying your PMO.
Once you have clearly identified the information that must be captured for all your projects, clearly define what processes will take place to execute on them. The level of project detail and the depth of your processes will help determine maturity and corresponding functionality that should be introduced to the business as a part of the PMO.
All this analysis activity is neither a gap analysis nor an “As-Is/To-Be” analysis. Rather, it is an analysis of the needs of the business. It could be compared to a market analysis that organizations do to understand their markets and identify products and services to match that market. The objective here is to identify the challenges, pain points, objectives of the business, and to learn as much about the business and its strategy as possible. These translate into opportunities for the PMO to be a “value-add” department instead of an “overhead” department–and makes it easier to make the case for a PMO to the leadership and the rest of the organization.
In my next article, you will learn more about setting up a PMO charter and how to introduce PMO processes and tools within an organization.