Introducing and Setting Up a Project Management Office

In my last article we delved into organizational maturity for setting up a PMO; this article will deep dive into how to introduce a PMO without disrupting the established system. The first step is good communication–clear and complete information reduces confusion and eliminates resistance based on fear and conjecture.

Communicate the mission, objectives and purpose of the PMO. Be open and transparent regarding the decisions and activities of the PMO. Inform the enterprise of the reason(s) the PMO exists, what it will do and how it will bring value to the enterprise. Also, demonstrate how the PMO will be a partner and not a hindrance in working toward the success of everyone in the enterprise.

Once the need to set up a PMO has been identified and the communication campaign is actively underway, the PMO must be designed from the beginning to meet the specific needs and environment of the business it supports. Project Management Offices take on many roles depending on their mission and objective, hence setting up a PMO is not a short-term activity. It requires significant effort to complete analysis, design, planning, review and implementation. Cooperation and involvement from the business is essential to ensure the PMO meets their needs. Involving the business early and often by keeping open communication channels and soliciting feedback will allow you to manage expectations regarding the amount of time and effort required to set up a PMO.

Setting the priorities of the PMO
In order to move ahead with the planning process, the business should first set the priorities of the deliverables and services of the PMO. Next, assemble a planning and implementation team that includes stakeholders in addition to the PMO subject matter experts. In my opinion, business stakeholders must be involved throughout this process to analyze and take ownership of business needs and progress. On the planning side, it should be phased out, using a rolling wave approach as opposed to a “big bang” approach. These phases should be scheduled out using the roadmap model with detailed planning occurring at the initiation of each phase. This makes the planning current and more relevant to the prevailing business condition.

Laying down project management processes
The next major task is to identify processes and tools required to support the services and functions the PMO will perform. Depending on business needs and budget, an organization may either develop in-house tools or purchase tools from vendors to help streamline projects. Project management processes should be designed to guide the project managers in the performance of the project. PM processes need to be adaptable to meet the needs of any project. A simple project with little risk may require a very light application of the process, whereas a complex project or a project with high levels of risk will necessarily require a more rigorous process.

Project management processes are generally based on standards or best practices such as PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), PRINCE2 and agile. In addition to general purpose standards, organizations may also require and benefit from specialized project management best practices such as process improvement (Six Sigma), new product development and Go-To-Market.

Project Portfolio Management (PPM) is another function often found in PMOs. Organizations turn to PPM to manage their entire portfolio of projects, much like a portfolio of investments. In fact, projects are investments and companies expect to get the maximum return and benefit from these investments. PPM is the process by which they achieve this. Through project selection, project mix evaluation, portfolio monitoring and other activities, PPM is used to maximize returns on the portfolio.

Resource management (RM) often becomes the responsibility of the PMO because it is a natural partner with project management and project portfolio management. Within every organization there is a finite supply of resource types–including people, financial, and physical assets. Resource constraints affect both project work and operational work, the normal day-to-day work of the business. Accordingly, resource management processes should track the operational work (the day-to-day activities) in addition to project-specific work being done by the business in order to paint a complete picture of the total capacity or work an organization can truly deliver.

It is evident that these PMO functions are integrated and integral to the success of an organization. While organizations can adopt some of these elements, ultimately an organization needs to implement each of these disciplines to some degree to manage its program office effectively, even if they are being managed at different degrees of maturity. The project portfolio lifecycle encompasses elements of the project management process, the resource management process and financial management.

Keeping the PMO Relevant
To complete the whole cycle of project implementation and as part of a continuous improvement program, regular feedback from teams/project managers will help maintain the efficacy of the PMO at all times. It’s helpful to develop a continuous improvement program that includes:

  • Periodic reviews of the PMO objectives against the needs of the business
  • Measurements of the processes and tools such as effectiveness, adoption and consistent use
  • Identify areas for improvement

In the end, be sure to give new processes and tools time to be used long enough to overcome learning curves and to gather enough feedback and data to be able to make well-informed decisions. By their very nature, program management office teams are change agents. They institute new processes, implement new tools and may bring about changes in the way organizations conduct business. When planning for organizational change, the PMO must create conditions for change. Be aware of the politics of the organization, and build a base of support for change within the organization.

The third and final part of this series will touch upon metrics and how to measure success of PMO.

Educause 2012 Takeaways

The Educause annual conference is the nation’s largest gathering for higher education IT professionals and Daptiv was present for the well attended 2012 conference in Denver.  Issues that attendees were concerned about were diverse but several interesting themes emerged over the course of attending sessions and having one-on-one conversations with end users and CIOs.  One particularly well attended discussion on Project Management was intriguing, many pain points seemed common across education IT departments and Project Management Offices. Here are some of our takeaways from the conference:

Increasing Demand Placed on IT: Demands placed on IT departments are becoming large and disparate with multiple university departments demanding conflicting projects from an increasingly resource strained IT staff.  With this increased pressure, CIOs and managers are looking for a way to streamline and manage their suite of projects.

Prioritization: Many attendees were seeking best practices and methodologies for prioritizing their portfolio of projects.  Several attendees shared their successes and failures but several threads were common though all successful processes:  easy to communicate and simple to deploy.  Many attendees sought visualizations and reporting that would allow them to quickly judge the size of a project vs. its projected benefit.  The easier it is to demonstrate relative importance and prioritize one project over another, the easier it is to communicate with and receive buy in from competing university departments.

Communication: Ensuring everyone is in the loop on project decisions is critical.  Lacking a single source of truth for project management, implementing an effective communication plan can be difficult.  Project Managers and IT needs to communicate early and often with stakeholders.  Schools and universities which emphasized their success in communication reiterated this point.  Every stakeholder needs to feel that they are part of the dialogue.

Flexibility vs. Standards: Project Management Offices, once built to solve the above issues often face their own hurdles.  Being flexible enough to maintain engagement with stakeholders while ensuring accountability with standards is itself a challenge.  Flexibility needs to be built into the DNA of the PMO and IT Department early and must be matched in any tool used to manage their projects.  It should be up to the department to develop the processes, not have an outside process thrust upon them.  In the words of one attendee, “The tool used should be process agnostic”.