Do you ever wonder what other departments or business units actually do? After all, you recognize the value your team adds to the business, don’t you? But what about those mysterious people who hang around on the second floor, or the bunch who are endlessly hogging the big boardroom?
Take the Project Management Office (PMO), for example. In this post, I will give you an overview of what PMO entails and how we ensure Mint’s PMO always delivers optimally.
First, let’s take a look at the most critical strategic objectives that help us to create an overall vision and set goals and measurable steps for our team.
Manage the Iron Triangle
The PMOs Holy Grail consists of Scope, Budget, and Schedule – with Quality sitting right at the center of this triangle. The PMO needs to manage these interdependent elements at a technical level using established Project Management practices, processes, and tools. These are important controls and measures of any project’s success.
Then at a strategic level, these elements drive business success, e.g., coming in on budget is linked to profit, same with schedule; scope and quality can be linked to value for the client and vendor.
Drive Standardization and Consistency
Standardization is desirable to ensure that Project Managers within a PMO have a baseline for WHAT practices, processes, and tools are used on projects. This is useful when learning what works and what needs to be improved.
Consistency, as a function or by-product of standardization, is about providing consistent HOW practices, processes, and tools are used on a project.
The two work together to provide a platform for replicability for what works on a project or projects, and a list of improvements or lessons learned for what does not. Ultimately, what works will lead to value.
In addition to the inherent value in effectively managing the scope, budget, schedule, and quality of projects, there is also benefit and value created for clients. It is important to identify these upfront and measure them throughout the project lifecycle.
Project Managers should use techniques to identify the benefits or value that the client expects, how they will measure this, and what the client’s definition of doing or achieving this will be.
At the end of the day, clients will define value in the context of problems that have been solved, business growth, innovation, or stakeholder satisfaction. So, project teams have to link and measure their projects against these criteria as far as possible.
Measuring the outcomes of what you do is important for the bottom line, i.e. what value is your PMO adding to projects and your business? It is also important to provide information for continuous improvement. NB: make sure you measure at a business, portfolio/program, and project manager level and that the measures translate to each level.
Metrics: Measure the quantitative elements as much as possible using systems and tools, e.g., budget or schedule. Include any business metrics that are related to your project metrics, e.g., resource utilization, profit, cash flow, etc.
Project Reviews: Use client and internal or management reviews to assess if your projects are aligned with established project management methodology and agreed practice, process, and tools. These can be in the form of formal project reviews, project health checks, and periodic audits.
Peer Review/ Assessment: Benchmark your projects outside the PMO within your business and outside your organization. Within your business, use operations, risk management, or quality management colleagues to help assess your PMO against its practices, processes and tools. Critically assess your PMO against industry standards, e.g., pursue ISO certification, or submit flag-ship projects for awards, etc.
Laying the Foundation
In a nutshell, the purpose of a project team is to implement projects and try to achieve the desired outputs, outcomes, and value. Successful project managers become project leaders who balance the technical aspects of a project with the people-related elements. They manage the Iron Triangle, support and motivate the project team, and create the space for collaboration with the client to ensure success. This means that recruiting, rewarding, and retaining talent is critical to a successful PMO.
Job Profiles and Descriptions: It is critical to define the job requirements and people profile clearly for the project manager role in the PMO and account for the requirements and nuances within the business. Modern project managers are expected to be technically sound in terms of methodology, practice, process and tools, but more importantly, highly skilled in the “soft skills”, e.g., leadership, emotional intelligence, people and stakeholder management.
Recruitment: A rigorous hiring process, including interviews, assessments, and verification must be conducted and the PMO team and other parts of the business should be included in the process.
Rewarding: The PMO team should be rewarded and incentivized via a multi-pronged strategy that includes financial and non-financial elements. It is also a good idea to directly link PMO success to an individual’s success.
Training and Support: Implement a training and on-the job support system for the PMO team that meets business needs and enhances individual career growth.
The PMO should develop and implement project management processes that comply with industry standards. And these processes should align with the project management methodology, business requirements (financial, operational, risk, compliance, etc.), and stakeholder requirements.
We review and align our processes regularly and continuously create awareness and drive the adoption of these processes.
There are a few pointers when it comes to ensuring that your technology works for you:
1 – Implement tools that align with industry standards
2 – Make sure your tools help you manage your processes and produce data that helps with reporting or monitoring your metrics
3 – Mix and match or hybridize tools and systems if required
4 – Standardized templates are critical
Bear in mind that PMO is not a once-off gig. If you want repeatable success, you need to adopt a continuous improvement mindset, culture, and process in your PMO. Formalize the process by creating a backlog of improvements and tracking their implementation, prioritize improvements and focus on value-add.
Make improvements in small increments that are easy to implement and continuously assess what you do and how you do it in the context of the market.
Best advice I can give? Walk-the-talk!