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Project Management Blog
One service that is typically associated with a PMO is reporting on the status of all the projects being executed within the organization. This concept can be extended so that the PMO tracks a complete, portfolio-wide view of all active, pending and historical projects.

On the surface, this might seem simple. However, it can be quite time-consuming. First, the PMO must work with the management stakeholders to define what is in the consolidated status report. Some organizations like to keep each project to one line, with some type of overall status indicator such as green (okay), yellow (caution) or red (trouble). If the reader wants more information, he can follow up with the project manager. Other organizations like to see a full status report on each project. If there are questions or concerns, the status report may contain the answers so that additional follow-up is not required.

Problems Gathering the Status

The PMO needs to collect status information on each project, consolidate it and report it. However, like all activities that rely on people, this can be easier said than done. Your PMO will probably encounter the following challenges:
  • Timeliness. First, chances are that all of the project managers will not send you the required status information within the timeframe you need it.
  • Accuracy. In many cases, the information will not be accurate. For instance, the project manager may make his or her project appear to be on schedule, even though not all scheduled activities are completed. The rationale is that the team will make up the activities in the next reporting period. You may spot this if the accomplishments for the previous period do not reflect the same work that was supposed to be completed according to the prior status report.
  • Completeness. In many cases, the information on the report is accurate, and it may also be timely. However, you may find that it is not complete. For instance, the information provided may be very brief and may not provide a real sense for the status of the project.
Overcoming Status Reporting Problems

Of course, these problems need to be overcome. The PMO can address these types of chronic problems through activities such as the following:
  • Explain who is requesting the information and what it will be used for. This is a key aspect of consolidated reporting. People do not like to spend the time to provide information if they don't feel it will be used. If they understand who is requesting the information, it might become a higher priority for them.
  • Be clear on the information you need and use what you are requesting. You want to be clear on the information you need and how it will be used. Make sure that you do not ask for status information that you don't need for consolidated reporting.
  • Clearly communicate when the Status Reports are due. The PMO will have difficulty gathering status information from some percentage of project teams. Make sure that you do not give anyone the excuse that they did not know when it was due.
  • Follow up with project managers on items that need further explanation and clarity. If you receive status information that does not contain the content or format you need, make sure you follow up with the project manager. This follow-up is designed to make sure that the project managers know what you need, with the hope that they will provide this in future Status Reports.
  • Use the governance process if necessary. If you find that the PMO is spending too much time running around for the information every month, you are going to have to go to the Sponsor for backing. Senior managers need to be held accountable if project managers in their organization cannot get the status reports in correctly and on time.
Consolidated Metrics

There are a number of places where the organization gains value with the implementation of project management. If the PMO does not attempt to track and quantify some of these benefits, the organization will have no idea what value has been provided. In general, the metrics associated with project management value are also indirectly indicative of the value of the PMO. For instance, if more projects complete within expectations, it would indicate the value associated with project management, and would also point out the value provided by the PMO.  

Organizational Metrics

One of the most difficult items the PMO will be asked to work on is determining the value of project management. It is one of the most fundamental questions for your sponsor and senior management to ask, and yet it is also one of the most difficult to successfully answer. There seems to be intuitive value in implementing a standard project management methodology, but if you try to quantify the value, you will quickly become stuck. There are a few approaches to these organizational metrics. One is to rely on industry research and look for companies and case studies that are similar to your organization for comparison. The thought is that if someone else was able to measure value and you are a similar company implementing in a similar way, you should be able to claim similar value.

The second method is to actually try to calculate the value associated with using a methodology. For instance, the PMO can work with project managers on different types of projects to determine the cost savings associated with maintaining good scope change procedures, managing risk proactively, and managing client expectations effectively. As you continue to interview a subset of the project managers, you should start to see some trends that you can apply to the rest of the projects in your organization.

You could also look for the reuse value associated with using a common project management process. Again, this approach asks project managers to estimate the savings associated with using similar processes on multiple projects and getting their estimate of the cost and time savings associated with reusing the common processes on an ongoing basis.

There are some areas of service where the PMO does not already have a sufficient level of expertise. Metrics could be another one of these areas. Many companies do not know much about defining and capturing a good set of metrics. Some consulting firms have a strong expertise in this area that could be leveraged to make sure you start off on the right foot.

Summary

The PMO is in the unique organizational position of being able to view all of the projects going on in the organization. Therefore, the PMO is the logical organizational entity to define and collect a common set of metrics, and it is the logical place to collect common project status information for consolidated reporting. These activities can be simple if all the projects collect metrics and report status as requested. However, this is rarely the case, which makes these valuable services a couple of the most time-consuming services the PMO performs.  

At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at admin@TenStep.com.
Published in Blogs
It is difficult to address all the potential services having to do with PMOs, but here is an attempt to summarize some of them. Keep in mind that probably no single PMO will undertake responsibility for all of the services mentioned below. However, understanding the nature of the many services that can be offered will help you determine the most important areas that will be offered by your PMO.

Establish and Support a Document Repository

One of the value propositions for deploying common project management processes is the ability to reuse processes, procedures, templates, prior examples, etc. However, the ability to reuse documentation does not come about like magic. If project managers want to see whether there might be pre-existing material that would help them, they are not going to be expected to contact every other project manager. To facilitate process and document reuse, the PMO needs to establish and manage a Document Repository. This could be as easy as setting up a directory structure that everyone in the organization can access. It might also be more elaborate and multi-functional, like a tool specifically designed for document management. Depending on how you implement this facility, you need to properly set up a classification structure, make sure that only approved information is posted there, make sure the information stays current and relevant, and make sure that the facility is actively marketed and utilized by the organization.

Convert Key Learnings to Best Practices

At the end of every project, the project manager, team, client and major stakeholders should get together in an end-of-project meeting to discuss what was planned and what actually happened. At some point in the meeting, you should turn your attention to lessons learned. The lessons should be collected and consolidated in the Document Repository. However, one problem with lessons learned is that they typically only apply to that one project.

As the PMO collects more and more key learnings, they may start to see patterns emerge in the lessons learned. At some point, lessons learned from projects can be raised to the level of a best practice. A best practice statement implies that the benefit can be gained for all projects, not just the few that reported it.

Coordinating a Common Resource Pool

All companies need to have a process to staff projects. In some companies, the resources are allocated per business unit. In other companies, all of the project people are assigned to one central staff. Since the PMO is a focal point for all project management-related activities, it is the right place to manage these common resource pools. The resource pool could be for project managers only, or it could be for all potential project team members. Creating a common resource pool involves taking a skills inventory of all shared resources and keeping track of when each person will become available from his current project. The PMO can then have the information available as new projects are ready to start. In fact, the PMO can have certain projects started based on the availability of skillsets.

Document Review Service

Document reviews can be offered on a stand-alone basis to help ensure that project managers are utilizing the standard templates as they were intended and that they are being completed clearly and consistently. This service basically just involves project managers sending in project deliverables to receive a quick review and feedback. The PMO is not “approving” the document, but they are providing feedback on the content, format and readability of the specified document.

Defining the Role of Contractors on Projects

Most companies utilize contractors for some portion of their workload. The question that your company must answer is how best to utilize contractors and how best to utilize employees. There is not one answer that fits all companies. Each company and each organization must determine the things that are most important to them and create an overall policy for utilizing contractors within that context. For instance, one company might decide that their business runs on their legacy systems, and they are not going to trust contractors to keep those applications running. Another company may decide that the legacy systems represent the past, and that new projects represent the future. In that company, they may decide to rely on contractors for support, but they may prefer to utilize employees for new projects. Likewise, some companies insist that all senior positions be staffed with employees. Other companies do not have a problem placing contractors in any position where they are short of employees or do not have the right employee available. The PMO can help determine the right policies for your company.

Benchmarking

As your company becomes more sophisticated at utilizing metrics, you might realize that collecting internal data on internal projects is valuable, but can only take you so far. You don't really know how efficient and effective your project delivery is unless you can compare how you deliver projects against other companies. Benchmarking studies (one-time) and benchmarking programs (longer-term) are a way to compare your organization against others. Benchmarking requires that you gather a set of predefined metrics that describe the result of very well-defined processes. The resulting metrics that are captured from other companies, using the same set of processes and definitions, can be used to create benchmarking statistics that allow you to compare your organization against others. This information can be evaluated to determine if there are changes that can be made in your organization to achieve similar results.

Benchmarking is an area that few companies want to try to start on their own. It requires a lot of work, and the processes you define need to be applicable to a range of outside companies. If you are going to benchmark, you are generally going to need to utilize an outside firm that specializes in benchmarking. This company may already have the core set of processes, metrics and benchmarks defined. They can also spend the time to get other companies involved, they can conduct the study and they can help interpret the results.

Summary

Many companies are finding that they must build project management capabilities if they are going to meet business challenges in the future. It is also important to implement project management processes consistently across the organization. This leads to efficiency and helps to deliver projects better, faster, and cheaper. The next step is to determine how best to identify the common project management processes and make sure that they are leveraged as needed by the entire organization.

Many companies give this responsibility to one or more people in a Project Management Office (PMO). There are many structures for a PMO and many types of services that the PMO can offer. Each organization must first determine the services that are important to them and then create an overall approach for implementation. Since this is a culture change initiative, the effort can be time-consuming and difficult. However, the rewards are also large. If the PMO is established with a clear vision, strong sponsorship and a solid approach, it can be a vehicle for creating a tremendous amount of value for the company.

At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at admin@TenStep.com.
Published in Blogs
There are almost as many varieties of PMO as there are companies. There are strong PMOs and weak PMOs. There are some that have many responsibilities in the organization and some that have only a few. Some companies rely on the PMO to be responsible for all areas of project management and project execution. Other companies only want the PMO to provide a consolidated reporting view of all the projects in the organization.

Before you can jump in and start up a PMO, you must first define what the PMO will look like. Without this foundation, all of the other work you do will be in jeopardy.

The place to start creating your PMO is through a formal organizational definition. The value of defining a logical organization is twofold. First, you gain clarity and agreement on what you are doing and why. This information is communicated to clients, stakeholders and your own staff so that everyone starts off with a common set of expectations. Second, this exercise provides a framework for the PMO to guide decision-making in the future. For instance, you would not want to undertake any projects that did not help you achieve your organizational objectives. Likewise, major decisions can be evaluated based on whether they fit into your strategy.

Building a Logical Organization

The term "logical organization" means that when the definition is complete, the organizational structure will only exist on paper. Once the logical organization is defined, you still need to actually staff the PMO at the right level to support the logical organization. Many companies have the expertise to perform this definition by themselves. However, defining missions and strategies is not something that you do every day. That is why consultants are sometimes brought in to assist. There are consultants that specialize in these organizational assessments. They can facilitate the definition process and make sure that the resulting logical organization provides a firm foundation for the subsequent staffing and project execution.

The following major components are used to define your logical PMO.

Mission. Describes what the PMO does, how it is done, and for whom. It is a very general statement, usually aligning the PMO to the value it provides to the business. An example of a PMO mission statement is "The Acme Project Management Office (PMO) implements and supports project management methodology to enable our organization to deliver projects faster, cheaper, with higher quality, and within estimates and expectations."

Strategy. There may be many ways to achieve your mission. A strategy is a high-level set of directions that articulate how the organization will achieve its mission. Defining a strategy also helps get the PMO aligned in the same direction as strategies in the rest of the company. Strategy defines how you will do things over the long-term - say three years - and is used as an overall framework for the more detailed tactical decisions that are made on a month-to-month and day-to-day basis.

Sponsor. All organizations do not have a sponsor, but a PMO typically does. In this respect, a PMO is similar to a project and, in fact, many PMOs are established with a project. The sponsor is the person responsible for the PMO funding, and in many cases the sponsor is the manager that the PMO reports to. Sponsors are important for all initiatives, but they are absolutely critical for a culture change initiative such as this.

Clients. Clients are the main individuals or groups that request and utilize the products and services your organization provides. (These people may also be referred to as customers.) While there may be many stakeholders (below), it is important to recognize who the clients are. They should be the ones the PMO focuses on to help them meet their project and business objectives.

Stakeholders. These are the specific people or groups who have an interest or a partial stake in the products and services your PMO provides. Internal stakeholders could include organizations you work with, but who are not directly under the PMO umbrella. External stakeholders could include suppliers, investors, community groups, and government organizations.

Objectives. Objectives are concrete statements describing what the PMO is trying to achieve in the short-term, perhaps up to one year. The objectives should be written at a low level, so that they can be evaluated at the end of the year to see whether they were achieved or not. A well-worded objective will be Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound (SMART).

Products / Services. Products describe tangible items that the PMO produces, and are typically produced as the result of a project. Services refer to work done for clients or stakeholders that does not result in the creation of tangible deliverables. Services provide value by fulfilling the needs of others through interaction with people. The PMO achieves its objectives through the creation of products and the delivery of services.

Transitional Activities. Transitional activities are the specific activities and projects that are required to implement the physical PMO. If the PMO is new, these activities describe the work required to build and staff the new organization. This does not imply the creation of a full workplan, but it includes the immediate activities required to get you to the point that the PMO workplan can be put into place.

There are other aspects of the organization that can be defined as well, including the PMO vision, principles, goals, skills, roles, and responsibilities.

Summary

A PMO should be established based on a need to help the organization in project management and project execution. There are many ways that a PMO can be established. The correct way for your company can be determined with an exercise to create a logical organization definition. When you have a consensus on the definition, the PMO has a much better chance of success and of meeting sponsor, client and stakeholder expectations. Once the logical organization is approved, the staff can be put into place to build the physical organization.

At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at admin@TenStep.com.
Published in Blogs

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