We are now more than halfway through 2016 and we are reviewing the current and immediate challenges for PMOs. There are always many challenges for the PMO. Starting with the core service they offer. But including the tools to drive the Project Office and how they continue to offer benefit.
The PMO Tools set
A solid set of tools is a must for PMOs that do not have the use of a PPM tool or are working in environments where it is too early to implement a PPM tool. There is a need to made the best use of software you currently have available. Microsoft Excel becomes the fall back for all things. Excel is a good tool but most organisations have a wider tool set than Excel that they could use to greater effect. SharePoint or some other collaboration tool can be a big help.
But also making better use of Microsoft Project could significantly improve information. Good flexible use of all tools whether the basic building blocks or a full PPM application depend on better data analysis and technical skills across the PMO team.
The best use of the complete tool set available to you will make the difference between providing timely data and constant firefighting to manually map out current status.
Using data to good effect
Along with the skills improvement in data analysis comes the foundation to provide useful historical data and improve estimates and future project delivery. Increasingly PMOs will need to provide wider services and will use more of the techniques found in Big Data. Better recording of project progress against plans and solid records in risks and issues will be essential to an effective PMO in the future.
Another key element of effective database and good data analysis is the ability to provide scenario planning that can enable extra value in significant events like BREXIT and other things that will impact your organisation.
Providing Methodology that’s fit for Purpose
The project, programmes and portfolio methodology that is owned and supported by the PMO will either offer a flexible control or constrained delivery. Most often project management methods are implemented in a way that adds red tape and delay without enhancing control and the quality of delivery. A subject we explored more in the post does governance delay projects. As time goes on PMOs have to tune and adapt methods, and avoid being prescriptive.
The PMO needs to coach project managers and project delivery in the practical use of a range of methods and accept feedback to tune and improve the method over time.
The life cycle and methodology used should enhance your project delivery, if it does not it could mean that the method needs tuning or replacing.
Align projects to the organisations goal
The PMO need to ensure they have an understanding of the organisation goals and objectives and agree with the key senior stakeholders on how projects are selected and the basis on which they should continue to be funded. Once this has been compiled and executive management have agreed the core objectives; the PMO has a foundation in place to provide useful information about project pipeline and the continued progress of projects against the Organisations goals and objectives.
Many PMOs find this step difficult because they do not have the direct relationship with executive management. The PMO leadership need to gain trust and input at the highest level possible to achieve good alignment, this will remain one of the major challenge most PMO managers will have to overcome.
Work more widely across the Organisations
As well as support for the PMO at the highest levels it is increasingly important that the PMO has a breadth of contact and awareness across all departments. The wider the understanding the easier the PMO’s job becomes. If people get a value back from the PMO they will be more likely to support its process which can help increase its value to all areas over time.
Carefully consider the services that can be offered
With the remaining misunderstanding of what a PMO should do and much of the organisation seeing it as an opportunity to get extra services for free. PMOs are still faced with challenges of clearly defining, selling and communicating what they offer and more importantly what they will not offer. Because of the lack of defined, agreed and communicated service PMOs are pressured to provide an unsupportable range of services.
The scope of offering is constrained by the volume and skill level of the resources available. Regular updating of skills and re-evaluation of the organisations key needs are required to keep the PMO relevant. Many PMOs still suffer a short lifecycle because they mishandle this element.
Tracking Progress and benefit
PMOs have been good in the past at policing project and programmes in tracking progress and managing risks, issues and dependencies; they even occasionally have to establish the means to track project benefits.
Ironically most PMOs are poor at tracking their own value and progress. But it is core that the function of the PMO that it delivers benefit in control and improvement of projects and programmes. Once the PMO itself fails to deliver benefits then why does the organisation need a PMO.
Value will vary from Organisation to Organisation but it cannot be simply a reporting and admin function for long or the benefit received will be too low to justify its continued existence.