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Is Your PMO Healthy?
By Deepa Bagal

In my experience managing the PMO for large and small organizations, there are 5 key things to monitor to make sure the PMO is vibrant, Project Managers are engaged and customers are happy.

  1. Methodology that’s easy to understand: The methodology used on a software implementation project is there to provide structure, access to tools and templates, and focus on the end goal. We use a methodology to ensure a smooth software implementation with minimal disruption.

    Key things to consider when you are selecting a project methodology to use as “the” framework for your PMO:

    1. Time to market – does the process streamline the development cycle without sacrificing quality?
    2. Customer’s bandwidth – does the methodology make it easy for the customer to contribute appropriately?

    3. Tolerance for scope creep/budget overrun – does the methodology make it easy for the PM to flag threats to the project scope and adjust on the fly?

    Methodologies to consider for packaged software implementation:

    1. Agile is an iterative methodology, which works very well when there is a need to develop something quickly, with lots of involvement from the customer. Use it on projects that have a higher likelihood of scope creep.
    2. Waterfall is sequential, and works really well when there is a little more time to market (think longer time to gather those requirements!). Waterfall also works well when the customer has less time to dedicate, typically projects using this methodology have minimal customer involvement during development.

    Note that there are a number of methodologies available for software development, the methodologies I have mentioned are the front runners for packaged software implementation.

  2. Metrics that make sense: Running a PMO requires discipline, thought leadership and a good understanding of what’s working and what’s not. In order to fix things, you need to know what’s broken. It’s also critical to not measure the wrong things. You can waste a lot of time and energy tracking data that is not useful.

    The following metrics are critical to running a healthy PMO:

      Quality: Quality is an indicator of whether your projects have the right people doing the right work with clients in the right amount of time. On a week to week basis, it’s important to measure the quality of your portfolio, to understand where the escalations are happening and why. A detailed analysis is the first step in uncovering root causes, which helps you prevent escalations.

    1. Utilization: Utilization is an indicator of whether your project scope is accurate, and it also helps you evaluate the efficiency of each Project Manager’s approach to managing clients and work. It’s critical to understand how much time it takes to manage a project, and to know what kinds of projects and clients take more or less time than the average. Assigning the correct number of hours to projects ensures your Project Managers can meet their utilization targets. Manage utilization by knowing the type of work that needs to be done, down to the work breakdown structure, what are the tasks, how long they take, what types of skills are required, etc.

    2. On-time Delivery: On time delivery provides the data you need to confirm that your project scope is based on the right data, and that the people you’re assigning to each project are working effectively to get the work done on time. Measuring on—time delivery is critical to understand the reasons why you weren’t able to meet the project timeline and to implement processes to help you attain this goal.

  3. The Right People: Hiring the right people with the right traits and skills goes a long way to running an efficient PMO. On top of the right credentials, being a PM is a very tricky job: effective Project Managers balance being directive and collaborative, accommodating and rigorous every day. So-called “soft skills” are at least as important as PMI certification or other “hard skills”: communication style, emotional intelligence, and attention to detail. A combination of these traits with the right experience makes for an effective PM.

  4. Quality training to help your people thrive: An organization with the right kind of training and knowledge management is essential for an effective PMO. Training essentially falls into two buckets:

    1. Project Management Related: A PM with the right certifications and skills will still need to understand company policies and procedures to effectively manage a project. All project management training has to be targeted to enable your resources quickly ramp up and be effective.
    2. Product Related: For a Project Manager to be effective, innate knowledge is essential. Training curriculum for Project Managers has to be tailored with just the right amount of details and knowledge, to enable Project Managers to be authoritative and go getters!

  5. Policies and Procedures to provide service excellence: Last but not least policies and procedures that enable our resources to be effective and help them do their jobs are essential. When designing an internal project governance model, I would consider the following:

    1. Effective Risk Management to manage customer risks.
    2. Senior Leadership involvement on bigger projects to ensure customer happiness and continuous feedback.

    3. Defined processes to manage project related issues.

A healthy PMO is essential for the growth and the prosperity of a company, regardless of its size, industry focus, and lifespan.

Deepa Bagal is the Director of Project Management at Aasonn, an HRIS Consulting company. Deepa has over 15+ years of project management expertise.

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