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Marketing Your PMO – Metrics – Competency (#4 in the series Marketing Your PMO)
By Derry Simmel, PMP, MBA, FLMI

Competency

The drive for Project Management competency generally comes from some internal source or sources. This may actually be a primary driver of the existence of your PMO. These drivers generally take the form of statements like “we need to become more capable with our project execution” or “we plan to become a world class organization.” Terms like “best practices” also are thrown around here. The idea is that there is a clear recognition that something is missing – project management competence. Unfortunately, this lack creates some problems for you in trying to fill that void.

One problem is that “competency” is only very generally defined and understood and will mean different things to different people. Your job at this point is to nail down a definition. You start by interviewing stakeholders giving particular attention to those who hold the purse strings for the PMO. Yes, that sounds superficial, but in order to infuse a Project Management culture in your organization, you have to exist, to exist you need support and money. After interviewing you should have some qualifications that stick out as competency measures. This then is your basis for the measurements and communication of competency.

Now comes and important part of the work. You have information about competency and how to measure it. With this information you can create the definition of competence. If you do not clearly define competency and communicate that definition, you run the risk of not meeting expectations of those who have a slightly different perception. With a common definition, you can shoot for goals that are understood by all.

Another problem with competency is the same one that every new PMO faces. How can you show improvement? You want to be careful that you are not implying incompetence as the prior condition, but rather show improvement in existing capabilities. I recommend that once you have defined competency and communicated (socialized) this, you benchmark. For each component of competency, where do you stand right now? Benchmarking gives you a lot of advantages:

  • It gives a much better picture of the current state.
  • It involves many stakeholders giving them even more input and buy-in.
  • It gives you time to better define, adjust and communicate what you will be doing.
  • It gives stakeholders time to become comfortable with the ideas.

Of course the biggest reason is to get the baseline metrics and to be able to show improvement from those initial values. Everyone has agreed to what competency is. They have agreed that more competency is better than less. They have agreed that the organization is at the defined baseline. If you can show that your PMO is moving the organization from less competency to more competency, you are clearly showing that the PMO has value.

So what are those metrics that will show value? While these may be easy to list here, measuring these may not be quite as simple. Let me start with the easier ones.

Training and/or certification of Project Managers: Clearly if your Project Managers are more competent, then the organization is more competent. If your company will spring for it, PMP certification is a great idea. From my personal perspective, I do not recommend this as something to be taken lightly. I’ll get on my soapbox for a second. The PMP certification is something that belongs to those of us who choose Project Management as our profession. I do not think that PMP are three letters to be put after someone’s name so that they can get a better job, or a higher salary. If you are not serious about PM, don’t bother. Anyway, that said, certification of dedicated, capable people is a clear indication of improved competence (also consistency). Other types of training work well also. You may have internal courses, you could have a vendor come in and give a class or series of classes or send team members offsite. Any of these works as long as you are consistent and measure. Creating a career path (I’ll cover that later) with required training and showing progress along that path is a great method.

A Knowledge Repository: This can be the beginning of your methodology, a library of best practices, or anything similar. The idea is to build something that can be accessible to everyone and that will contain institutional knowledge. Some good components of this might be:

  • Lessons Learned
  • Common Project Risks
  • Useful Documents and Forms – project status reports, meeting minutes, etc- the beginning of methodologies
  • Approval and Review Recommendations – who needs to know about your project and review/ approve steps
  • Templates
  • Past project folders

This area will be a great place to consolidate the knowledge and experience of the organization and show that you are learning from the past.

Industry Standard Measures: There are quite a few of these that measure competency for an organization, such as CMM for software, Six Sigma for quality and efficiency, or OPM3 for Project Management. A warning, these tend to be very comprehensive and detailed. I do not suggest adopting any of these without a lot of forethought, money, patience and commitment. Going down one of these roads is NOT trivial. I do recommend that you become familiar with these and others. There is a lot of great information, ideas, measures and knowledge in these methodologies. The methodologies use Key Indicators or Key Process Areas and other measures, almost any of which make a great metric for measuring competency and improvement in your PMO.

Mr. Derry Simmel, PMP, MBA, FLMI

Derry Simmel has been in IT and project management for over 15 years. He has started 3 PMOs in the last 6 years, the latest of which is with a large project for the State of South Carolina. Derry has an MBA from University of Phoenix and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of South Carolina. He currently serves as the Vice-Chairman of Membership for PMI’s Project Management Office Special Interest Group and as the VP of Programs for the PMI Midlands Chapter. Derry maintains All about Project Management Offices, a professional blog covering all aspects of PMO.

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