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Project Management Office (PMO) Best Practices
By Joanne Wortman

Below are some tips that will improve your PMO performance. Note that the first tip about meetings is more specific to Project Management but may apply in a PMO context.

  1. Writing up your meeting minutes is not as critical as limiting the minutes your team spends in meetings. Don’t get me wrong: published meeting notes are important, and they should still be distributed within 24 hours of each working meeting. The following mental exercise will bring home the importance of running tight, efficient meetings:
    1. Count the number of meeting attendees.
    2. Multiply by the length of the meeting in hours.
    3. Multiply by the number of meeting occurrences over the project lifespan.
    4. Multiply by a fully burdened hourly rate.

    A weekly internal status meeting for a year-long project could be adding significant cost to your project. Limit your agenda to the essentials: It’s not so important to review what everyone has done or what went well. Use the meeting time for resolving issues and managing exceptions.

  2. Revisit the charter for your PMO and make sure it serves the business, and does not ask the business to serve the PMO. PMOs that exist to enforce consistency and police compliance with a methodology often end up slowing down project execution instead of enabling project success. Standardize project plan templates at the highest level necessary for tracking milestones across projects, and let individual project managers develop work breakdown structures within that framework, to a level that suits the needs of individual projects.

  3. Develop a less adversarial attitude toward change. Much is written about scope creep and change control in project management circles. There may be a tendency to take too hard a line toward change. The reality is that business conditions, needs, and strategy may well change over the lifespan of many projects.

    Let’s move our definition of project success away from the old metrics of “on time and within budget” toward more realistic measures of business success. Some more appropriate ways to judge success of a project include:

    • Did the project fulfill the objectives, as defined in the original project charter and all subsequent change requests?
    • Are end-users satisfied that their requirements have been implemented, and can they easily perform their daily tasks using the new system?
    • Some metrics are specific to the type of project, such as:
      • For business intelligence projects: Has this project enabled the business to make better and quicker business decisions by putting better data and drilldown capability into their hands?
      • For projects that install new transactional systems: Have we improved overall efficiency and accuracy of critical business transactions?
  4. Develop an efficient framework for project triage. Not every project needs the same level of support. Some projects need to be suspended or rescoped as business needs change. Regular project triage is a best practice that helps organizations make sure they are keeping IT budgets aligned with business needs. Make a commitment to quarterly triage.

  5. Re-order the priorities of your project managers. Make sure that they understand that their most important responsibility is maintaining a healthy working relationship with the business. Tracking status, updating the plan, and managing the tech team are not the key enablers of project success. The most valuable skills to strengthen in your PM staff are related to communication, conflict resolution, consensus building, and salesmanship (they will often have to ”sell” reluctant stakeholders on compromise solutions).

Periodically re-examine your approach and commit to continuous improvement efforts. That’s the real secret to successfully building a high-performance project management office within your organization.

Joanne Wortman, JWortman@edgewater.com, Director of Consulting, Edgewater Technology, Inc.

Joanne Wortman has been leading complex technology projects, M&A integration programs, business process reengineering efforts and change management initiatives for more than a decade. Her work has been published in Buyouts Magazine and at www.vcexperts.com. Ms. Wortman holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Edgewater Technology, Inc. is an innovative technology management consulting firm. We provide a unique blend of specialty IT services by leveraging our proven industry expertise in strategy, technology and enterprise performance management. Headquartered in Wakefield, MA, we go to market by vertical industry and provide our clients with a wide range of business and technology offerings.

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