Growing enterprises understand the importance of having a project management office (PMO). PMOs have become known as the critical group or department within a business, agency or enterprise that develops and supports the adherence to standards for project management within the enterprise. The enterprises that deploy a PMO typically find it a way to achieve process and cost improvement, greater efficiency and tighter monitoring of all projects at hand. To properly implement a PMO, it starts with building structure, developing standards, examining processes, gaining support and building a great team.
Building a PMO Structure
Once there is full support from the top down, it is crucial to define the structure and begin building the team around it. There is no “standard” structure when it comes to a PMO, as each organization will want to manage different components of their projects such as budgeting, resourcing, risk analysis etc. However, the most important thing is to find the right balance between the PMO and the roles and the style of management, as they will all need to co-exist within your organization.
Developing PMO Standards and Training
Once you have your structure in place and the team is getting to work, you need to move onto the PMO standards. These standards need to be defined, as they will ensure that there is consistency across the organization and all its projects. Being consistent or standardizing your project management process will make the management of projects easier in the long run.
As part of achieving PMO standards, training should be considered as an integral component. Much of the training should focus around the standards set out in the previous step. All individual skill sets should be considered when the training program is being drafted. The PMO should have up-skilling training programs available in the future as the PMO evolves.
It is also key to define and know your project resources. A project manager needs to be accountable for his/her own resources. Project success depends on the success of individual resources. This can be extremely challenging, especially when you are working with a large number of varied resources. There is no easy way to resolve this complex task, and you must work through the basic management process of understanding what style and method works to get the best out of your team.
Examining Your Process
It is important to continue to examine processes. Once you have established your PMO and its standards, you must ensure that you shift a certain amount of focus to measuring how successful the PMO has been. After putting the hours into establishing a PMO, it is important to measure its effectiveness and identify any areas that require improvement. Any issues or improvements that are needed can then be highlighted and possible solutions can be examined.
Scope creep is probably one of the biggest challenges that a project manager will face during a project. It is extremely important to act on this when it does happen and take the appropriate steps in order to refocus to the new direction.
With a focus on getting more bang for the buck, PMO has evolved quickly and is able to rein in projects more closely than ever before, and earlier in the process. However, the project manager tends not to have control of the project budget; they are given a number to work with. This can be another challenge as the project manager is expected to keep the project within that budget, even though they didn’t have any input into the initial figure that was put in place.
Gaining Support/Assembling the Team
Since a substantial amount of change will have to take place in order for a PMO to be established, you will need to gain the necessary support from executives and management as their current roles and responsibilities may be required to change. This step is the basis upon which a successful PMO is built. Any shift in organizational structure and process must be fully supported by all, and a change management plan discussed before meaningful change can take place.
Taking on a role as a project manager is no easy task. The skills and qualities required include communication, decision-making, delegation and risk taking — to name but a few. However, most importantly, and sometimes overlooked — are the day-to-day challenges that arise from managing projects, tasks, resources, time and budget.
When dealing with people, there are many personalities that may require some amount of management, especially if this is causing a high amount of incongruities amongst the team. These disagreements and differences of opinions can have quite a high impact on the progress of the project.
Achieving leadership can sometimes be difficult. The project manager is the head of their assigned projects and resources. However, in some cases the PM may not be seen as an authority figure even though it is their job to be responsible and to track everyone’s work. Any issues around authority should be dealt with immediately and appropriately so that they do not impact the project. This can be extra difficult if you have virtual teams and virtual work.
Building a PMO for Success Now and in the Future
Project managers within large enterprises may have to manage a team that is spread out across the U.S. or the world. These virtual teams bring with them a wide array of talent, but also new issues to address, from the very simple time zones, to the more complex language barriers.
This is why establishing a project management office is hugely beneficial to any such organization. However, the way in which you plan and build this PMO will determine its success for the future.
An adequate amount of time will have to be given for this task to ensure that the desired results are achieved. An effective and well-designed PMO will allow an organization to produce a higher quality project with few resources and less risk.
In summary, PMO can really deliver project efficiency from standardized processes and substantially increase overall customer satisfaction with on-time delivery and on- budget projects. Additionally, it can provide project managers a forum to more readily exchange ideas freely and learn while at the same time enabling management to have more insight into the project performance. PricewaterhouseCoopers recently reported that an astounding 97 percent of organizations believe project management is critical to business performance and organizational success. This is a mantra we expect will continue into 2017 and beyond.
Philip Martin is CEO of Cora Systems.