Some people love the PMO, others hate it. I have heard names like “Project Police” or even worse “Piss Me Off”, which to be honest, makes me quite sad. Something must have gone terribly wrong when people think of their PMO like that.
But there is some truthfulness in it. The PMO is often “the meat in the sandwich” as a good friend once said. It always stands in-between Executives, Sponsors, Program and Project Managers, Business and IT – you name it. If those departments or people don’t get what they want – for example their business case has been rejected or a project has been delayed or even cancelled, than the PMO is the first one to blame.
The key element for a PMO is to communicate decisions and provide reasons on why these decisions were made. This will help understanding the value a PMO can provide.
In the end, the PMO will help to determine which investments should be selected in order to help the organisation reaches their goals and targets, which than pay for the salary of the employees – so really, everybody should have an interest that the PMO is performing well and help making the right decisions….otherwise we won’t have a job very soon.
A PMO can provide value, regardless of it’s size. Below I mention some activities, explained using the PDCA method which stands for Plan – DO – Check – Act, an iterative process made popular by Dr. W. Edwards Deming:
1. Strategy – The Planning Stage
The major investment portfolio planning exercise is generally performed ones a year. A pre-requisite for this planning stage is that the company’s strategy and targets are known to the PMO.
Based on this information the PMO will assist in collecting and evaluating ideas and proposals and prioritise them based on their strategic contribution and their business benefits.
Suggestions and recommendations on the prioritised proposals (within the proposed budget) will be put forward to the executive team in order to help the organisation to reach their goals and targets.
These investment proposals can be categorised (for examples in: compliance / running the business / growing the business / transforming the business) in order to provide visibility on how ‘innovative’ (or not) the organisation will be.
2. Governance – The Do Stage
Once the proposed investments have been agreed on, the PMO or Portfolio Manager will take oversight and will start executing on it.
Activities like: resourcing projects and performing supply and demand analysis, helping projects to start-up, reviewing business cases (to see if the ROI stacks up), assisting troubled projects and setting-up business benefits realisation are tasks which will help to execute the above plan.
Providing regular updates to the executive team on the performance of the portfolio investment should be done on a routine basis.
3. Program- and Project Management – The Check Stage
The next stage is really about studying the projects outcome and compare it against the expected results. This is commonly done by performing health checks and ‘lessons leaned’.
Some people might wonder why I didn’t mention tools and templates here. In my view they are only tools which will help to achieve the goals and objectives.
It is important to have and to use a standard set of tools in order to automate tasks and to track improvements. My personal view is that the PMO should only spend a limited amount of time on tools and templates as they are only adding little value compared to the other activities.
4. Improvements – The Act Stage
Often, there is a difference between the planned and the actual results from a portfolio and from a project view:
The portfolio could have been impacted by legislative changes or delayed projects that have an impact on the performance and cost.
From a project perspective there could be a lack of training and resources or a lack of skills on how to do project estimation. In order to overcome these issues: training, support and tools should be provided.
This cycle will now start again from the top, and will iterate through this several times a year. The planning stage might not be that extensive – new initiatives might come up and re-planning of the investment is required, and the plan needs to be adjusted. Projects might be in trouble and need further attention. If some projects are over budgets – others need to be cut down or delayed until the next financial year in order to stay in the budget. From my experience, the planning stage shouldn’t be performed more than 4 times a year, otherwise the management of the investment portfolio becomes very reactive. The other stages are running more or less in parallel – but it always depends on the size of the organisation and how the PMO is managed.
Do you agree? Have I missed anything? And how does your PMO provide value? Looking forward hearing from you!