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Are PMOs a Transformative Function? Part 2

The term Project Management Offices (PMOs) is often associated with overheads and governance, yet as key critics explain – this stereotype is not always reflective of the truth.

Gartner predicts that by 2030, smart machines, AI and the IoT will play distinct roles in
projects such as data collection, analysis and reporting. PPM leaders will require a new and specific project management skillset to oversee successful collaborations between smart machines and humans.

In this three-part series of blog articles, we will explore the transformation of PMOs and their adaptation to new technologies. What value do PMOs provide today? And what does the future look like?

This is part 2 of the blog series, part 1 is available here and part 3 is available here.

PART 2 OF 3 – DO PMOs SUPPORT CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT?

If you’ve been in the field of projects for a while, you may have heard whispers about Project Management Offices (PMOs) not supporting delivery or even hindering innovation. Whilst in some cases these may be legitimate fears, a long lasting and well-run PMO has many benefits.

Note: Successful, incremental introduction and design of PM Processes and Frameworks will be explored further in Part 3 (PMOs, Agility and Innovation) and the next article (What Makes A Successful PPM Implementation).

As a PMO Professional, the most endearing part about working in and with PMO functions is having a front row seat to observe an organisation’s initiatives. These initiatives can include new ideas coming in to the pipeline, understanding how products are responding to market demand or technology and the piloting of new service lines including how ideas get executed on and managed.

There is also invaluable intel on what goes wrong – what pains people the most in their delivery process, what slows them down and what mistakes seem to be re-occurring. Whilst the primary function of a PMO is not to be “pulled on the dancefloor” to fire-fight, what these mistakes, challenges and failures are, in fact, is an ever-growing repository of wisdom and experience for any future employee or project team to learn from.

Delivery maturity and growth can be captured and viewed from a project or portfolio level. At a portfolio level, what is becoming more and more popular is assessing PPM maturity using frameworks such as the P3M3’s Capability Maturity Model (aligned to PMI’s standards and referenced globally). This model can be used to baseline the state of an existing PMO to track improvements over time.

A New PM Framework: A Case Study

An organisation that recently adopted a new PM Framework was able to measure 15 months’ worth of implementation success through receiving an assessment score of a 1.0 across all PPM practice areas. In addition, the framework acknowledged areas for improvement including benefits management, risk management, resource management and stakeholder management. The organisation used these insights to lead improvement efforts for the next twelve months, sparking further questions relating to the desired target state of the organisation and the transformation required to get there, including; what competencies were required for the capability target state to be achieved? What training would people need to get there? The PMO can be a great driving force for creating change.

The more interesting part is the ‘war’ stories. By capturing lessons learnt from individual projects, categorising them and sorting them, companies themselves can create portfolio intel. Lessons learned can be categorised in to the Practice Areas (of PMI) for improvement areas to be sorted and analysed. For the example discussed above, the annual lessons learned report revealed that the organisation had strengths in delivering within budget, but struggled to deliver projects on time. The reasons for this related to process, idea inception, Board involvement and culture – these themes were explored and shared with staff to be addressed in the following year.

CREATIVE TIPS

Some creative ways to share information include;

  • Inviting Project Managers to speak in Community of Practice Forums
  • Ensuring Closure Reports are presented at Governance Groups (who will be responsible for challenging future Business Cases to incorporate learnings from similar projects),
  • Presenting the best learning from each project each year. Learning could be video-taped and published as a link on the intranet as a reference for future projects. Capturing this information can be enabled by creating a SharePoint List on a Project Site and feeding information to a global database for reporting on quarterly or yearly.

This is part 2 of the blog series, part 1 is available here and part 3 is available here.

By Helena Chen, Portfolio and Change Lead at Sensei

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