How PMOs Can Drive Needed Change During Tough Times

Author: Jody Koch

You Can Emerge Stronger than Ever

There’s no escaping the topic of COVID-19 and its impact on businesses, as well as other types of organizations, worldwide. Many of us are rightfully concerned about the challenges ahead and are seeking direction on how to proceed amidst all of the chaos. One ally that already exists in most organizations is the project management office (PMO). Who better to help keep the wheels turning smoothly than the people who already do it when times are calm?

Your PMO can be your best partner when “business as usual” becomes quite unusual. Read on to learn how, plus get some tips on how the other big topic before this crisis began — Agile project and project portfolio management (PPM) — can prepare you for the unexpected and come out of the other side better than ever. And, for the record, these tips can apply during other challenges, too.

Why Your PMO Is Your Biggest Ally

In multiple regions throughout the United States and other countries, many organizations have sent their staff home to comply with health professionals’ and governments’ recommendations to practice social distancing. That means that many of those who maintained an in-office team have now found themselves managing a remote staff. This can be intimidating for management that prefers to have their teams where they can see them. It can be just as stressful for employees who have never worked at home or are supervising children while working at home.

Everyone is making adjustments and that’s where your PMO becomes the knight in shining armor. They know every project in every portfolio. They know the resources, the budgets, the timelines and the capacity. They know the customer expectations and the employee limitations. Your PMO is your library, your planner, your orchestrator.

For the PMO team, the new developments simply do not register the same way because they are already used to managing disruption and turning it into business value. Here are some ways your PMO can help management during times of shifting agendas and new remote working situations:

  1. Peace of mind about employee productivity. Your PMO can tell you where each team member is in their progress and if that location in the workload is following the designated path. They’re already monitoring that when everyone is in the office.
  2. Help ensure project deadlines. The PMO already tracks the progress of every project in a given portfolio. There’s no need to feel in the dark when deliverables are out of sight.
  3. Make accurate adjustments as necessary. The PMO is in the right position to adjust project deliveries based on changing resource availability and external dynamics.
  4. Enforce budget discipline.  Like all other aspects of project delivery, tracking progress won’t change simply because of a transformation in the work environment. They thoroughly understand the required resources and expenses and can mitigate inflated costs.
  5. Ensure all resources are utilized effectively. Employees will not be left twiddling their thumbs at home. As noted in the first benefit, your PMO knows who is performing each part of every project.

How Agile Project and Portfolio Management Can Help

Agile principles require that your PMO is able to make swift changes in real-time to go with the flow in delivering the best results possible. Additionally, Agile requires a customer-centric delivery model that always places the customer first. That’s incredibly beneficial in a time where your customers need stability and reassurance.

Being Agile requires some changes, however. On the bright side, your organization is likely already in the midst of some structural adjustments, so there is no better time to seize the moment and embrace Agile practices in addition to other developments. In order to receive the benefits noted above, here are some steps you can take to fold Agile practices into your organization.

  1. Adopt an Agile PPM tool. This first step is the key to creating the best outcomes for business change. A PPM tool creates a digital hub of information that can be accessed and managed anytime, anywhere. PPM tools remove barriers and eliminate distance by connecting everyone via a centralized system – now more important than ever. Speaking of centralized ...
  2. Centralize information regardless of your PPM methodology. Not every business can go full-speed into Agile. Some businesses rely on waterfall, for example, because of the limitations and legalities of their industry. However, centralization must occur in order for every employee and every project to benefit. Get all of your data in one place so time is not wasted searching dozens of locations for one piece of information.
  3. Increase visibility. Peace of mind is in short supply right now and high visibility can help! If all data is centralized and a good PPM tool is implemented, guess what occurs naturally? Visibility and the resulting peace of mind. If your decision-makers are working remotely but can see the output of every project and employees with the click of a button, they will be able to feel more in control of business outcomes. And if the PMO can observe tasks and assets in real time, they can make better decisions. Which leads to another important part of Agile ...
  4. Reporting. Now, more than ever, comprehensive reporting is one of the most powerful tools in your toolkit for driving business success in unusual circumstances. Reporting arms your organization with the information it needs to make decisions about budget, resources, project selection, customer satisfaction, employee productivity and general business health.

Make this Your New Normal 

Times are tough and there are more changes to come. However, your organization can endure and even thrive once you gain your footing. You can lean on your strategic PMO to help support you through the changes and keep you informed and productive.  Agile practices can be used to help you flow with sudden shifts in business, staffing and the economy as a whole. Best of all, you can create the best-case scenario and learn to thrive through the unexpected.