A Best Practice Guide to Delivering a Results-Driven Agile PMO
The PMO is now a key part of the organizational landscape. increasing the professionalism with which projects and programs are delivered, driving up standards and increasing the chances of project success. But those successes aren’t shared fairly between all PMOs. In fact, many PMO's are only realizing a fraction of their potential. Standards have improved, but they’re still not universal. More projects are delivered on time and budget, but some still miss the boat. And the vast amounts of data that PMOs collect about the way projects operate − the way the organization operates − are not routinely put to use to inform future project selection, estimating and planning. It’s time to take your PMO to the next level. Wherever you’re at, KeyedIn can help you raise standards, expand your influence, garner greater respect and above all deliver tangible improvements in project performance by automating and standardizing core project, program and portfolio management functions.
What are the most common challenges you’re hearing about PMO project management best practices?
The most common challenges I hear about PMO project management best practices are mainly two focus areas: resource management and project prioritization. As the role of the PMO has shifted from output focused to outcome focused, the need to really get those two areas effective and efficient is key. With a greater focus on business outcomes, PMO project management best practices include strategic alignment, adaptability and business strategy execution. Resource management and project prioritization play a key role in being able to strategically deliver what the business desires, but they also play a key role in what needs to change as the business goals and priorities shift. PMO project management best practices are centered around being able to adapt quickly to changing business strategy and ensuring the right projects are in flight is important to being able to deliver the results but also ensure you have the right resources to deliver on those new requirements. PMO project management best practices challenges are rooted in flexibility, but more specifically flexibility of resources and the prioritization of projects.
What does it look like for organizations that are seeing success with PMO project management best practices?
Organizations that have successfully implemented PMO project management best practices have clear priorities and have defined objectives based on the business goals. They also have conquered the feat of integrating all functions/departments and are utilizing an integrated suite of tools to consistently monitor, measure and report on. They understand that change is bound to occur and they embrace the constant evolution and utilize their toolset to deliver upon those changes with minimal disruption.
What is driving organizations to implement PMO project management best practices?
Historically, many PMOs have had very unclear mandates. Organizations haven’t known how to appropriately determine what they want their PMOs to deliver or how to measure that performance. That’s beginning to change with an increasing focus on using PMOs to improve the business value achieved by projects.
But it’s coming at a time when the way those projects are being delivered is more diverse than ever. Not only are waterfall and Agile common approaches, hybrid methods that combine elements of traditional and Agile delivery are increasingly being used. That means that standard methodologies can’t apply.
Many PMOs emerged in an era when waterfall was the only game in town, and their processes and approaches for everything from project delivery to reporting was built on that. To embrace Agile and hybrid they need to replace rules and regulations with recommendations – best practices. That applies to their own ways of working and to the guidance provided to project and related work teams.
What steps would you recommend to improve PMO project management best practices?
The steps I would recommend to improve PMO project management best practices are start with ensuring you have executive support. Without support and good communication with your executive team, the PMO is not going to be set up for success. Once you have that solidified relationship with your executives, you’ll know the goals and objectives of the business and can ensure that your PMO activity is aligned with those objectives. This also means you need to be ready for change at any time. PMO project management best practices need to include the flexibility needed to continue to deliver value for the organization even if those objectives are changing. Being able to adapt to those changes will allow you remain in sync with the strategic goals of the business ensuring that value delivery is at the center of your PMO. Next, ensure your resource pool is always updated so you have visibility into resource capacity and demand and the skills required to execute the portfolio of projects that will deliver business results. Lastly, consider implementing a comprehensive PPM software solution so you can manage all of this critical business information in a single source. PPM software enables PMO leaders to execute PMO project management best practices with ease because the real-time data in the solutions gives them the insight to drive critical business decisions and fast.
How does maturity level of an organization impact PMO project management best practices?
Unless an organization is mature in how it delivers projects it is unlikely to be stable enough in its approaches to be able to support an effective best practice model. You can see this in organizations that have historically been focused on traditional project delivery approaches and have only recently started to embrace Agile. They may well have mature waterfall methods and a suite of best practices that their waterfall project managers can leverage. But in the Agile environment, they rely on standard processes with no modification or flexibility because they aren’t mature enough to embrace anything else.
That applies to PMOs just as much as it applies to the teams doing the work. As maturity improves, so approaches are better understood and standards are replaced with recommended best practices, adjustments are made for different situations, etc. That in turn enables faster maturity which then drives greater use of best practices.
What is the main goal of PMO project management best practices?
The main goal of PMO project management best practices is to connect strategy and execution seamlessly. This means there needs to be strategic engagement and the PMO and project leaders must be results-driven and have focus and understanding of the strategic goals of the business. PMO project management best practices are designed to provide a roadmap to business success and by embracing insight-led decisions making – PMO project management best practices are bound to keep moving the business forward.
How would you recommend getting started with improving PMO project management practices?
It starts with understanding what best practices are designed to achieve. For PMOs that’s enabling improved business performance through projects. Once that’s understood the PMO can ask how that can be achieved. Answering that question requires an understanding of current challenges and opportunities, as well as what is being done well.
When it comes to execution – the development and implementation of new or revised practices, the focus should always be on the improvements that are expected to occur. For example, making changes to how resource allocations are carried out to improve utilization rates and eliminate over-allocations. The steps that are defined, follow from the goal of better performance.
There must also be measurement to ensure that’s happening, and if it isn’t adjustments should be made quickly. Best practices evolve, they come as a result of learning what works and what doesn’t and iterating accordingly.
What is the next big thing that PMO project management best practices will offer organizations?
In today’s faced paced business environment, it’s crucial to be able to keep up. PMO project management best practices have shifted as the project management office (PMO) role has also shifted from business process and governance to deliver value the business wants. The past couple of years has taught us that change is constant and we need to be able to adapt. The PMO plays a huge role in being able to do that quickly and with minimal disruption. PMO project management best practices like continually re-evaluating your portfolio of projects to ensure strategic alignment with the business is crucial to delivering business results. PMOs executing best practices also understand available and constrained resources in real-time. Without that visibility organizations won’t be able to support the strategic goals of the business with their most valuable asset – their people. Lastly, PMOs executing best practices are adapting to change quickly to ensure strategy value is ultimately delivered. A PMO that is focused on PMO project management best practices is in my world, a Results-Driven PMO.
What does a good PMO project management best practice framework look like?
The most critical element of a PMO project management best practice framework is the area that framework focuses on. Each practice must be geared towards optimizing business performance. Too many PMOs concentrate on trying to streamline reporting, reduce schedule variance, etc. without considering whether that has any material impact on the benefits that projects are able to achieve.
Secondly, the framework has to address all areas of focus for the PMO and project delivery. Even if standard methodologies are the recommended approach, if stakeholders are looking for a framework of best practices they expect it to be complete
Thirdly, the framework must be actively managed. There should be regular reviews and updates, even if those updates are only to validate that those best practices are still valid. And finally, it should be collaborative. PMOs achieve their success by working with a number of varied stakeholder groups – delivery teams, sponsors, executives, etc. All of those people must engage with and accept the best practices.
What type of organizations benefit from implementing PMO project management best practices?
Best practices are a good idea for virtually all organizations, but there must be at least a fundamental understanding of how processes operate and exist before attempts are made to modify them. Essentially the organization needs a baseline to measure any improvements against.
In addition, organizations can only benefit from implementing best practices if they have the ability to confirm that they are actually best practices. There must be the tools and approaches in place to measure performance relative to before, and to understand where things are improving and where they need more work.
Finally, there must be a commitment to maintain best practices. If things don’t continue to evolve, their effectiveness will erode so organizations must have an active continuous improvement program in place.
What steps can organizations take to solve for PMO project management best practices?
The steps organizations can take to solve for PMO project management best practices all starts with understanding where they are now. By being able to accurately benchmark their performance today with those PMOs best in class, organizations are able to identify quick wins for improving PMO project management best practices. Next, organizations should consider establishing a strategic PMO framework that is focused on delivering on strategic business priorities, but gives the flexibility of continuous adaptive planning. By doing this with the right insights in mind, organizations are then able to report in a way that allows them to make insight-led decisive, and empowered decisions that will ultimately drive the business forward. Lastly, organizations have an integrated mindset for all functions and tools to ensure those insight-led decisions are all encompassing of the pulse of the business in real-time.
How do PMO project management best practices need to be addressed differently for different levels of PMO maturity?
This is a mistake that many organizations make. They look for best practices online, or they bring in external consultants to help them develop approaches, but those best practices don’t reflect where the organization is in its maturity journey. You can’t expect someone who has just started to play piano to master a Beethoven symphony, and PMO project management best practices are no different.
As organizations mature, so their best practices will evolve with them, becoming more sophisticated, nuanced and refined. In low maturity organizations the focus should be on keeping it simple, things won’t be perfect but they will be better – and that’s what’s needed. More mature organizations have already addressed the low hanging fruit and will need to apply more complex approaches to see material improvements – and that’s OK.
What steps would you recommend to improve PMO project management best practices?
There are a lot of things out there for PMO – frameworks, trainings, etc. What you need to look at are good and right practices. Every business is different and every group of people are different. You need to define the PMO mission and objectives. It’s not just a department to provide some governance around project management. It’s something else. That’s that I talk about when I talk about the next generation project management office is how you can be the strategic project management office that deliver value consistently. Established governance is important and established standard processes. Tool are available, including software, artificial intelligence, that are available so you can be more agile and deliver more value faster for your organization. Training and support is also important. A good team is always training and getting better. Establishing KPIs and measurements that progress and you track that allow you to focus on continuous improvement. There is always opportunity to do it better. That’s what I can see as the things needed to improve PMO project management best practices or the right practices that you need to put in place to have a great PMO in your organization.
What are must haves when considering effective PMO project management best practices?
There are four major areas that I think PMO leaders should look at when considering effective PMO project management best practices. The first is goals and objectives. This might seem obvious, but there are still PMO leaders that are operating without clear goals and objectives defined by the business. These goals and objectives are important for number 2 – strategic priorities. Organizations must consider the goals and objectives of the business when solidifying PMO best practices supporting strategic priorities. The PMO must have a clear focus on the strategic priority of the business to ensure they are operating utilizing PMO project management best practices. In addition to that, PMO leaders must have KPIs and OKRs that align with the strategic priorities of the business via the goals and objectives. It’s the trifecta for PMO project management best practices. Lastly, the trifecta is not set in stone, so PMO leaders need to remain agile and adapt when necessary to changing business priorities and goals.
What is the role of the PMO in PMO project management best practices improvement?
The PMO must own its own best practices. I have seen organizations where external stakeholders – executives in the organization, external consultants, etc. mandate the best practices that PMOs have to leverage and apply, and it just doesn’t work. Unless there is a sense of ownership of the practices by the PMO, they simply won’t stick.
What are the common pitfalls of ineffective PMO practices?
Some common pitfalls of ineffective PMO practices are largely focused on whether or not the right tools and KPIs are in place. That said, many PMOs struggle to implement best practices due to the lack of clarity of business objectives and goals and ultimately the lack of support for the PMO from executives. This often leads to PMO practices being under supported and underfunded including the funding of the right people for the job that have the skillsets needed to accomplish the goals of the business as well as the wrong tools to execute. This leads to inappropriate focus for the PMO overall and ultimately a PMO that is set up for failure.
How does the right approach to PMO project management best practices impact the business?
The right approach to PMO project management best practices can impact a business in many ways including:
- Improved project delivery
- Better alignment with business goals
- Increased efficiency and productivity
- Improved governance and risk management
- Improved collaboration and communication
- Better decision making
How can a PPM tool improve overall PMO project management best practices?
With a project portfolio management tool you are able to improve overall PMO project management best practices because you have access to the insights needed to make strategic decisions for the business. A PPM tool enables PMO leaders to define and measure based on 100% top down strategic goals set by the business. A PPM tool not only allows you to get the right portfolio in place to deliver on the business goals, but it also allows you to adapt when needed as the needs and goals of the business change with decisive adjustments based on real-time portfolio, resource and project data. This continuous loop of adaptive planning is only achievable with a robust and comprehensive PPM tool.
What are common objections your clients face regarding PMO project management best practices?
Common objections organizations face regarding PMO best practices include:
- Resistance to change
- Lack of buy-in
- Lack of resources
- Resistance to standardization
- Perception of additional bureaucracy
How to get internal buy-in for proper PMO project management best practices?
Getting buy-in for PMO project management best practices is absolutely crucial to achieving PMO success. Getting buy-in requires a very focused vision based on the strategic goals of the business laying a roadmap to delivering on those goals with clear priorities and defined objectives. Without the team bought into the goals and objectives, you’re bound to have disconnect between strategy delivery and project execution. It’s important to remain aware that getting buy-in at the start of implementing some PMO project management best practices is great, but that relationship between you, the PMO leader, executives, team members and all key stakeholders is important to nurture and continue to engage them to optimal results.
What roadblocks do teams face when trying to implement PMO project management best practices?
The biggest obstacle PMOs face is that they often lack the skills and experience to know what ‘best’ looks like. They implement practices and approaches that are better than what existed before and assume that constitutes a best practice because they don’t have any terms of reference to tell them whether they are operating at 100% of potential, or considerably lower.
PMOs often also don’t have the ability to determine whether changes will actually improve things. So they change processes or approaches and then measure to see if things are better or worse. There needs to be improved analysis and understanding of proposals before they are implemented.
Related to that previous point, improvements are frequently assumed. PMOs often lack the ability or inclination to measure actual performance to see whether it is better or worse than before.
What stakeholders should be included in PMO project management best practices decisions?
PMO project management best practice decisions should include a number of different stakeholders. The main stakeholders that should be driving those PMO project management best practices include the leader of the PMO and the program/portfolio managers that are overseeing the different portfolios and programs in flight for the organization. This doesn’t mean that others shouldn’t be included. Another key stakeholder that should be involved in someone at the executive level. As many PMO leaders know, without executive support or an individual at the executive level’s support, it makes it very hard to create the business impact that PMO leaders should be striving for today. PMO project management best practices are crucial to delivering business results for organizations and involving the right stakeholders is a critical piece of that pie.
PMO Trends & Challanges
The PMO Outlook Report
Discover the latest trends and challanges faced by PMO's
In 2021, businesses were making strategic shifts to avoid the chaos that 2020 brought upon them through the unpredictable global pandemic. That being said, the PMO was forced to adapt, pivot, and start operating more strategically in line with the organization to succeed.
As this survey demonstrates, more PMOs were citing the increasing importance of prioritizing the right projects and supporting those with the right resources at the right time. For the rest, 2021 left major gaps in being able to deliver results based on misalignment of projects to strategic business initiatives leading to project failure.
By highlighting the challenges they face, PMOs are ensuring strategic alignment to portfolio initiatives, planning capacity against projects, and even stopping projects before they start if they don’t align with organizational goals. It ’s time for PMO leaders to stake their claim on driving the business forward. The results driven PMOs are becoming a center of excellence within an organization to drive business transformation and strategy delivery – ultimately providing the value executives and businesses desire.
Explore the key finding from the report including:
- 86% of project practitioners report they do not have enough resources to meet project demands
- 95% of project practitioners have had a project fail in the last year
- 50% of project leaders aren’t using strategic insights to drive project prioritization
- 71% of projects are not very well aligned with strategic business priorities.
Become More Than Just a Status Quo PMO
Explore the changing role of the PMO and why to be a truely Results-Driven Agile PMO you need to take a business outcome focused approach.
Today, many PMOs are more focused on tracking, monitoring and reporting and not the management of crucial business outcomes. As PMOs strive to meet the challenge of becoming a value driver in an organization, it becomes apparent that a new approach and outlook must be taken. What separates those that rise to this challenge versus those that struggle to execute is how they are able to shift from processes to outcomes. Results-driven PMOs differ from traditional PMOs in that they incorporate strategic planning and management.
Hear KeyedIn’s Matt Muldoon walk through the key components of a results-driven PMO and what success looks like for PMO leaders.
Understanding how an integrated approach to project, program and portfolio management drives improved visibility, governance, productivity and controlDownload the Whitepaper
Artificial Intelligence for the PMO
Explore the threats and opportunites that Artificial Intelligence brings when raising your PMO governance standards and driving greater organizational agilty.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a developing technology for organizations seeking to advance their digital initiatives. In fact, for certain industries, particularly those already infused with digital applications, AI has become a standard component of their day-to-day operations. The scope of AI is evolving as more diverse industries are recognizing the benefits of AI, including its applications in supporting project portfolio management (PPM) tasks and the PMOs that perform them.
It might be tempting for many organizations to dismiss AI as a fad or unnecessary digitization, particularly when it comes to project portfolio management. Many stakeholders weigh the risk of AI implementation against the pain of growth and change and find only deficits. While these are all true and credible claims, there are undeniable truths that AI can help address for the growth and advancement of your PMO.
The good news for project and portfolio practitioners is that projects are an ideal environment for AI. For any repeatable project, machine learning capabilities can identify patterns and the opportunities are great for improvement and impact. Even for non-conventional projects, AI poses significant benefit in that it can automate many of the complex and ambiguous aspects of the planning andanalysis process.
AI can provide powerful benefits for PMOs looking to raise PMO governance standards, including:
- Reduce Uncertainty
- Eliminate Inconsistency
- Improve Projections
- Increase ROI and Business Value
Transform Your PMO into a Value Center
Discover the importance of building and maturing a PMO framework focused on driving business value.
Are executives looking to you as a PMO leader to drive business value? Learn the keys to delivering real business value through your project management office and how to become a PMO hero in your organization.
Watch this webinar on-demand for how to transform your PMO into a value center. Hear from Tom Raper, Director of Solutions, at KeyedIn as he lays out the following:
- What a value-based PMO looks like
- Why a value driven PMO is important to organizations
- How to become the value-based PMO hero in your organization
PMO Implementation Case Study
Discover how the PMO at Solenis doubled the number of projects they were able to complete in a given year
The secret? Not unlimited budgets or massive resource investments, but PMO performance improvements. Starting with project management education and growing into enterprise-wide portfolio management practices allowed the team at Solenis to mature their PMO process and build a lasting foundation for success.
Watch this webinar on-demand to hear from PMO leaders at Solenis, a global leader in water treatment process chemicals, and how they transformed their PMO to a value-contributing entity for business success. This session covers:
- Evangelizing the PMO within the organization to demonstrate value delivery
- Improving resource planning and execution for better results
- Leveraging tools to aid decision making and collaboration throughout the business
- 5 Key reasons why you need a PMO
- 7 Characteristics of a best in class Program Management Office (PMO)
- Four ways to build a customer obsessed PMO
- Are spreadsheets leaving your PMO spread too thin
- Building an effective communication strategy for your PMO (program project management office)
- Doing more with less: PMO metrics to keep you from drowning
- Five ways capacity planning will prove your PMOs value
- How to improve PMO resource planning
- PMO and organizational transformation: Crossing the digital rubicon
- PMO maturity for business innovation, growth and advancement
- The 5 most important business benefits of a successful PMO
- Why a project and program management office - because your customers will love you thats why
- Three ways to transform your PMO into a strategic powerhouse
- Transform your PMO into a value center
- 3 Ways your PMO can drive business transformation
- The ROI of PMO
- Why PMOs fail: 5 Shocking PMO statistics
- Agile PMO Customer Q&A: Office Depot PMO
- The top-down vs bottom-up approach to the program management office