Every business is different and every PMO is unique. There is not recipe for what size or level a PMO should be at based on the size of the organization or the amount of time the PMO has been around. What does affect the maturity and ultimately the business impact the PMO is able to produce is how well they are able to deliver on their objectives. To do that, they need to instill working models that help drive toward successful outcomes. There is no secret code to success or magic button to push that creates a high performing PMO, but there are tried and true methods for delivering real results. Best practices that have long been benefitting PMO leaders and ways to build on those best practices for further growth and advancement. By applying these best practices and consistently improving how they are implemented, the PMO can not only becoming a high functioning organization, but they will also become a trusted business partner and strategic business driver.
Visibility into work and constraints
Depending on where your PMO is on your maturity level, visibility can provide different benefits, but regardless of how you are able to leverage that visibility, you need to have it. Whether you are gaining visibility to create an annual plan or leveraging insights to provide strategic guidance, understanding work that is being taken on, how they align with the strategic goals of the business, and what realistic constraints are will ensure your PMO is operating at its full potential. Visibility might seem like an obvious best practice, but it is quite often overlooked or underrepresented in teams that don’t have the foundation in place to provide adequate visibility. Understanding work – whether that be project work, product effort, or other – and realistic constraints from resources allows the PMO a clear picture of what it can take on, or what needs to change to meet the demands of the business.
Visibility starts with intake. Creating a clear, unbiased way for requests to come into the PMO and get scored and ranked against other requests allows all intake to have a standardized process for how that work gets approved. Visibility is critical for execution of work as actuals are tracked against budgets, scope is managed and changes are made along the way. Understanding what is happening with a project or initiative at any given time allows leadership the ability to make decisions about what is best for the business and have the information at hand to do so. Visibility is essential for portfolio management as reporting, feedback, and iterations make major strides for the PMO. Ensuring there is a clear way to communicate what is happening within the portfolio and effectively managing those efforts requires visibility first and foremost.
Customer driven prioritization
What work gets approved and funded is extremely valuable and likely a hotly debated topic within your organization. Prioritization is difficult and made more challenging when strategic needs of the business change. However, that can’t stop progress and developing best practices to manage project portfolios will go a long way to advancing your PMO maturity and value contribution. Prioritization should be customer driven. For many PMOs, the ‘customer’ is actually the business or various business units. It can also be stakeholders or actual business customers which is often the case in product management or service projects. Developing a customer driven prioritization model is not easy to do especially if the needs of those customers or stakeholders are conflicting. But improving this practice and driving toward excellence will ensure you are delivering the most value back to the business from the initiatives you do take on.
Prioritization at the intake stage of portfolio planning might seem like a critical success factor for PPM success, but it doesn’t end there. Prioritization during execution is also important as the needs of the business change or the priority of other investments take precedence. It is also important in the management phase of the project lifecycle as feedback ensures the prioritization model is and remains effective. It also guarantees feedback for ongoing initiatives and encourages lessons learned for projects that might have similar scenarios down the line.
Adaptive resource allocation
Resourcing generally refers to any type of resource – dollars, equipment or people – but the challenge is generally in the allocation of people resources. With a high degree of uncertainty and difficulty gathering accurate information, resource management is often the biggest challenge for PMO leaders. Developing adaptive resource allocation helps teams to both forecast resource needs and also make resource changes to continually support the needs of all parties involved. Understanding resource capacity, aligning that with realistic requests, and tracking actuals against expectations can prove to be a challenging practice to get right. But resourcing is also an area that has high potential for improvement. Creating an adaptive model where teams are able to share resources or quickly make adjustments without losing momentum provides a big opportunity for PMO leaders to make an impact.
PMO leaders need to create resource management best practices for all stages of the portfolio. Ensure adequate resourcing is in place at the intake phase before funding for projects gets approved, provide adaptive resourcing throughout the execution phase, and leverage resource management through completion and continuous improvement.
Continuous execution of value
As with customer driven prioritization, continuous execution against that stakeholder expectation ensures value delivery. Growing this best practice is a key piece of maturing the PMO toward a value driving entity. The focus on value delivery, including metrics and KPIs, not only guarantees projects meet their original intent, but it also safeguards the PMO to deliver what is best for the business. Focusing on activities rather than outcomes or measuring progress and not productive progress, will not advance the PMO or the organization as a whole. Planning and delivering to value ensures strategic alignment and expectations of the work of the PMO.
Just as the other best practices are best implemented at every stage of the project lifecycle, continuous execution of value is not just for the execution phase but best achieved by integrating throughout the life of the project. For products or other continuous work modes, the notion of continuous value delivery applies to all phases and is most beneficial when it is incorporated in the planning, execution, and benefits realization.
Change enabled culture
As the saying goes, the only constant is change and many PMOs have experienced firsthand the benefits of a change enabled culture. Embracing change doesn’t come naturally to a lot of PMO practitioners because uncertainty is inherently risky, but the benefits far outweigh the costs. Additionally, change is inevitable and the more teams can leverage change for their benefit, the better off they will be. But how does the PMO do that, exactly? Well, a change enabled culture provides the flexibility and grace that managing to changing demands requires. This could mean tools that help with change, processes that are adaptable, and people that are accustomed to changing requirements. The combination of people, process and tools is a winning combination for a change enabled culture. This might begin with a change tolerant attitude or a change ready toolset, but encouraging and evangelizing an organization built for change is an asset to any company.
Changes happen at all stages of portfolio management and are prevalent at all levels of the portfolio hierarchy. Instilling change from the top down – from the portfolio level to the program, project, product, and task level – allow for dynamic planning and resourcing that support a change enabled culture. What’s more, the PMO is often the organization tasked with driving change throughout the organization, so understanding and embodying change throughout the organization will provide the groundwork for continuing to build a culture built for change.
Continuous value realization
Consistent realization of the benefits and value delivered by the PMO is not just a best practice but a major component of success. This requires organizations to measure not just on-time and on-budget delivery, but value gained from the initiative. This can be difficult because value can be subjective and managing expectations is sometimes part of this process, but understanding the value gained and recording this against project expectations is a major benefit to the business. This also helps the PMO to better plan and establish value from the start in future projects, and provides a measurable return on investment. Continuous value realization requires frequent check-ins and documentation but best practice shows this effort contributes to the success and longevity of the PMO. As the PMO matures, assigned and quantifying value becomes easier, and helps to define the intake and prioritization process moving forward.
As a best practice, continuous value realization provides teams the opportunity to align expectations to reality and recognize the benefits the PMO is providing. Applying value realization to each phase of the project lifecycle ensures value is planned, received and recognized from the business.
Empowering the Business Through PPM
PPM best practices are designed to guide the business toward better project portfolio management processes. As PMO leaders improve their processes, build on fundamentals, and gain expertise in critical areas, the business benefits from these improvements. Project portfolio management practices help in a variety of ways to empower the business and drive growth in these areas by:
Managing discretionary investments collectively, not individually. Portfolios deliver on business goals while individual projects are less important and therefore less risk. This means that investments need to be directed to where they can generate the biggest return and the PMO is able to manage that allocation.
Gaining a more complete lifecycle than project management. By identifying opportunities and threats, the organization has visibility into what the status of projects are, and can make decisions based on that information.
Ensuring strategy is executed effectively. PPM helps the business optimize business performance through information and automation. It aligns projects with the goals of the organization to keep driving strategic vision. It also allows the business to adjust and adapt to changes with minimal disruption as needed.
PMOs can drive up project success rates using PPM: What’s Going Wrong?
Wherever you are in your PPM maturity, your PMO has the opportunity to gain visibility, control and accountability as well as nail down financial metrics that point to portfolio success.
As you know from painful experience, limited visibility into projects and resources is one of the leading causes of project failure. PMOs that pull together resource management activities on both the departmental and organizational level know what work is being performed by who, and when; how specific projects are aligned with corporate priorities; and how the project and portfolio ROI is calculated.
Additionally, resource and capacity planning are always an issue, especially when projects are managed in isolation. PMOs using effective PPM tactics can centralize the selection and prioritization of projects to start and complete the right projects at the right time.
Coming up with consistent methodologies for project delivery will always be top-of-mind for the PMO looking to prove its value to stakeholders. These best practices for identifying areas of improvement and making effort to remedy these inconsistencies will help the PMO grow and create accountability for the whole team.
1. How we identify problems
2. How we create the right environment
3. How we drive improvement
4. How we make it everybody’s role
Empowering Your Project Stakeholders
Project Portfolio Management is a way to ensure your project delivery professionals support your company’s business objectives within the right set of projects. The different roles working within your portfolio can control this outcome by managing budgets, resource allocation, activity and work via improved visibility to ensure results-driven, cost effective, on-time portfolios. Persona-based control creates productive, strategic project teams. This kind of personalized control is crucial toward making PPM a repeatable, ongoing process of execution, analysis and course correction.
Persona based approach
Role- and persona-based PPM ensures your company retains visibility of an iterative process and accurately communicates project delivery status back and forth throughout the business. What’s more, persona- and role-based control ensures that this communication reflects real-time updates “from the field” to project sponsors. Finally, whilst new projects and “surprise” projects will always cause some level of reshuffling, each persona-based user will have the information they need to:
1. Accept or reject the project based on solid KPIs
2. Measure success for both infrastructure and innovation-led projects
3. Work via waterfall, agile or waterfall-hybrid approaches
4. Handle resource demand across the company or department
5. Communicate appropriately with project sponsors and project managers alike
Getting Buy-in – Key stakeholders
There are major players in that will need to buy into a PPM framework and solution, but there might be other stakeholders to consider that will be affected and it is important to consider their needs. Let’s start with the primary stakeholders that will be involved in the day-to-day workings of a PPM solution.
IT leaders are typically involved in the purchase or sign-off but they might also require specific access or views. Capabilities such as dashboards and drill-down reporting, automated alerts for specific milestones or risk levels, and progress toward goals are important functions to provide executives. They might also be interested in how the portfolio aligns with strategic goals of the business and insight into key projects or products and the status.
Often times PMO leaders are in a position to benefit the most from a solution that provides centralized visibility and reporting. They also have a lot of requirements to ensure they get what is needed out of their PPM solution. Taking into consideration what is necessary vs. what is a nicety can also be helpful when gaining support from PMO leaders.
A very key stakeholder in a PPM model, project managers are major contributors to the success and wellbeing of the PMO. When enlisting project managers to adopt PPM often simple is preferred. Overcomplicating processes or instill unnecessary oversight can hinder productivity rather than help it. Providing project managers with the tools they need, empowering them with support, and applying the right amount of guidance will ensure the best outcome for PPM to successfully deliver projects.
Another very important role to garner support for any PMO that relies on resources to deliver projects. Allowing resource managers visibility into where resources are deployed, the tools to allow them to plan resources, and simplifying their administrative responsibilities like reporting create rapport and mutual accountability between resource managers and project managers.
While these key stakeholders will likely be involved in developing and driving a PPM model that works within the organization, there are often other teams that support the PMO and require consultation on improving the efforts of the PMO. These can include BAs, finance team, developers, or third-party contractors.
If you plan to do reporting and strategic planning, it might be helpful to involve business analysts in your PPM journey. Keep in mind an effective way to involve Bas without adding workload is through system integrations. This allows visibility into the information that matters, but won’t put additional strain on their everyday functions. Leveraging PPM analytics through a BI function is always a good idea to get more data and align with other departments.
While developers might not be directly affected by changes to the PMO, it does help to share project data between development and the PMO especially if there is products being managed through PMO operations. Integrations into development tools such as Jira can be helpful here as teams work in the system that best suits their needs without compromising visibility.
If you are working with contractors or external parties, it is helpful to consider how the interact with the PPM process. Capturing hours/effort spent toward a project, expense tracking, and user permissions are common areas to consider when getting contractors on board with a PPM solution.
While finance might only be concerned with minimal areas of your projects, it is important to include them as part of a stakeholder group to ensure the PMO is aligned with what finance might need. It might be as simple as an automated project report or a more sophisticated integration with a finance tool such as Intacct, but either way finance typically has needs when it comes to portfolio management
Disover how to Secure Funding for Project Portfolio Management (PPM) in the next installment of Mastering Project Portfolio Management.