Project Management Office (PMO) implementations require four elements to ensure successful planning, execution and measurement of the PMO function
There are four elements that help organizations and individuals working in a Project Management Office (PMO) to establish assessment criteria, prepare for execution, develop an action plan, and measure the benefits of a global project management office.
Mature organizations lead their transformation first through understanding the impact of changes on people (who drive process), process (which drives technology), technology (which enables people to become more efficient and productive in their use of processes). To be consistent with this approach, the initial focus will be on people and processes, moving from there into technology.
This article is Part 3 of a multi-part series on the development of a Global Project Management Office (PMO) implementation. Part 1 covered requirements of creating a PMO and the steps needed for a successful PMO. This part also addressed a breakdown of the elements and processes which constitute the many components of a PMO.
Part 2 addressed the challenges that face a newly formed PMO and offered some successful actions to address these challenges.
Project Management Development
The overall goal for project management development is to encourage continued development and improvement in the core skills and competencies of project managers to achieve a high performance, and ensure a successful project management career path. A PMO’s role for people is to build a career path for project and program managers by defining required competence profiles at the various levels of a project manager, according to the Project Management Institute. Additionally, the development of a project management office’s capabilities can help determine how the PMO can use these profiles to evaluate and predict performance of all project and program managers as part of an organization’s annual appraisals.
While the size of an organization and its culture and requirements may affect the approach an organization may take, there are standards or baseline requirements that should be achieved to determine how the required work would be performed.
An assessment of the project managers’ (PMs) skills can be achieved through understanding their background, their current work assignments, and their previous project management experience, certifications, interests, career goals, etc. Whether through structured meetings, surveys, or questionnaires, or even a combination of these approaches, an organization should establish an inventory of its human assets. This assessment will provide an understanding of the strengths and weakness of each individual, and give the organization the ability to determine the areas of improvement and the methods that will be taken to produce the desired improvement and to increase the individual’s skill level and improve project delivery.
Once an assessment is completed, the PMO produces an action plan for improvement. Action plans will vary in length and scope depending on the depth and breadth of the needed improvements, the organization’s culture and structure and whether Project Managers are part of the PMO or belong to individual business units.
The first part of an action plan allows projects managers to train at the basic level (organization methodology and process). By starting training all levels of managers with the core basics, PMs become grounded with the required methods and procedure that their organization considers important for a successful delivery. Specialized training for the various levels of PMs is essential to expand their skills, develop their knowledge, and keep them challenged for the next level of responsibility.
The second part of an action plan is to have a career path for the PMs to ensure their progress and advancement, as in every other profession. This crucial step can be achieved through working with Human Resources and the PMO to set the career levels, performance criteria, etc. for all project managers.
The third part of an action plan allows PMs to diversify in their assignments and allow them to work on projects that vary in size, type, and complexity, sharpening their skills across subject areas and business functions. This gives the PMO the opportunity to use the PMs’ experience and skill level to the fullest extent.
Measures and Benefits
For continuous improvement to occur there is a need to monitor skill performance through industry standard scales. Organizations create various business units; some are called “project management talent”, “center of excellence”, “project manager development”, etc. The titles may differ, but the importance is the outcome an organization wants to achieve to obtain the benefits. Therefore, it is essential to be able to motivate individuals as well as enhance project delivery. Unmotivated participants will not perform as expected and will not create superior organizations, regardless of the other factors.
Measures can be defined through detailed role description for the various levels of project manager, and the rewards and the responsibilities that come with each level. Benefits can be achieved in advancing a project manager’s career goals and leveraging the senior project managers for mentoring and internal guidance, creating an overall model for success and mentorship.
Process and Methodology Development
The overall goal of process and methodology is to provide a consistent and standardized road map for project lifecycle and the governing policies and procedures required for a PMO. The role of a Project Management Office is to establish and adopt a standard methodology that contains all the required templates, guidance, and processes to allow improved project delivery by implementing the appropriate measurement criteria for delivery and for process adoption.
As stated before, the size of an organization, its culture and requirements may affect the approach it takes; there are standards or baseline requirements that must be achieved to determine what work is required and how it will be performed.
An organization should start with an inventory of the current practices, since all organizations have some sort of processes, even if they are not fully documented or organized. It is not the lack of existing processes that often causes performance and productivity issues; it is the lack of consistent adoption and adherence to these processes. Also, some parts of the organization may not be aware of these standards and processes, so communication is an essential part of any project management office creation and implementation.
Second, collect all templates that are currently being used, all processes and procedures that address project initiation, planning, closeout, risk handling, issue management, change management, etc. The importance of performing this step is to identify, quantify, and measure the gaps to address them in an action plan, and to avoid re-inventing the wheel and wasting time on creating templates that exist and have worked well.
Third, once collection is complete, then identify all areas of improvement and map them to an industry standards requirement (PMI, PRINCE2, CMMI, etc.) to assess maturity and required efforts to address these gaps. Prioritize immediate needs, short term needs, long term needs, and create an action plan to address all these points. As you can see, this action plan is another project plan and should be treated like any project – specifying scope, budget, timelines, success criteria, etc.
The result of the assessment should feed into the action plan and should include not only the scope, deliverables, etc. It should also include the training strategy, rollout and adoption strategy, as well as measures and a continuous improvement plan.
Starting with an industry standard project framework, such as PMI’s 5 process areas (initiation, planning, execution, control, and close) will offer significant benefits. Having an industry standard will save “re-inventing the wheel,” and offers an industry benchmark against which the organization can measure itself.
Second, leveraging internal prior work should be a priority if applicable, and if the activities can be used. It is important to ensure that every process area has mandatory and optional deliverables identified as required by your organization’s immediate needs and long term needs. Once deliverables have been identified, then establishing standard templates for each of these deliverables is the logical next step. For every deliverable, the process and the support capabilities must be accounted for as well as guidance and procedures for filling templates.
Project management training is essential and the availability of continuous learning programs and required documentation are as important as the training delivery itself. Once these processes and templates are in use, monitoring their use and the adoption level is very important to ensure compliance with standards.
Measures and Benefits
Some organizations are establishing functions such as centers of excellence, or quality review management, or continuous improvement activities to measure process adoption and use of various templates. Whatever these entities are called, the measurement and the focus should be in two important areas. One, there should be a focus on measuring the process itself and how it is being followed to achieve the end result; assessing its level of complexity and adapting the right action to ensure its effectiveness.
Second, focus on the use of templates and their content, the quality and applicability of the templates and their contents, with frequent revisions for updates corresponding to processes and procedures changes. The benefits to measuring in this approach include the early detection of deficiency in a process, procedure, or template; improving compliance rates with standards, so that time is spent on delivery and important added value work; and reusability of processes and artifacts on every project. A major benefit in enhancing delivery is the ability to excel and the ability to benchmark against both internal standards and industry standards for maturity, performance, and effectiveness.
Project Management Office (PMO) implementation needs people, process and technology working together according to accepted standards to succeed. Start with proven approaches to people and process through adoption of project manager development and process management and methodology development before implementing technology. Another article, Part 4, will address the Technology aspects of PMO implementation