Sixth Thread in the Best Practices to Build and Mature Your PMO Series: Continuous Improvement

Now that you’ve implemented a great PPM tool, you’ve no doubt collected and analyzed every piece of data you could get your hands on.  You’re making smarter decisions about what work to do, and who should be doing it.  You’re seeing improvements, but you must continue to think about the next challenges that your PMO will tackle.

Continuous Improvement for your PMOThe world around your PMO is constantly evolving.  Market conditions are ever changing, which lead to updates in the organization’s strategic plan.  Your PMO needs to anticipate those changes and have a clear plan for balancing the portfolio when the need arises.  This may require tough decisions to delay, postpone or cancel previously approved projects.  This constant review of the strategic alignment of the portfolio is only one way that the PMO will evolve.  As the organization executes on the processes you develop, lessons will be learned.

A major theme throughout PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge is progressive elaboration:  progressive elaboration of the scope management plan, progressive elaboration of the requirements management plan, even progressive elaboration of the process improvement plan.  Progressive elaboration and repetition will give you special insight to where your processes are successful and where they could use some work. Since repeating a process that isn’t meeting your needs in some way would take a special kind of insanity, the next logical step is to focus on process improvement.  Hopefully some of the data you’ve collected includes lessons learned.  Documenting lessons learned for each project, including what worked and what didn’t, responsible parties and recommendations for improvement, will give you something to measure and analyze.

The same way that you perform progressive elaboration of your processes, you need to progressively elaborate your PMO, or mature.  Your PMO needs to be ready to take advantage of these changing conditions and lessons learned and adjust your vision and roadmap accordingly.

Annually, bi-annually, or anytime your organization updates their strategic plan, follow the 6 step process that we’ve outlined in this blog series:

1)      Getting Started

2)      Develop a Vision

3)      Develop a maturity roadmap

4)      Implement tools

5)      Analyze data

6)      Repeat!

You want to ensure that your PMO is always aligned with the organization’s strategic goals, that you are continually providing more value, that your current toolset meets the needs of the organization and that you are taking all of that data you are collecting and using it to make data driven decisions to make the organization better.

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Fifth Thread in the Best Practices to Build and Mature Your PMO Series: Analyze Data

Everything your PMO accomplishes must be in the light of the organization’s strategy.  Strategy played a large role in setting up governance.  Strategy guides roadmaps and, theoretically, strategy is guiding performance.  While the day to day blocking and tackling of conducting the organization’s business will drive a majority of your PMO’s analysis, ascertaining the current state of strategy is your paramount analytical task.

Analyze data for your PMOFirst, to ensure consistent and meaningful results, your project portfolio must be organized.  An organized approach assures that your data reports provide apples to apples comparisons, or when desired, oranges to apples.  During tool selection, it is imperative that the software allows robust data classification (taxonomy).

Intertwined with the taxonomy will be the individual components of strategy.  This is called strategic alignment.  Each project must show some relationship to strategy.  If not, why is the project being performed?  Once aligned, data artifacts can be analyzed.  When you can pivot your data either by taxonomy and/or strategy, this analysis provides insight in how strategy is turned into execution.

With a robust taxonomy, an integrated and aligned strategy and project performance creating data artifacts, your PMO will develop periodic analysis products.  All of these products should be a call to action.  The days of simple reports built around summary and status are over.  Performance will move at such a rapid pace that decision support must keep up.  Here are some types of products a PMO typically produces:

  1. Threshold products have high data freshness and rapid value decay rates, both usually within the same business day.  Threshold products support real time decision making.  Most threshold products are generated via algorithm from the PPM software without human intervention.
  2. Daily products are usually used to support stand-up meetings where exception based discussions and course correction decisions are required.  These products are usually standard reports from the PPM software.
  3. Periodic products are used in road mapping, governance, and replanning. Decision latency may be quite high, and several layers of management may be required to affect a decision.  While many are standard reports, others may require PMO personnel to undertake analysis via queries and statistical summation.
  4. Ad hoc products almost always require manual analysis, and will be called upon to support everything from real time decisions, to strategy modification.

The analysis produced by your PMO will become very influential in the decisions made throughout the organization.  It is for this reason that the PMO must constantly be evolving and improving.  Tune in for the next and final post on this topic: Continuous Improvement.

Fourth Thread in the Best Practices to Build and Mature Your PMO Series: Implement Tools

You’ve developed your vision for the PMO and assessed yourself against that vision.  You’ve created a plan for your PMO implementation and maturity.  You are now ready to start moving down the roadmap to PMO brilliance!

In organizations of all sizes, project and portfolio management processes produce a lot of data.  Business cases, project lists and project performance information on a daily basis quickly add up.  How do you report on this data quickly and easily?  Depending on your PMO’s goals, you’ll need to pick the right tool for the job and the right tool that will evolve with your PMO.

Implement tools for your PMOLess mature PMOs or PMOs with a very narrow scope can often work in shareable spreadsheet tools, like Excel or Google docs.  Static lists of projects and their attributes can easily be kept in this repository, but it is often difficult to make decisions in lots of workbooks that are not integrated.

Once you start to layer on project management performance, or portfolio governance into your goals, you’ll need to start thinking about a more robust tool or suite of tools with database capabilities, friendly user interfaces and analytical capabilities.  For example, any PMO measured on project success rates will need the capability to track and measure schedules and financial information.  Another similar example that requires complex relationships best implemented in a taxonomic structure would be connecting portfolio components, like projects, to an organization’s strategy and goals.

Additionally, if you start to roll out your process outside of the PMO, say to employees in other divisions or departments, your shared spreadsheets become less and less usable and inefficiencies in data collection will become a barrier to your PMO’s progress.  PPM tools also provide data validation with many users in the same data.  As you make progress along your maturity roadmap, the data you are collecting will increase and the number of different communities you interact with to collect that data will increase as well.

PPM software tools will help you collect data, produce reports, automate your processes and enable you to measure progress along your vision.  Selecting the right tool is an analytical exercise unique to each PMO.  Use your vision, your self assessment and your maturity roadmap to develop requirements for the software tool and select the right one.  If you’ve done your homework well, your C-level stakeholder will not need much convincing.  They will already understand the benefits to be achieved and the need to invest will make the case for itself.  You’ll have your very own PPM tool to collect data across the organization.  You and your executives will get loads of value from the real-time analysis that can be conducted – more on that in our next post!

Third Thread in the Best Practices to Build and Mature Your PMO Series: Develop a Maturity Roadmap

Your PMO’s maturity roadmap serves as a set of goals and a plan to achieve them.  If done correctly, the roadmap serves as a final agreement among several groups, all with different needs.  It becomes the source document for all PMO activities and, as a result, must be given considerable thought.

To create a maturity roadmap, the team members must utilize the self assessment methodology recommended in the prior post in this series.  Once the ‘as-is’ model is developed, your PMO or C-level executive(s) guiding the PMO must provide a vision, or ‘to-be’ model of the enterprise.  The actions required to get from ‘as-is’ to the ‘to-be’ model will serve as the tasks in the maturity roadmap.  Once the actions are listed, your PMO must develop the order and timeframe in which goals should be met.  This order of milestones, prioritized by the organization’s strategy and developed in concert with the C-level executive, will serve as the schedule.

Develop a maturity roadmap for your PMOOnce the schedule of activities are agreed upon, your PMO should evaluate what skills are required to accomplish each goal.  This skills inventory will form the basis of any gap analysis as the PMO works through the roadmap.  You can then decide how to address skills gaps, whether through training sessions, new hires, consultants or temporary contract help.  The skills inventory can be developed through an analysis of past experience as well as interviews with current staff.

When the PMO is ready to begin work on the roadmap, the biggest key to success will be constant communication.  You must consider change management and convince the organization of the value of this roadmap and the concrete improvements the rest of the organization will see at its completion.  As your PMO works toward the roadmap’s goals, it must provide regular status updates to keep the organization engaged and committed to the roadmap.  Your user community should be updated on the value to the organization and return on investment.  Each communication should also be tailored, i.e., executives will be communicated with differently than project managers.  Each milestone you achieve will also signify more data, more users and more capabilities that can be provided by the PMO.  Your need for tools will increase as you achieve milestones.  Up next in our series:  Implementing tools.

Second Thread in the Best Practices to Build and Mature Your PMO Series: Develop a Vision

Whether you are starting a new PMO or have an existing PMO in place, you’ll want to ensure that you have a solid vision in place for now and for the future.  Your PMO is tasked with creating the vision of how you are going to change the organization for the better.  Your job is to determine what “better” looks like, find a way to clearly articulate that vision, and determine your gaps.

Create a vision for your PMODeveloping a vision is no easy task.  Great leaders spend vast amounts of time contemplating the future.  This is now the project in front of you.  You should utilize all resources available to you – white boards, story boards, interviews, your PMO staff and your C-level stakeholder – to build and craft the vision for the future.  Your project is to determine what you want to accomplish in 3, 6, 9 or 12 months.  Always keep in mind the organization’s propensity for change – dreaming big can be fun, but too big can be cause for a failed initiative.  You’ll want to select the timeframe that is right for your organization and determine whether you are going to set project management goals, portfolio management goals, or both.  Will you implement a portfolio management program with the goal of leading the budget planning process in the future, or will you focus on project management processes, standardizing schedule, resource and financial management across the organization?  Many of these decisions will be driven by the goals and functions that you identified in the first post of this seminar.  Your vision should also include metrics to measure achievement.  For example, do you want to improve project success rates?  Or reduce the number of overlapping projects across the portfolio?

Once you’ve developed your vision, you need to select a methodology to conduct a self assessment of the as-is state of the organization.  Based on your vision, what project or portfolio management principles, processes or procedures will you evaluate?  What are the questions you will ask yourself and what rating methodology will you use?  Will you utilize Prince2, Agile, ITIL, or PMI® standards?  Or, will you allow mixed methodologies, permitting each business unit to pick the right methodology for their unique situations?  All processes should be documented as thoroughly as possible in order to generate a complete list of areas for improvement.  For example, one self assessment methodology we utilize for some of our clients is based on the project and portfolio management standards.  Depending on your goals, you can develop a simple ranking system to assess maturity, such as 1-5, where one meets your criteria the least and 5 the most.  Standardizing the ranking levels will enable you to prioritize the areas that are the biggest pain points and also allow you to assess maturity against the criteria later in the future.  You will want to retain all the collateral produced in this self assessment for future self assessments.

These rankings will enable you to develop a maturity roadmap.  Stay tuned for more information on maturity roadmaps in the next post in our series.

First Thread in the Best Practices to Build and Mature Your PMO Series: Getting Started

A project management office (PMO) is a vital component to any successful organization because it can turn strategy into results.  When forming a PMO, the first question you have to ask yourself is: what kind of PMO do you want?  Do you want the PMO to provide governance, focus solely on project delivery, or both?

Getting started: What type of PMO do you want?PMOs whose focus is governance tend to concentrate on three areas: strategy, policy and oversight.  Policy PMOs work closely with executives and managers to determine the strategic initiatives that will enact the CEO’s vision.  Once the initiatives have been determined, the Policy PMO crafts policy around issues such as delivery timetables, communication and project team structure.  Finally, the PMO then oversees the completion of these initiatives at a high level to ensure success.  In the Policy PMO, the team members often have multiple roles in the organization, or may even be contractors, but they are always led by a C-suite executive (Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive Officer, etc.).

When the PMO is more directly involved in project delivery, governance is often overseen by an executive board.  An Execution PMO focuses on the “blocking and tackling” of project management: maintaining scope while managing the schedule, costs, risks, etc.  It may also be involved in developing the general framework for reporting back to the oversight board.  An Execution PMO will assign project managers (PM), who often have multiple responsibilities, though sometimes full-time PMs are part of the team to help ensure project success or develop and maintain the project delivery framework.  An Execution PMO is not a lesser version than a Policy PMO, but is simply more involved with tactics rather than strategy.

Some PMOs are responsible for both policy and execution; these hybrids require multiple layers of management.  In this arrangement, executives must ensure the portfolio and project management methodologies are aligned via consistent communication and a clear delineation of roles and responsibilities.

Regardless of Policy versus Execution type PMOs and which lives in your organization, the one constant in PMO success is executive buy-in.  When the C-suite commits to the success of the PMO, it becomes part of the organization’s culture.  The organization begins to see every project as a piece of a larger initiative and each employee can clearly see the value and purpose of their work.  This project-driven culture where the projects are closely tied to strategic goals is always a recipe for success.

Paving a Future for Women in STEM

In honor of women’s history month, I wanted to speak to the boundless opportunities at Métier for women seeking careers in technology.  In elementary school I was one of a handful of girls that enjoyed math and science.  Something about the challenge of deduction intrigued me and nothing was more satisfying than arriving at the answer.  Despite the lack of female counterparts, I continued my passion for the sciences throughout high school and into college, majoring in Applied Mathematics.  Here, I was able to meet leaders in the field and learn about the vast influence math and science had in our daily life.  However, one thing was missing – a mentor.  The scarcity of women in my field made it difficult to connect with successful role models that I could relate to.  This void led to my passion for connecting others like me to a network of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) women.  I tutored high school students and organized events to foster female mentorship and to show others that women can succeed in the sciences.

After graduating I switched gears and wanted to dive head first into the professional world.  I focused on using my academic training and skills and wanted to apply them in a fast-paced, technology driven field.  That is when I found Métier, a woman owned business.  There was no lack of female leadership or mentoring.  My to-be boss and COO, another former math major, was recognized as one of the Top Forty Under 40 by the North Bay Business Journal.  The CMO and company co-founder was recognized as Mentor of the Year by the internationally recognized Stevie® Awards for Women in Business, which is the world’s top honor for female entrepreneurs, executives and the organizations they run.  Métier’s men are just as notable as well; our lead systems architect received the Product Developer of the Year award by the American Business Awards and our CEO received the PMI® Eric Jenett Project Management Excellence Award for leadership and innovation in the project portfolio management industry.  This combination of successful men and women, all who have made a commitment to mentor and support the next generation, creates a culture that encourages growth, creativity and success.

Through Métier’s innovative professional development program built on ongoing mentorship, I adapted from academia to the professional world, excelling with my technical training in math while developing the interpersonal skills necessary to succeed.  My rigorous training as a math major, and Métier’s year-round training and development programs have prepared me to solve large, complex business problems ultimately developing both process and software based solutions.  I moved from analyst to senior consultant, proving myself to be a leader for those just beginning their professional career.  Through community based programs and organizations, such as with the American Association of University Women (AAUW), I am able to continue my passion of connecting STEM women through Métier.  We recently invited young women interested in the STEM fields to our offices to provide the mentorship opportunities that I once sought after.

Now more than ever women are empowered to “lean in”, participate and lead where traditionally we have not.  Through a culture of entrepreneurship and dedicated mentorship, Métier provides a path of success for women in technology.

Have a background in the STEM fields?  Looking for a fast-paced, technology driven career?  Then apply to Métier!  Our growing technology company is hiring in all departments.  To learn more about Métier’s career opportunities, view our open positions by clicking here.