The users are the ones that bring a project management system to life, either as collaborators or external consultants. It is imperative that the PMO believes, manages and offers support to all of them.

 

Collaborators or suppliers, everyone is a source of talent.

 

Responsibilities  

A good PMO provides a framework that helps project managers allocate resources correctly because:

  • Projects frequently borrow resources from other business units.
  • Assigning responsibilities haphazardly normally leads to management problems down the line.

A PPM software tool offers various options to help you define the roles in each project from configuring access permissions to the specific function of every project member. You can also assign a ‘task manager’ to each task. This task is now converted into a sub-project and the assigned task manager can follow up on it.

 

Organization

Integrating the company org chart into a PMO tool is a useful way to classify and identify projects/people/activities etc. within the functional hierarchy. Later on, you can also use it to analyze outcomes.

 

Capacity: Planning and Follow-up

Managing capacity is a task requiring the utmost efficiency. It is crucial for the PMO to find the balance between:

  • Efficient management that avoids both over-allocation of resources and non-productive time.
  • The competing demands of business units and cross-unit projects vying for a limited pool of resources.

Managing capacity should be linked to demand management. Frequently, over-allocation of resources is a sign that you cannot keep up with demand. The PMO should have the means to identify this situation and the power to fix it.

The following example offers an excellent module that allows the PMO to plan globally, while analyzing individual capacity and availability.

Whatever its responsibilities are, at the very least the PMO should offer a long-term view of the demand on resources and raise a red flag when imbalances are detected.

 

Communication

If people are the beating heart of project management then communication between them makes project management possible.

 

The PMO’s role is to set up formal communication channels, and to promote and facilitate informal communication between collaborators.

 

Formal communication is related to following up on tasks; it involves specific channels to help team members learn the status of projects and tasks.

The PMO must define key moments when relevant information will be delivered to stakeholders, with the PPM system as the backbone of this process.

  • Formal communication ensures that the required information is delivered to the relevant people in a timely fashion.
  • Informal communication enhances efficiency, enabling team members to discuss and deliver information with all the background at their fingertips.

 

Documentation

Whether it is a task, risk or purchase, every element of every project can generate its own support documentation.

The PMO has several roles when it comes to documentation. The main priority is to reinforce clear management, standardize procedures and ensure that information is properly used.

  • Defining which documents are indispensable, when they should be created and to what entity they should be assigned.
  • Defining documentation formats, in coordination with other business units.
  • Offering an access system to templates and supporting documents, as well as the procedures to use them.

Depending on the responsibilities, the PMO may use some features or other benefits of its PPM tool. For example, the role of project templates can associate documentation models in the different sections of the project.

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Here at ITM Platform we often hear PMO professionals say, “our maturity level is too low for PPM” or “we are not ready yet for project management”. In this article, we delve and explore into what project management maturity actually means and how a PPM solution is a bridge and not a roadblock to increasing your maturity level.

Truth is project portfolio management is not just for big corporations or businesses with complex processes.

Regardless of the size or maturity of your operation, it is possible to implement simple and effective project portfolio management. Different maturity levels require different features.

 

 

 

What is “Project Portfolio Management Maturity” anyway?

Project Portfolio Management Maturity refers to how ready your company is to smoothly execute a project, program and portfolio management strategy.

This can be assessed on a wide spectrum, ranging from an individual assessment to applying a formal maturity model assessment.

 

Identifying your company’s maturity level, yourself

In most cases, companies identify their own maturity levels on their own without any formal assessment. If you´ve ever caught yourself saying, ¨my company isn´t at that maturity level yet¨ then perhaps your own expertise and experience at work has led you to this conclusion. Have you ever had this conversation at the office?

  • - Hey, how do you keep track of projects here?
  • - We ask the project manager.
  • - I see. And do they use any formal or standardized way to do it?
  • - Well, so and so do, but not really.
  • - Then, how do you know how your portfolio is performing?
  • - Eh, we just focus on the projects that are causing problems now.

… Say no more. You´ve already pictured your company as having a low maturity level and reckon a PPM software solution will do nothing more than create confusion and frustration. However, it doesn´t have to be so challenging. Even if you found that the maturity level is low, you can still help your company grow in maturity with the right set of functionalities when applied at the right time.

 

Applying a maturity model assessment

A maturity model assessment is a specific set of criteria defined for each level and categorizes companies to their respective project portfolio management´s maturity levels.

Some models have six levels, others have four or five. But what’s most interesting are the category axes or dimensions that are used for classification. These are the most relevant, explained with basic examples:

 

  • Processes: Consider this the train tracks over which work flows. In our hypothetical conversation above, the fictional you asked about the processes in place. Other examples can be whether the company has formal resource management, risk management, cost management, program management or strategic alignment processes.
    You get the idea. If you’re a PMI fan, you already know them all.
  • People: Maturity models tend to put people first and assess questions like: does the staff understand and embrace project management? Do they know the processes of which they are involved in? Are they use to working on a project-oriented organization rather than a functional organization?
    People are vital to any organization and it`s important to consider human resistance when assessing the maturity model of your organization.
  • Organization: This is where processes and people come together. Some questions about the organizational model usually are: Does your company have a solid PMO (or a PMO at all)? Is Human Resources integrated in the portfolio management? Is top-level management on it? Is it a project-based organization?

 

 

Depending on the model, you will commonly come across these axes plus others such as technology or competitive landscape.

The takeaway here is that there are models out there that can help you objectively measure what you already suspected.

You can also use this online PMO & Organization Self-Assessment that measures three categories: Organization, Talent and Conditions  and in return,  providing a set of recommendations based on the results.

Our own findings

Most companies we´ve talked to find themselves somewhere in the medium-low / medium range spectrum. They tend to assess their company as having a lower maturity level than they actually have.

This happens in all countries we operate in even though there are clear market maturity differences among them. In most cases, this is because companies measure themselves against their own market/countries and not globally.

Furthermore, dealing with leaders across the world, we´ve noticed there is no strong correlation between the company size and its maturity. The general assumption seems to be that big companies are more likely to have a solid PPM methodology in place. However, it’s more related to the nature of the business rather than the size. The more project-oriented the business is, the more mature those organizations tend to be.

 

How is all this relevant to the decision of implementing a PPM software?

Project portfolio management solutions should be flexible and scalable enough to start small, grow gradually and add processes over time. This will allow you to create a consistent and sustainable project portfolio management ecosystem sans big initial investments and blows to your company.

Logical reasoning would presume: “if my company has a low PPM maturity level, first I need to increase it and then implement the tool”. This obviously happens to those who are aware that there is such a thing as PPM maturity. This persona is usually someone who has either used or has knowledge of complex PPM systems in the past.

And it’s true, six to twelve-month implementations and significant amounts of money are enough to set off any initiative, especially if the organization is not ready. Many would wisely argue that spending more on tools than the ROI they have on their projects is a poor move.

Processes and tools go hand in hand. Implementing one without the other is not ideal, since the tool enables the process and the process is transmitted through the tool. You just need to find the tool that can grow with you and adapt itself on that journey.

Pro tip: Changing from Excel and email to MS Project, then to a collaborative project management solution and finally to a PPM solution is not really growing. It’s breaking and recomposing processes, people and organization at every step of the way.

 

How ITM Platform supports every level of maturity?

The key is to identify the PPM solution that can provide the features according to your needs. Sound simple? The reality is that optimizing your company´s maturity levels need to take multiple factors into account and is anything but simple. And, like anything else that´s really complicated, most of us are looking for better tools to achieve tasks. Companies need a solution that in tandem adapts to your maturity level and enables you to add or remove features according to your needs.

ITM Platform gently increases maturities with the least possible hassle. It is equipped with easily adaptable features that grow with you no matter the stage. It’s comprehensive, intuitive and its seamlessly easy learning curve is just what you need to get your PMO up and running.

It´s possible to start on the right foot even though you know there’s a low project portfolio management maturity level in your company. And turns out, this is an excellent starting point!

Take the first step and try this free trial now! Experience first-hand what ITM Platform can do for you.

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Everyone´s starting point is different, but we can all agree you need a steady foundation when building anything and your PMO´s framework is no exception. It should be clear and shared by the entire organization. We’ll guide you through planning, implementing and disseminating your PMO. Whether you´re familiar with ITM Platform or not, our examples are a ¨one-size-fits-all¨. This design assists in  highlighting situations that you may encounter along the way and applicable to most cases.

So, let´s dive in to the 6 essential elements you need to consider in order launch your PMO framework.

 

Download the eBook: How to set up a sustainable PMO with ITM Platform

 

1. Project types

First, decide what kind of projects you’re running; the type of project will also govern its lifespan.
As you implement (or relaunch) the PMO it’s a good moment to reflect on the variety of projects in the portfolio and possibly take time to redesign them. A PMO can also manage operations if they consist of specific tasks that are assigned to different teams. Managing projects and operations together from the PMO is especially useful when the resources and clients involved are the same.

This is the case with software development projects, or products that require maintenance by the same team that developed the original project. The Kanban methodology is useful for managing services because it offers an organized structure in which you can see the status of tasks at a glance. More importantly it allows you to limit the flow of work according to your resources.

The service concept is also incorporated into ITM Platform – you can create entities for the sole purpose of managing operations.

 

2. Workflows

A workflow allows you to map out all the possible statuses that a project goes through. Make sure it is based on the business’s procedures – don’t be tempted to invent statuses that do not reflect the reality of the company.
The workflow is defined by two main components:

  1. The changing status of a project
    For example, we can decide that when the status of a project is designated as ‘draft’ that can only be changed to ‘started’ or ‘discarded’.
  2. The conditions for changing the status and who is authorized to grant permission for that change.
    Make the conditions for changing statuses as simple as possible; you can always increase the complexity later, and you may even find that there is no need to do so.

A word of advice: do not replace the work of defining organizational procedures with a workflow. The workflow should be a conveyor belt, not a control mechanism.

 

3. Priorities

It's very easy to configure the different degrees of priority, but the work of a PMO starts way before this: you have to agree what each priority means. It should be extremely clear what “high priority” or “medium priority” means. Obviously, medium is higher than high, but does that mean that you shouldn’t start with the medium priority ones until the high priority ones are finished? Should we put twice as many resources into high priority versus medium priority?

The PMO should know the actions associated with each priority and make this clear to everyone else so that the organization makes homogenous decisions.

 

4. Risks

Good project management is in essence risk management and a PMO ensures that this function happens consistently throughout the decision-making process.
The formula impact x probability = exposure level is only useful if it leads to consistent decisions by project managers.

Identifying risks is a tricky business as it’s often subjective and affected by personal bias. The PMO standardizes procedures using criteria and tools approved by the board, backed by the project managers.

 

5. Waterfall or agile methodologies?

Both of these methodologies can co-exist in one integrated portfolio as long as the PMO establishes criteria to decide on the appropriate methodology for each project.
Some organizations make all decisions – waterfall or agile – based on politics. This kind of decision making can lead to patchy results.
If your organization decides on agile methodologies for all projects – while at the same time demanding medium and long-term deadlines – the methodology probably hasn't been chosen on the basis of solid criteria.

To determine which methodology to use the PMO should ask:

  •  Is the result of the project relatively uncertain or are we well aware of the outcomes?
  •  Is the project subject to deadlines which govern the date of deliverables or is a short-term vision of all the tasks enough?
  • Are sponsors and clients willing to have continual involvement in the project without knowing the final outcome? Or will they happy to be less involved and just accept the final outcome?

 

If your organization decides on agile methodologies for all projects – while at the same time demanding medium and long-term deadlines – the methodology probably hasn’t been chosen based on solid criteria.

 

6. Project templates

One of the major benefits of a PMO is that it allows you to capitalize on knowledge accumulated from previous projects. Be sure to put mechanisms in place to recover the lessons that have been learned. That way the know how isn’t lost when the project ends but can be applied later on.
Creating project-specific templates means the contents can be re-used in future projects. Another benefit of templates is to re-use frequently used structures just by changing dates and figures. It’s similar to those cooking programs when the chef says ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’.

A good PMO ensures that the knowledge stays within an organization, and not only at the level of the individuals involved.

This online PMO & Organization Self-Assessment can help you get started and analyze your organization.

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When we think about Project Management Office, a project management software is pretty much a necessity. However, there are many other solutions that can make the life of a project manager easier in several facets from productivity to communication. In our last article on apps for PMOs we introduced the first 7 software applications, today we continue the list by presenting you with another 6 tools that will make your work easier and faster. Thank us later ?

 

1. Airtable

Combine Excel, Pinterest, Trello and a database management system and you have Airtable. No jokes. Airtable is an extremely powerful solution that enables you to visualize the same data in various ways: table, Kanban, blocks (Pinterest style), calendar and forms. It’s so versatile that it can be used for almost any activity that requires a database.

logo Airtable

Pros

Airtable is powerful and flexible. It allows you to manage in a single location the data you probably would have separated into different areas. For example, you can use it for demand management in conjunction with ITM Platform. You can create an internal form for project proposals from employees, a table view for project managers to manage the proposals, and a blocks view accessible to the whole organization to inform of the selected projects. Airtable is also customizable with “blocks”, a premium feature that allows users to add new functionalities to tables.

Cons

While great for managing, Airtable is quite poor on the communication side. While there’s the possibility to comment on each line of the table, that’s the extent of its communication capabilities given that there’s no chat feature .

 

2.Visio

If you have ever needed to design a flowchart or a diagram you are probably going to love this one. Microsoft Visio is a diagramming and vector graphics application that is used to design charts swiftly and easily.

logo visio

Pros

Apart from being easy to use, Visio is part of the Microsoft Office family of solutions, which means that it is perfectly integrated with other common solutions like Word or Excel. It also allows users to design 3D map diagrams and to pull information from external sources that can update automatically.

Cons

The main issue of Visio is its compatibility as it only works on Windows. Furthermore, it doesn’t allow for real-time collaboration, without mentioning the hefty price tag (considering that it is unlikely a software you’ll use every day).

 

3. PMO Value Ring

The PMO Value Ring is the perfect software to use in conjunction with a project management software. The software is designed by PMOs for PMOs and is aimed at providing a consistent framework to manage the PMO across different stages of its life cycle.

logo PMO value ring

An example of a complete cycle in PMO Value Ring:

Pros

The tool forces the user to be consistent in the definition of the PMO and all its elements, such as Functions, Roles, Stakeholders etc. All the data can be accessed in a consolidated dashboard view that scores several different aspects like ROI or maturity.

Cons

The downside of the PMO Value Ring is that it is not integrated with any other solution, which means that all the data should be inputted manually. Furthermore, the software enhances and facilitates the management of the PMO but it is separated from the actual project management activity of the office.

 

4. ClicData

ClicData is a very powerful data visualization and BI software. It allows users to create and share dashboards that are automatically updated from the data source.

logo click-data

Pros

Clicdata is integrated with almost anything, at least with all the main apps used for business. This is great as it allows to create dashboards that can then be shared with, for example, a director or CxO, that needs to have access to live data. Another strength of ClicData is that it permits cross-evaluation of data or automatic database merge.

Cons

The interface is drag and drop but this does not mean that it is easy to use: the logic behind the interface is not always the most intuitive and the user needs to have a clear understanding of the structure of the data imported, which is not always bvious when importing data directly from a third-party source. Also, more complex dashboards require some time to set up so ensure to allocate enough time when implementing ClicData.

 

5. Sharepoint

I’m sure many of you are already familiar with SharePoint. For those who don’t know it’s a web-based collaborative platform that is primarily sold as a document management and storage system. But the product is highly flexible and usage varies substantially between organizations. Sharepoint is commonplace in larger organizations where the document management is complex and encompasses several departments.

logo SharePoint

Pros

The main advantage of SharePoint is in its document management capabilities: given its configuration capability you can create several Site Collections, limit their access, from one single, clean interface.

Cons

The main cons of SharePoint are tied to its main strength: as a consequence of being highly configurable Sharepoint is quite complex to manage in its full capability, meaning that you’ll often need to dedicate human resources or hire a consultant.

 

6. Risk assessment matrix

Good planning is essential, so that project managers and the respond to the emergence of risks. ITM Platform’s Risk Assessment Matrix evaluates risks depending on their impact and probability, allowing to visualize the level of risk exposure. Thanks to that information, you can prioritize risk management and reduce exposure!

logo Risk Matrix

Pros

This matrix allows you to register, quantify and share risks and you can share them collaboratively as well.

Cons

The tool can only be accessed online and only covers the risk management part of a Project manager work routine. However, if you need a more integrated application you can try ITM Platform, where the risk management functionality is integrated with a whole set of their features…   What do you think of these 6 tools? Are there any that you’d like to see covered that are not in this list? Let us know

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lgo Teambot

What is the only application that all professionals in the world use?

Exactly. It is the email. For years professionals around the world complained about how uncomfortable it can be if it is used as a documentation repository and even claimed that emails are "dead". Even so, it is very clear that mail is still unrivaled in the day to day of any office.

Of course, at ITM Platform we do not want to help your inboxes become messy garbage dumps.

No more unwanted notifications

The problem with email in B2B environments is not so much the channel, but the frequency. Usually, most applications send notifications automatically and, unless they are very well designed, their volume increases rapidly and end up being ignored.

With Teambot the opposite occurs: it is an ally of our users because it only sends a notification when it is requested.

The functioning is very simple:

  1. I write an email to Teambot
  2. I include my request for information on the message subject
  3. Teambot reads mu subject and my email address
  4. Teambot sends me an email with the requested information

This whole process can last less than 6 seconds. And you do not even need to log into ITM Platform. This is the reason why all our customers are adding Teambot to their list of regular contacts.

Semantic searches from the subject

The truly elegant thing about Teambot is that it offers precise and complex information from an absolutely minimalist user interface. We have decided to follow one of the best design maxims: less is more.

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In order to provide users with the highest advantages, we have transformed the email into a search engine... applied to all ITM Platform projects and tasks.

The search engine uses only the metadata fields. Specifically, two fields:

  • The addressee, who is always teambot@itmplatform.io
  • The subject, where the user indicated the information they are looking for.

Benefits of Teambot

  • As a Team Member, you can organize your day without logging into ITM Platform

By simply sending an email to Teambot with the subject “today”, you will receive all the tasks to which you are assigned and all the projects in which you participate.

From there, you can request more details with a simple click.

  • As a project manager, you can swiftly check the status of critical tasks

Do you have doubts about the status of a task? Ask Teambot and you will find out immediately.

  • As a PMO administrator, you can quickly check the status of any project

With the access privileges of a Full Access license, PMO managers can use Teambot to gather the most important information about the status of a project.  In order to do this, they just have to send an email to Teambot with the name of the project (or a part of it) in the mail subject. If there is more than one option, Teambot will send a clarification email.

  • With Teambot you can work offline

From now on, users who are in geographical environments with connectivity problems can continue working while they are offline, obtaining the detailed information they need. With Teambot, the email server will send and receive emails even in locations with very low connectivity; and once the information is received, it will be available anywhere in offline mode.

  • With Teambot you can respond to your boss with precision

Another useful feature is the simplicity of reporting information to anyone, just forward the information offered by Teambot.

How to give Teambot instructions for email

Teambot reads the email subject to find out what you need. The first command you can try with Teambot could be “help”; Teambot will send you instructions on the type of commands available and the answer you will get:

  • Task lists for a given day: list tasks
  • Complete lists of tasks: list all tasks
  • Complete lists of projects: list all projects
  • Task details: name of the task
  • Project details: name of the project

Beyond the basic instructions, we wanted Teambot to be able to listen to our users and understand what they want to know. So, for example, if you send Teambot an email with the subject “corporate plan”, it will return a list of tasks and projects whose name resembles the subject.

In the next phases, we hope that Teambot will continue learning new rules of behavior and will become even more useful and helpful, offering proactive reminders when, for example, the delivery date of a critical task approaches; or allowing to report hours and progress by email.

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