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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Tracking expenditure and revenue flows answers one of the burning ques­tions of every board: “How much are we actually investing in our projects?”. This question often crops up when we are talking about internal, IT or transforma­tive projects. The planning and follow-up model should be agreed with the finance di­rectorate and business units, so that project managers understand the pa­rameters for action, how they should monitor budgets and use of resources.

The PMO should issue clear instruc­tions on:

  1. Which cost elements to monitor, especially in terms of hours and pur­chasing.
  2. How to incorporate external su­ppliers: hours or deliverables.
  3. Which metrics to use: hours, cost, profit, earned value, progress etc.
  4. How frequently to measure each parameter.
  5. Standardized periods for reporting working hours.
  6. Measuring income and profit mar­gins.

In the following sections we analyze these topics in greater depth, highli­ghting their integration into ITM Plat­form whenever possible.


Cost of working hours

If you require oversight of the esti­mated hours, actual hours worked and their cost, the module of stan­dard costs and provider rates must be defined. Carrying out the definition in collaboration with the finance and HR departments will ensure that the project’s financial management is line with the organization’s policies and procedures. ITM Platform offers a module to establi­sh the standard cost from an abstract level down to the most detailed one:

      • General: hourly cost of any task. Useful in the conceptual phase of the project.
      • Internal and external: whether you use your own people or out­side contractors this allows you to define the hourly cost in a generic fashion.
      • Cost per professional profile: allows you to define the standard cost of the internal personnel for each profile, within different time­frame.
      • Provider rates: similarly, provider rates can be fed into the system, allowing you to compare costs per person and per provider.


Purchases and acquisitions

Purchasing is one of the key activities in any company. When managed properly it enables easier planning and follow up of cash flow. Normally, purchase management is in­corporated in the early stages of matu­rity, typically before monitoring working hours. Nonetheless, it is important that projects synchronize their purchasing with the organization’s financial mana­gement, so that both are in agreement. The purchase flow is a kind of workflow and it must be linked to a procedure pre­viously agreed with the financial and purchasing directorates, ensuring that each project’s purchasing is in line with purchasing practices in general.In addition, budget accounts grouping purchases must be used homoge­neously.


Revenue

Similarly to purchasing, the classification and time management of the project revenues should be synchronized with the organization´s regular financial procedures. The system will then be able to create reliable margins and client profitablity.

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Choosing which projects to invest in is a strategic decision to be taken based on objective data. In this article, we explore the problem of subjectivity and analyze the solution that allows management to make decisions based on a business plan, in a rigorous and transparent way.

 

The Problem

In businesses where the source of income comes from making projects for clients, it is easy to decide which ones are to be put in place: (usually) those of greater profitability. And in some cases, all, if sufficient resources are available.

However, internal projects, such as those of transformation, tend to not offer such an obvious criterion as their value to the business is less evident and often more subjective to anticipate.

The fact that an expected value is subjective does not mean that its effects are not going to be real. It means that the benefits are hard to predict, and investment decisions can be based on perceptions.

This is a challenge that managing directors have always tried to address. The most used resource as a solution has been that of the "business case", which requires promoters to express the profitability or value contribution of their initiative in measurable terms, either in sales increase or in cost reduction.

The main difficulty presented by the business case is the human factor: a promoter of an initiative that has a strong motivation to give positive figures and show that their idea is profitable. Though it is desirable to have intrapreneurs on your team it is essential to validate their figures through a homogenous and and objective process.

The second difficulty of requesting profitability to internal projects arises from each promoter having limited vision to their area of competence, defending their plot without considering the overall vision. In turn, management considers these business cases as if they had been generated with the same criteria, which is not usually the case. Each promoter applies with different degree of ingenuity the data to the same template.

The issue at hand is knowing when to recognize, in an objective fashion, what initiatives will bring more value to the business when the projects deliver their expected benefits.

 

 

The Approach

When it comes to value, it is not always possible to apply a purely financial standard via project profitability based on forecasts in isolation and in comparison of each other.

  • The value contribution of a project to a strategic plan may be broader than profitability, even if the savings or earnings have been realistically calculated. For example, a process automation project can throw modest savings, but positively influence a priority target of customer quality perception.
  • Strategic project planning should not consider initiatives in isolation, as the result of the set may be greater than the sum of the parties. It is common for the result of some projects to enable others, and its set to offer strategic value. This is why program and portfolio management exceeds project management.

The strategic management of projects lies in the competence of the management and must be facilitated by the Project Management Office (PMO) to the extent that their objectives are the maximization of value and not only the transversal coordination.

Thus, the strategic planning approach to the composition of the project portfolio should consider two main elements:

  1. A strategic plan that exposes the objectives of the Organization
  2. A list of project proposals (initiatives)

With these two elements, we can prioritize initiatives that will order them from higher to lower value, generating an orderly list of approved projects (portfolio backlog).

Strategic management of project portfolios

A great advantage that offers prioritization of projects by value is that it supports applying resource constraints as a cut-line to its output. If we have a list ordered by value and – for example-a budgetary limitation, we will be able to establish the approval of projects based on those that contribute more value and that are within the available budget.

 

The Process

Once we have the two main elements (objectives and demand), we can start two classification processes that can run in parallel or go in sequence. What is important is to isolate each other to ensure objectivity and ease of adaptation to the general standard.

Process 1: Prioritization of Objectives

Participants: Board of Directors
Objective: To put some objectives in front of others, with specific weight of each one on the total.

Sometimes strategic plans already specify priorities, but in others they do not give explicit weight by objective. For example, how much more important is "to grow in sales by 20%" than "to increase operating efficiency by 15%"?

There are several techniques that can be employed to achieve a table like the one above. From something as simple as an agreement amongst the Board of Directors to the most sophisticated such as an Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP). The latter could be considered more rigourous, though its execution could be simple if you have a Pairwise Comparison Tool, like the one provided by ITM Platform.

This simple table will generate an orderly and quantified list of objectives.

As an added feature, ITM Platform calculates a "consistency ratio" that indicates how logical and objective the prioritization is. In this article, you will find an explanation of how this index is calculated.

It is possible to make different sets of the same objectives through scenarios, and even use different objectives for different programs. The reality is complex and there is not always a single combination or scenario.

Process 2: Contribution of project value to objectives

Participants: The Project committee and promoters

Objective: To determine how much each project contributes to each objective


Ignoring for now the relevance of each objective on the strategic plan, this step will assign a weight to the contribution of each initiative to each objective. This weight will be translated to a number base on 100, but if you use ITM Platform you can also use the comparison by pairs previously used or use a qualitative methodology based on ideograms such as the image (Harvey balls), providing a visual support.

Process 3: Analysis of the optimal selection of the Portfolio

The two previous phases provide the necessary parameters for the system to calculate the value of each project, based on 100 and depending on the value of each objective.

List of initiatives orders by value

If money wasn't a problem, then we would probably carry out all “reasonable" projects. But in a real organization, the resources available are finite and the previous list of initiatives is not enough to make a good selection of project portfolios.

Thus, it is not only enough to select the most valuable projects, but it is also necessary to filter those that fall within the constraints, be it economic, technical and human resources, or temporary.

In this article, we will use the available budget as an example of a main constraint because this is the most frequent case. Imagine that we should select a portfolio of projects that does not exceed $900.000. Taking the previous list into account, the "New Star Product" ($ 1.5 M) exceeds that amount and also provides a similar value to other more economical projects.

So, with the data we have, we choose the combination of projects that are closer to the available budget: a total of $885.400 and a value of 61% accumulated in three projects.

With this selection achieve the given criteria. But note that the efficient central border graph is indicating the selection is not optimal (value/cost) and that there are better combinations: similar value for less money or greater value for the same sum.

And, indeed, with a portfolio of a total of $528.840 we achieved a contribution of value very similar for 35% less in cost.

If you are interested in understanding how the calculation scheme is made,

Download the guide here.

Conclusion

It is possible to apply rigorous standards in the selection of a portfolio of projects, basing the selection on the value they bring to the business strategy.
Key points to consider:

  • A separation of work between the management team that defines and prioritizes objectives, and the teams that analyze the benefits by project.
  • A process sponsored by management requiring rigorous standards when making investment decisions and implementing transparency between teams.
  • An integrative platform that combines information and exposes the results.

If you want to know more about the management of organizations by projects, download the white paper, where you will learn to:
- Connect management of your Organization with that of projects
- Manage portfolio of projects to create competitive advantage
- Agile Portfolio Management

 

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Planning and implementing a PMO has a rhythm of its own. Don’t be tempted to rush. You risk chaos if the process rushes ahead of the organization’s own maturity by trying to tackle all the stages at once.

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

So what can businesses and project managers do to ensure essential components of  projects are being completed in time and on budget? In this article we develop the 5 main keys of success.

 

Keys to success

A good plan is only useful if it can be implemented in the field. For that you need adequate resources and a favorable environment. Before creating a PMO:

1. Make sure you have the right skill set

Ensure that your people have the right skill set. If you have neither the team nor the required skill set, it’s a good idea to limit the scope of the PMO so that it can be set up without the risk of failure. Embarking on a PMO without the appropriate know how is like setting sail on a ship without skilled sailors, the enterprise will unravel at the first ill wind.

2. Start with high-visibility, high-impact projects

Like every other business unit, the PMO must prove its worth from the very beginning to win over naysayers. A smart PMO manager will look to deliver early wins on to the scoreboard.  This is not always easy because of its cross-functional – and according to detractors – unnecessary nature. Tackle the most widely acknowledged problems first.

3. Identify the needs of the business clearly

The organization and the business have needs that may or may not have been explicitly identified. Meeting these needs should be your starting point. That way you’ll start off on the right foot, giving you enormous leverage when it comes to defending your decisions in the future. Do your research.

For example, as a PMO expert you may consider it vital to set up a document template repository. But maybe what your stakeholders actually need is a way to decide how progress on projects is measured.

4. Have a solid framework

And which is integrated into the business. A PMO that acts as a lone wolf is destined to fail. It is important that there are simple, fluid communication channels to ensure that everyone is working in the right direction. Put these in place from the outset.

5. Draw up clear key performance indicators

Having a lot of indicators does not necessarily mean having lots of information. Make sure that you not only have the right tools but also that the KPIs are relevant to your business.

 

What to consider for a consistent roadmap

To create a consistent roadmap, you should take into account:

  • The maturity of the organization.
  • The goals suggested by the Board of Directors.
  • The available resources.
  • Positive and negative environmental factors.

With these parameters, we know our start and end points, the resources available and the pace at which we should go.

An example of a roadmap

Let’s take as an example Booksy360, a mid-sized publishing company. This is their  roadmap divided into four stages, starting from a tactical PMO and moving towards a strategic one.

Period 1

Booksy360’s PMO steering group decides to establish a basic communication system, using a common language. In this system planning is based only on timeframes and deliverables. Document templates are created for each project type. Stakeholders will receive reports about the status of their individual projects and Booksy360’s board will be kept up to date via a regular portfolio report.

Period 2

All communication channels are now established. The PMO encourages collaboration between units and projects. Inventory and purchasing are added as extra elements to plan, manage and control. Resource management is now based on professional profiles, such as editors, writers and production engineers.

Period 3

Formal risk management starts, agreed by all departments. Alongside this Booksy360 initiates change and quality management. Even if these were taking place informally before, now they are at the heart of the process.

Period 4

The final stage is when the actual strategic contribution starts. But it is long way down the line so for now Booksy360’s steering committee predicts it will include portfolio planning, benefit realization management and governance

The online PMO & Organization Self-Assessment may help you analyze your organization.

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team, puzzle, star, bubbles, conversation, chessThis article is part of a series on the PMBOK areas of knowledge. You can read the previous articles here:

The last area of knowledge of the PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge) covers the best practices to manage the relationship with stakeholders.

Specifically, this area of knowledge focuses on identifying people, groups or organizations that may affect or may be affected by the project and analyze their expectations and its impact on the plan.

Manage project stakeholders in a collaborative environment

It is essential to keep in mind that clients too are stakeholders, as their satisfaction is crucial to the success of a project. This means that projects could re-start from 0 if the client’ expectations are not taken into account early enough.
This problem was so frequent in software development that led to the development of agile methodologies, which seek a fluid communication with customers.

 

Advice for Stakeholders Management

 

1. Identify the parties or public interested in the project

In this phase of project management, it is important to focus on identifying the stakeholder from the very beginning, since this will allow us to obtain an overview of the stakeholders map and the problems that some actors may pose at a later moment.

2. Make sure that all interested parties agree and know their roles or responsibilities

Before starting the development of a project, it is essential that all the actors involved know the rules and assume the commitment and responsibility expected of their functions. From the beginning, we will identify team leaders, work teams, and their roles.
Good pre-planning facilitates a smooth development and helps to avoid conflicts in the future. If everyone agrees with the requirements and objectives, he or she will work to keep pace with the events and avoid delays; delays that only will be translated into extra costs and unwanted results.
On the other hand, rules must also ensure fluid communication with customers, so that they have sufficient information to evaluate the project development and express their point of view. If necessary, the circumstances under which a client’s opinions may involve changes in the project can be agreed upon.

3. Get consensus on the application of changes to the project

Changes in a project are inevitable since contingencies always arise that require the modification of some criteria or change in scope. The more complex a plan is, the more susceptible it is of being changed during its development. Therefore, it is important that all participants agree on how to handle the changes.

4. Favor communication

Establishing communication guidelines at the beginning of the project will improve the flow of the same. The team will be able to determine, since the beginning, the frequency of the communication and its content, that should preferably be concise and focused on the progress or issues that affect the project.

5. Give permanent visibility to the project teams

Transparency is a fundamental virtue in all project communication. It does not make sense for a project manager to have secrets.

It is important to define and communicate the vision of the project early on, as teams become more involved and the risk of losing focus on the project is mitigated. This way you make sure that any decision is coherent with the vision and objectives of the project. This point is very important because it helps reduce risks, errors or loss of focus.

6. Involve interested parties in the entire process

Although we assigned functions and teams from the very beginning, interested parties (stakeholders) should be always involved, so that they can participate in the problem solving or the revision of the requirements.

7. Reach an agreement with what has been done

In order to avoid entering a circle of changes and stagnation that could jeopardize the development of the project, it is important to reach agreements on the work done.
In an organization that manages strategic projects and internal transformation, Stakeholders Management goes beyond the project closure, since its delivery enables capacities that could benefit other levels of the organization. Otherwise, the value delivered is not internalized and won’t become a competitive advantage sustainable over time. This approach has been called Benefits Realization Management (BRM) or Benefit Management.

8. Empathize with the other interested parties

All project participants are stakeholders, but the stakeholder map also includes parties that do not actively participate in the development of the project. You should take them into account and empathize with them as the capacity for empathy is a crucial skill for the success or failure of a project.
The analysis of a project should not be limited to the interests and influence of stakeholders but should include how to identify their objectives, circumstances and the way they perceive the project.
Empathic analysis helps us to discover hidden variables that show us the way to solve problems or overcome obstacles that we may encounter.

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