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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Which cost elements to monitor, especially in terms of hours and purchasing.
How to incorporate external suppliers: hours or deliverables.
Which metrics to use: hours, cost, profit, earned value, progress etc.
How frequently to measure each parameter.
Standardized periods for reporting working hours.
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.
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.
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.
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:
A strategic plan that exposes the objectives of the Organization
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
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:
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 intothe 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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