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No One Believes in the PMO? Here’s How to Gain PMO Acceptance

In recent posts we posed the question “Is the PMO still the right option for your strategy realization objectives?” and discussed the differences between a Project Management Office (PMO) and a Strategy Realization Office but we’re also aware that in some circumstances newly established PMOs have difficulty getting buy-in from the rest of the organizations.

Chris HensonIn his latest blog, Senior Account Manager Chris Henson looks into the challenges faced by PMO staff and offers some points that can be used to help achieve PMO acceptance.

Sometimes the PMO can be seen with suspicion within the organization, as a kind of Big Brother imposition. It can have trouble finding its feet and winning over adherents. It’s ironic because the benefit of a PMO – when it’s implemented effectively – is that it brings everybody together. It helps with transparency and in ushering in a single, consistent way of working.

Patience is required.

Often when a new PMO is implemented, it takes time to fully realize the benefits it brings and to appreciate how a PMO can help to improve efficiencies across the organization. The key is to make sure you have a good, functioning PPM software solution to orchestrate the capture and filtration of information.

Without a PPM technology solution, the PMO will be left scurrying around trying to get everybody’s project and portfolio information. If you’re a PMO, and you’re managing, say, 20 projects with 10 project managers, those 10 project managers might all be working in slightly different ways – and capturing information slightly differently. One PM might be using, say, Microsoft Project. Others might be using MS Excel to run their tasks. As a result, the PMO is left floundering to find all the information they need.
As a PPM partner, we go in and help resolve this breakdown. We advise on PPM methodology. How are you typically managing your projects? How can we align with your processes to ensure that everyone is working off a “single version of the truth” when it comes to project data? How can we help to save time and money?

Often the PMO will be a reporting function, rolling up project information so it can be shared with key stakeholders within the business, but sometimes people can be afraid of the truth. The PMO highlights gaps. We know from experience working with our public sector clients, often early warning triggers are ignored or left unseen without a PMO in place. Information can reside in a person’s head. It can be too late to react when an issue surfaces. Maybe the project is running out of budget or there’s a lack of resources. A good PMO sees those risks early.

Resistance to change

There is a mindset switch and a change in organizational behavior when the PMO is implemented to manage those early warning signs. If you’ve got, say, an amber- or red-rated project or program, the PMO should see that and take steps to help and support. A project manager, though, often prefers to crack on and try to sort out issues himself or herself to everybody’s detriment sometimes.

A good PMO removes that element of risk. Nothing is left to chance. There’s full transparency. It brings rigor and honesty to the practice of managing project portfolios. All the good and bad things are laid bare when a PMO is in place. Yes – we can see all the good things, but we can also see all the things that are going wrong on a project as well.

All organizations have some of that old-school project manager mentality of, “I know best.” They have project managers with the battle scars, ones who believe they don’t need help or assistance. It’s partly human nature. People don’t like change. People prefer to keep working the way they’ve worked for the previous 10, 15, or 20 years, managing a project on an Excel spreadsheet or off a to-do list next to their desk.

We see it from the vendor side – changing behavior and introducing that visibility across the organization are two of the biggest challenges we encounter when implementing a PPM solution. From the PMO perspective, too, the biggest challenge they face internally is bringing everyone on board so colleagues buy into working with that “single version of the truth”, one-way-of-working mentality and process.

Cut reporting cycles from days to minutes

The beauty of a PPM solution is that there are a few immediate, easy wins. First, in the reporting aspect. Where the PMO and key stakeholders really struggle is amalgamating all that project information into monthly board packs, which can take days to harvest. There’s a huge amount of chasing that goes on – that mad rush to do updates every week or month, depending on specific reporting cycles.

One of the key benefits of a PMO solution is the automated reporting function. As long as you’re keeping your project up to date, and you’re doing the things you need to do as part of the process, that reporting happens dynamically, going from days to minutes. Because you now have that transparency, you don’t have to hunt down project information. It’s all there and visible.

The benefit for key stakeholders is profound. With a portfolio dashboard in the Cora PPM solution, for example, a CEO or a finance director can now see in real-time the health of a project portfolio. They can drill down where necessary and interrogate everything that’s going on in their organization.

Get a handle on resourcing

Another benefit in implementing a PPM tool is the resourcing piece of the jigsaw. Traditionally, you get bottlenecks both from a budget and a resource perspective. Because of transparency – which comes back to that early warning signs element of a PMO – you can see what staff are doing. What are our engineers, IT staff, HR personnel, and project managers doing? Do we have the capacity to take on this extra project or additional work on a project?

Everybody’s working the same way

For the PMO lead, the PPM solution helps them ensure everybody is working in the same way. It ensures the whole organization is following processes and procedures – that everybody is working the same way. You’re building in a project process that everybody needs to follow. You’re bringing in best-practice workflow practices.

Let’s take an example – authorization and approval functionality. In-built stage gate reviews will determine whether it’s a simple or complex process. The PPM solution will automatically trigger all necessary checkpoints and approvals. Rather than a project manager having to go and write out emails and chase people for approvals, everything is automated. It’s built into the tool. You’ve got full audit ability. Having those stages, those checks, those authorizations, brings invaluable peace of mind.

Ultimately, too, it frees up project managers’ time to do what they need to do. You want your staff to be doing what they’re good at – in the case of a project manager, it’s managing a project or a program, not chasing people for authorization and approvals, and doing reports.

The examples above can be used as part of your “business case” to help achieve PMO acceptance and deliver on the potential benefits that a PMO can provide.

Chris Henson is Senior Account Manager for Cora Systems. To discuss the subject in more detail, and to see how Cora PPM can help, email chenson@corasystems.com or connect with Chris on LinkedIn.

Gartner's 2021 Strategic Roadmap for the PMO

How Mature is Your PMO?

Our PMO Maturity Assessment tool and guide will help give you an understanding of the effectiveness of your PMO.

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