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Project Management Office: PPM Best Practices

The Role of the Project Management Office Is Changing

The days of the Project Management Office solely being an enforcement agency tucked away in the IT department are over. With so much internal and external change affecting the enterprise, the Project Management Office is in an ideal position to make a real impact on the business by delivering efficient and effective Project Portfolio Management (PPM). Project Management Office PPM best practices help define how to transition from a governing body to a guiding force that drives value across the entire organization.

Your Project Management Office can help accelerate strategic delivery with PPM best practices.
Your Project Management Office can help accelerate strategic delivery with PPM best practices.

There are four proven PPM best practices to consider then evolving the PMO. It is beneficial to remember that the key function of a modern PMO is to continually provide executives and stakeholders clear visibility into business performance. What these leaders need most isn’t governance or endless reports, but to be equipped with the right insights at the right time to make decisions that will shape the trajectory of the business.

Common Project Management Office Challenges

Changing perception

No matter the intention of the Project Management Office, perception is reality. The business often has its own view of the PMO, which is typically not as a value center. Much of the disconnect is due to the fact that the PMO frequently falls into the trap of concentrating on the wrong things, only supporting the reputation they would prefer to change. “The Zombie PMO Outbreak” defines three common impressions of the Project Management Office:

“Process Cop”

The Process Cop is the perception that the PMO is focused on processes, procedures, and conformance above all. The importance of following the stated checklist outweighs the benefits of measuring success by outcomes, value, and speed of delivery. There is a one-size-fits-all approach that is highly structured and rigid, lending to the corporate notion that the Project Management Office is not there to support the business as a valued partner but to be avoided or simply tolerated as a process enforcer. The PMO ends up hindering innovation and value delivery because it is bogged down in the rules.

PMOs erect barriers that slow time-to-market and value realization by enforcing complex lifecycles and strict governance for process adherence's sake.
PMOs erect barriers that slow time-to-market and value realization by enforcing complex lifecycles and strict governance for process adherence’s sake.

“Demand Wrangler”

A PMO that is focused on execution is frequently considered a Demand Wrangler by the rest of the business. All ideas are believed to be good ones; therefore, all are greenlighted without prioritization. This clogs the project funnel and tips the scales of capacity and demand.

While this type of PMO may at first appear to be friends of the business by never saying no or killing projects that aren’t bringing value, its reluctance to establish a standardized process to prioritize work and measure outcomes means resources are often overutilized and projects quickly go over budget and past deadlines.

“Value Blind”

Value Blind PMOs are focused on the wrong metrics or none at all. Even if they are measuring something, they have no trustworthy way to quantify their value or the success of their efforts in relation to the organization’s strategic objectives.

Instead of providing needed visibility into performance, the smoke and mirrors reporting only serves to confuse executives and stakeholders who must build budgets and schedules based on incomplete data that doesn’t provide the right context. The wrong projects continue to progress and receive funding even though there is no real proof they are or will bring value.

Adapting to Change

Without implementing PPM best practices, the Project Management Office is limited in its ability to adapt to the changing world of work and evolving customer demands. They continue to rely on systems and processes that struggle to keep up. Many PMOs want to transition to be more agile, but they are unsure of which steps to take or tools to use. But there is a cost to doing nothing.

Manual tools and legacy applications, for instance, are unable to adequately manage the influx of work and complex resources considerations. Spreadsheets still reign, quickly becoming unmanageable and obsolete as data is not updated in real-time. Making things worse, business units and teams often use their own systems, creating siloes of disparate data that require hours of effort to build an integrated view, yet still there’s no current, accurate, or complete picture. The data is not operational; therefore, it has less value to the business to inform decisions.

A focus on project management only limits organizational-wide visibility and allows low-value projects to consume the limited resources of time, budgets, and people. Innovation stalls and increasingly more projects fail to deliver their intended outcomes.



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Optimizing Resources

Without implementing PPM best practices, the PMO will continue the grind. Best practices aim to optimize resources, so the right skills are aligned to the right projects at the right time. Without visibility into work and resources, however, resource optimization is impossible.

People are key to adopting any new PPM tool. Proper training and change management are often missed opportunities to ensure the PPM tool brings its intended value. Instead of changing from the inside out, the Project Management Office remains stuck by not optimizing its people, processes, or tools. It can also focus so deeply on methodology and process that it misses the mark on business value.

Misalignment

Without the right balance of capacity to meet demand, the PMO will continue to execute projects that fail to align with strategic goals or bring value. They commit to too many things and are unable to deliver strategic projects on time which delays or diminishes business benefit realization.

Limited output

Poor team collaboration inevitably results in miscommunication, duplicated efforts, and no visibility into how team decisions can affect the rest of the business. Output is limited because resources are not utilized properly.

Ill-informed decisions

A lack of organizational-wide visibility into projects and resources hinders executives’ ability to make informed decisions. Decisions are based on guesses or data that doesn’t show dependencies.

The PMO must remember, above all else, that effective PPM has little to do with governance and everything to do with value-driven guidance.

Evolving the Project Management Office with PPM Best Practices

The modern Project Management Office exists to enable and support their stakeholders in their efforts to achieve strategic goals. Creating visibility through “just right” reporting is key.

Continual improvement of the PMO can only be achieved through repeated measurement of the metrics that matter most. Implementing the following PPM best practices will provide the PMO with the best opportunity to evolve to better meet the needs of the business, even as those needs change.

Know what your stakeholders want to see

The first step in PMO progression is to define the outcomes your stakeholders are seeking. These requirements may vary depending on what’s important to each stakeholder, forcing the PMO to break out of its one-size-fits-all mentality to embrace agility.

Use a PPM tool that centralizes data, creates different levels of visibility, and allows for data manipulation, such as “what if” scenarios. For help with choosing a highly-rated PPM tool, reference Gartner’s 2019 Magic Quadrant for Project and Portfolio Management. The right tool will enable stakeholders with historical, real-time, and predictive reporting.

Create dashboards and reports tailored to the metrics and ROI indicators stakeholders would like to see and allow them to drill down into the details.
Create dashboards and reports tailored to the metrics and ROI indicators stakeholders would like to see and allow them to drill down into the details.


In Depth: Project Portfolio Management Defined
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Be more adaptive to continuously deliver value

The Journey to Agile Portfolio Management” says the agile PMO is one that embraces different ways of working instead of mandating a particular work methodology. Whether traditional Waterfall, Lean-Agile, hybrid, or collaborative, an agile PMO empowers teams to do what they do best in a manner that suits them to get the right work done. The Project Management Office provides the right oversight with “just enough” governance that focuses less on execution success and primarily on value outcomes.

Align work to company goals and strategic portfolios

All work must directly and consistently align with business strategies or risk becoming zombie projects that consume effort and money. The Project Management Office should partner with business leaders to develop project evaluation criteria that provides a measurement of whether a project does, in fact, align.

Investment in a PPM solution simplifies this by providing the automated capability to identify projects that warrant investment (both now and continually) and provide clarity into projects at different levels. A PPM best practice is to leverage PPM reporting tools that can measure key metrics that show the big picture. Only then will leaders have the data they need to inform their decisions that result in better prioritization of projects and resources.

Best practices such as leveraging scenario planning and “what-if” analyses can help PMOs guide their organizations to do the work that brings the most value.
Best practices such as leveraging scenario planning and “what-if” analyses can help PMOs guide their organizations to do the work that brings the most value.


In Depth: Project Portfolio Management Process
Learn about the impact of poor PPM and the difference Agile PPM practices can make.


Measure value

To make decisions about whether or not projects are bringing value to set goals, stakeholders need data derived from the measurement of objectives and outcomes. This is where many PMOs fail: they get lost in the details instead of focusing on the big picture executives and stakeholders need.

Time tracking is a notorious sticking point. It’s not about timesheet compliance. The purpose of tracking time is to understand where your resources are spending time and how much that costs so leaders can optimize them. The more you show your people how executives are utilizing their timesheet data, the more people will utilize timesheets and ensure data quality.

KPIs need to be aligned with what matters to stakeholders for continual PMO improvement. Project Management Office PPM best practices break these KPIs down into two categories: the internal effectiveness of the PMO and the output of projects. Project completion and success rates, progress improvements, and the number of people working on multiple projects are just as important as tracking budgets and cost savings.



In Depth: 18 PPM KPIs to Measure PMO Performance
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Ensuring PMO Success Begins and Ends with Effective PPM

By implementing PPM best practices, the evolved PMO better supports continuous value delivery by implementing effective PPM tools. Gartner recommends that one of the keys to PPM leaders avoiding common PPM implementation pitfalls must be to ensure that PPM solutions are comprehensive to address all of the needs of the business by identifying and assessing gaps in use case and decision needs. The right PPM tools enable the business to manage projects, programs, and resources in one place for greater efficiency and exceptional visibility into the performance of the business.

In fact, effective PPM is the greatest contribution the Project Management Office can provide to the enterprise. The PMO must remember, above all else, that effective PPM has little to do with governance and everything to do with value-driven guidance.

When everyone across the organization, no matter their role or title, is focused on driving business value, the enterprise is able to adapt to consumer demands on a dime to remain relevant and competitive despite any change. This is the opportunity facing the PMO: to define itself as a valued business partner that enables, supports, and guides the enterprise to true success.

Meet our author


Linda Roach

Director of Solutions Marketing

Linda Roach champions solutions marketing at Planview, partnering with customers to articulate their business challenges and to quantify the value of implementing change. Linda works with industry analysts to understand trends and help guide Planview teams and customers to stay ahead of the curve. She has led benchmark studies and analysis for organizations to compare against peers in project and portfolio management, resource management and capacity planning, collaborative work management, and product portfolio management.

Since 2004, Linda helped drive Planview’s market advancement and significant growth through marketing leadership roles. Previously, Linda held positions at Pervasive Software, VTEL, and Kodak where she led go-to-market initiatives for new products and product line expansion. Linda holds a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from SUNY Buffalo.


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