Top 10 Tips for Managing PMO Processes

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Process (noun) / a particular course of action needed to achieve a result.
PMO Comics, by Mark Perry

Top 10 Tips for Managing PMO Processes

Tip 1: Think process, not methodology. Methodologies are static and quickly become out of date. Methodologies often give an illusion of project management consistency, when in reality most users don't read or follow lengthy, "one size fits all sizes," methodologies. Focus on PMO processes and best practices that are scalable to project type and size and answer not just the "what is to be done", but the "who, when, where, how, and why" of the work effort as well.

Tip 2: Think processes, tools, and collaboration. There are those in the Project Portfolio Management (PPM) vendor community that say their product has everything you need to manage a PMO. While PPM tools can be very helpful to a PMO, also required are processes that are scalable to project type and size, whether used with the PPM tool or not, and a collaboration platform to share project documents and information. Though PPM tools provide some collaboration features, most PMOs seek to use the existing enterprise collaboration platform rather than placing project files and folders in an additional repository. Processes, tools, and collaboration work together and are each required to effectively manage projects and continually improve the organization.

Tip 3: Flexibility within structure. Some people believe that project management processes are by nature rigid and inflexible. This can often be a result of implementing a "one shoe fits all sizes" methodology. However, PMO processes that provide workflows scalable to project type and size enable the project team to effectively execute a wide variety of projects without being burdened by too much bureaucracy. PMO processes can provide the structure, guidance, and flexibility to truly help, not create additional work for, the project manager and project participants.

Tip 4: People oriented processes. People oriented processes anticipate and help with people's challenges and constraints and free them up to do what they do best on projects such as thinking, planking, and doing. The best processes don't create extra work; rather they streamline it or make it easier. People oriented processes serve specific purposes, ensure efficiency and consistency, and tend to become "roadmaps" for continuous improvement and knowledge sharing.

Tip 5: Process owners. Process owners can play a key role in ensuring that the PMO processes are kept up to date, useful, usable, and auditable. PMO processes or best practices without process owners will likely become outdated over time and at some point will even become inconsequential to the organization. On the other hand, PMO processes and best practices that have process owners or "care-takers" are continually improved upon by reviewing and applying lessons learned feedback and process improvement suggestions. Hence, process owners help drive continuous improvement and institutionalization of the PMO processes and best practice knowledge, skill, and execution capabilities.

Tip 6: Process reviews. Don't wait until there is a problem to review the processes and best practices of the PMO. Establish process owners and delegate to them the duty of periodic assessment of their assigned processes and best practices. Encourage them to proactively find ways to streamline and improve existing processes and to identify new processes and best practices that could be of value to the PMO.

Tip 7: Provide recognition and incentives for process improvement. How do you recognize project managers? Most of them are every good at what they do and it is expected that they will manage projects well. One approach that more and more PMOs are adopting is to provide incentives and recognition for process improvement and process ownership. Rather than experiencing the same difficulty over and over again, recognition and incentives for process improvement encourage and reward project team members to get involved. The end results are not just lessons learned documents, but practical improvement suggestions to streamline processes, improve best practices, and eliminate defects and waste. As Edward Deming put it, "Fix the process and you fix the problem."

Tip 8: Define the "as-is" state. Quite often, it is helpful to first define the "as-is" state of a process before discussing and debating options to arrive at the "desired" state of the process. A clear understanding of the "as-is" state enables the team to discuss and debate what works well, what needs improving, and to agree upon actionable process improvement suggestions. Conversely, trying to achieve the "desired" state for a process without a full understanding and agreement of the "as-is" state can often lead to miscommunication due to differing points of reference as well as process improvement suggestions that may not meet the needs of all parties involved in the process.

Tip 9: Project management processes are more than the PMBOK® Guide. Some PMOs establish a fine project management process aligned to the PMBOK® Guide and are disappointed to find out that it is not being used throughout the organization. Some project managers may use a more streamlined process for smaller projects. Other project managers, especially outside of the United States, may use a different approach to project management such as PRINCE2. And, development teams may manage their projects using a traditional SDLC or Agile process. In managing the project management processes of the PMO, recognize that project management processes extend far beyond just the PMBOK® Guide.

Tip 10: PMO processes comprise of more than just the methodology for managing projects. A project management methodology alone is not sufficient for the PMO. In addition to the methodology, PMO processes and policies need to be put in place for such things as where specifically to store project documents, when project status reports are due, how and when project data is to be entered into the PPM tool, how and when complex and situational techniques as Earned Value Management (EVM) and Monte Carlo Risk Analysis are to be employed. Ensure that your PMO processes provide not just the “what” of the “what is to be done,” but also the practical context and specifics of the “Who, When, Where, How, and Why.”

Posted on: March 14, 2009 11:44 AM | Permalink

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