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PMO Setup T3 - Tips, Tools, and Techniques

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PMO Value: Convincing executives with the "Pain Technique"

Categories: PMO Value

Value (noun) / the worthiness, importance, or usefulness of something.

Project Management Processes provide value to organizations of all sizes, shapes, and charters. From large scale projects managed by senior project managers to small scale efforts performed by occasional practitioners with little if any project management training, a common set of processes improves project results as measured in quality, time, and cost. Whether discussed anecdotally or within the framework of a leading maturity model, of this there is no doubt. But, how does one make a case to convince executives of the value of project management processes to the organization? The precise argument will be different from company to company because each workplace has its own culture, a unique set of problems that it faces, and differing experiences and views on the value of processes and "best practices" in general.

Each workplace has its own culture. Some workplaces seek change in quantum leaps, others prefer step by step gradual change, and there are those that resist any kind and all forms of change. Knowing the culture of the workplace and making improvement recommendations in a manner that the workplace can accept is tremendously important in bringing about effective and lasting change.

What are the unique set of problems that the workplace faces? Some workplaces are short of staff and simply can not get the planned work done on time. Often, resources are reassigned, jeopardizing other projects. Other workplaces may have high incidences of errors and required rework, impacting project results. Some of these errors may be systematic while others may be related to the skill levels of not just the project manager, but all those involved in the project management process. Knowing the unique set of problems that you face, not just the remedy, will greatly help in getting others around you to understand and support your case.

Differing experiences and views on the value of processes and "best practices" exist in every organization. Some organizations embrace processes and "best practices" as a way of reducing defects, eliminating waste, and maximizing performance. Such organizations that have experienced first hand the business value of processes, will be likely to adopt processes and "best practices" for project management as well. Workplaces without a positive track record or focus on processes will be less likely to appreciate the strategic advantage they bring to a company.


Project Management Pain

Are you feeling any pain?

If your organization delivers projects okay today, then your business case would have to demonstrate how project management processes would bring improvements in measurable project results such as quality, time, and cost. To make this case, you need to present specific areas where your company is feeling pain today. These are "Pain Points." And, you need to clearly show how project management processes alleviate those pain pain points. Having reviewed tangible and credible evidence of achievable value, executives will be much more open to changes and actions required to bring about desired results. Consider the following:


Pain Point #1 - Unusable PM Methodology Manuals. Most IT organizations and project management offices have project management methodology manuals. While these guidebooks provide very good content and approaches, in most workplaces methodologies simply don't work. They are hard to access, difficult to use, too detailed, and can't be easily changed. In fact, seldom are they updated to reflect organizational changes and new approaches. They focus mainly on the "what" is to be done from a theoretical point of view and not the "Who, When, Where, and How" from a practical point of view. And as methodology manuals become out of date, they cease to be useful. The resulting pain is that the performance of the project team will vary greatly and project results will be inconsistent. Contrary to this, a well defined project management process clearly shows for each step of the process not only what is to be done, but who does it, who can help (mentors), what tools and information is available to save time and assist in the effort, "how to" examples, all in the context of the customer environment. Processes, unlike methodology manuals, remain current and are continuously improved saving time, reducing costs, and improving quality.

Pain Point #2 - Too wide of variety of performance. Most organizations have a wide variety of people with different titles and skill levels that manage projects or are involved in the project management process. In fact, in today's workplace, the title "Project Manager" appears in almost every line of business and department. And, even those without a project manager title find themselves managing projects from time to time. Though the IT group and project management office may provide tools and training, there typically remains a fairly large gap between the experience and skill levels of the IT/PMO project managers and all those in the organization who are de facto project managers. Systems, tools, and techniques that may be well understood and used by IT and the PMO may not even be accessible by other groups. Without a project management process that is easy to access and used by all, the resulting pain is that de facto project managers and lesser skilled practitioners will manage projects less effectively than they otherwise could. Execution difficulties, mistakes, and omissions, such as developing a business case poorly or not at all, engaging in project planning prior to or instead of developing a project charter, closing the project based upon assumed client acceptance, skipping key steps as well as review and approval gates in the process, etc, will contribute to project delays, higher project costs, and project results that may not satisfy the stakeholders.

Pain Point #3 - Lack of project type scalability. Many organizations do not have project type scalability. Rather, they have a "one-size-fits-all" approach to project management. The resulting pain is twofold. Not only are short term projects over planned and controlled, but long term, complex projects may not be planned and controlled well enough. Scalable project management processes alleviate this by providing project type selection guidelines that take into consideration such things as project size, scope and complexity, cost, work effort, resources, integration and procurement requirements, risk, strategic fit and benefits. Shorter term projects can be "fast-pathed" while longer term, complex projects can take full advantage of all of the process steps.

Pain Point #4 - Reinventing the wheel. Constantly reinventing the wheel is perhaps one of the biggest areas of pain most organizations face today. Project managers are constantly looking for reusable assets and reinventing project management templates, forms, and checklists and it goes much further than that. There are presentation agendas, analysis techniques, and untold tutorials, self-studies, and useful information including past projects archives that almost always abundantly exists, but in a private unshared manner. The end result is not only a great loss of time as project managers individually assimilate these items, but a great loss of an opportunity for knowledge sharing and performance improvement.

Pain Point #5 - Lessons learned are not applied. Some organizations do not take the time to document lessons learned feedback. Perhaps worse, other organizations so take the time to document lessons learned feedback but then simply file them away with no real intention, or ability, to take action. The resulting pain is that repeat mistakes and errors will be made continually. Many of these mistakes will be frustrating and some will be costly. Perhaps the biggest casualty will be that when lessons learned are not documented, reviewed, and acted upon, the resulting attitude and behavior in the workplace becomes one of complacency and "that's good enough" rather than one of continuous improvement and "how can we do better?" The value of the latter is priceless.


The case for project management processes can be built in many ways. Most workplaces within an organization have a mixed track record for delivering projects within expectations. Characteristics of these workplaces include:

  • Consistently completing projects late, over budget, or not within agreed to requirements.
  • Difficult to use or out of date project management methodology manuals.
  • Inconsistent techniques and tools used by project managers.
  • Applying project management as control reporting rather than providing value throughout the project life cycle.
  • Consistent heavy stress, overtime work, and resource re-allocation to complete projects on time.
  • Frustrated project managers, team members, and unhappy stakeholders.

Project management processes is the way to overcome these shortcomings. And going forward, in terms of setting up your project management processes, there are increasingly more and more options and alternatives to creating your processes from scratch that can quickly and effectively help get you to where you want to be such as:

  • PPM Tools - many of the leading PPM tools such as Planview, HP/Mercury, CA/Clarity, Daptiv, etc. offer project management process content as part of their PPM platform.
  • PM Communities - leading PM communities and websites like and offer corporate and premium memberships that provide processes for project management and a wealth of useful materials.
  • Project Management Process Solutions- firms like BOT International (Processes On Demand) and Pragma Systems (ProcessMax) provide products for PMO setup and project management processes that are ready to setup and use along with existing PM tools.
  • Training and Consulting Firms - leading training and consulting firms like PM Solutions, IIL, and ESI, etc. offer methodology frameworks and consulting services to assess and develop organizational project management processes.
  • Website Toolkits - websites like and that offer project management templates and supporting information.
  • Project Management Consultants - every project management consulting firm, large, small, and everywhere in between, offers methodology development services and can help you with your project management process needs.

Now, let's take a reality check. Having project management processes does not mean you will not encounter project problems, risks, and surprises. It does mean, however, that you will have processes in place to deal with all the contingencies and to perform consistently and predictably. And the end result of that might offer your PMO both an alleviation of those project management pain points and enough tangible evidence to convince those executives of the value of the PMO.

Posted on: February 10, 2008 11:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

PMO Passion: Where does it come from?

Categories: PMO Value

Passion (noun) / a very strong deeply felt emotion of love, or anger, or belief in a principle.

Why is it that in a business conversation the simple term PMO conjures up such vast differences in thoughts, ideas, and convictions? There are those people that think of this three letter acronym more as a four letter word - and not a nice one at that. These folks often cite examples of organizational bureaucracy, inflexible methodologies that could choke a horse, and a focus on producing project documents rather than producing project results. And to no discredit of any of these people, they often have a very legitimate point of view and beef. And, then you have those people that are so passionate about "All Things PMO" that you sometimes wonder where all of that PMO passion comes from? Well, I am one of those people and let me tell you where my passion comes from..!.

Over twenty-five years ago, my immediate manager called me into his office and told me that he had an "opportunity" for me. I put opportunity in quotes because it was a well known fact amongst the non-managers in the office that whenever a manager said they had an opportunity for you, it was really a problem in disguise and the monkey had just been placed on your back. It took me years to appreciate that it is actually the other way around and that a "problem" is really an opportunity in waiting. But that is a story for another day.

So what was this problem? Well, to put things in context, the year was 1981 and the company was IBM and the problem was that the investment analysts were unhappy with IBM's business model. In particular, the so-called experts didn't like the fact that IBM's revenue, driven by the rental of mainframe computers, produced a contractually committed, multi-year, recurring revenue stream with nearly 80% of the next year's revenues and 60% of the year after that, and 40% of the year after that being known in advance. You see, back then you couldn't purchase or lease a 3033 mainframe, or a 3705 communications controller, or a 3350 direct access storage device (DASD), or a 3420 magnetic tape sub-system, or a 3270 cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor, etc. You could only rent them. And, for reasons still unknown to me today, the investment community back in the late 70's and early 80's felt that IBM should sell, not rent, its products and recognize a greater amount of initial, one-time revenue for such customer data processing needs [the terms information systems or information technology weren't yet in use]. The end result was that despite repeated, strong year after year financial performance, the investment analysts didn't rate IBM stock highly. Rather, it was positioned as a "Low Risk - Low Return" portfolio balancer. And, as virtually every IBMer participated in the IBM Employee Stock Program, this made us all mad. There's nothing like skin in the game to foster teamwork.

So what does all of this have to do with PMO Passion? Well, IBM announced to the world that it would begin selling, not renting, its data processing equipment. And as part of this new corporate strategy, IBM was committed to converting the huge rental revenue stream by getting customers to purchase their installed machines as well as purchasing new machines. No more rental, though it was still an option.

To make this new financial strategy a reality, quite a bit had to take place both internally and externally. There were requirements that had to be met from just about every aspect of the business; applications, financial planning, field training, information dissemination, reviews with the customer of financial options and alternatives, more field training and support, etc. And, all of this had to be driven down from corporate staff to division staff to district staff to the local sales and marketing branch office level where the rubber met the road and the work got done. Of the more than 250 sales and marketing branch offices that were all trying to accomplish the same thing, a few of these offices had branch managers that formed a project office to lead, manage, stay on top of and report back, the myriad of project efforts required to achieve success. And, big bonuses were on the table as was the risk of losing your branch office if you couldn't produce.

Thus, I was given the opportunity to be part of a newly formed PMO within a sales and marketing branch office that would only exist for one year and that had very specific objectives [how much by when] to achieve with minimal direction. So, to fast forward, after the year was over, we exceeded our objectives for which the PMO was established in the first place and to our surprise and delight we finished as the number two branch out of more than 250 branches in the division. But the real kicker was that the branches that established PMOs, about 25% of them did, far exceeded those that didn't and exceeded their targets by ten to fifteen percent. It didn't take a financial genius to realize that an improvement of a ten to fifteen percentage points on a branch office's hundred million dollar revenue plan adds up to some real money, real quick.

This was my first of many exposures to the business value of a PMO. Many years later, and after having been involved with PMOs of all shapes and sizes such as line of business, IT, software development, sales and marketing, global, and even virtual, my appreciation for PMOs and the business results that they can produce has only increased. The business value of the PMO - that's where my "PMO Passion" comes from.

Posted on: January 31, 2008 09:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

"The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them."

- Mark Twain