Viewing Posts by Fiona Lin
By Fiona Lin
I had the honor of presenting at PMI's Virtual Experience Series: PMXPO on 24 March, a global event that attracted attendees from all over the world. My presentation, “Session 205: Redefine the ‘P’ in PMO,” focused on why portfolio, program, and project management as well as process improvement should be the four integral parts of a PMO. During the presentation, I shared proven methodologies and frameworks and provided real examples on how to elevate the value of PMO.
Thanks all for the great questions posed. Here are my responses to a few.
Question 1: What is your process to decide which methodology to use for a specific project?
It really depends on the project. You can flex your approach based on the needs and nature of the project.
If the project has a well-defined scope and has low degrees of change and low delivery frequency, a waterfall approach to map out the deliverable timelines would not hurt. A well-graphed Gantt chart utilizing precedence diagraming (FS, SS, FF for example) to indicate when the deliverables and tasks need to be done can provide teams with clarity.
However, when the scope is not well defined and we need to control time and cost, and when we must deal with increasing uncertainties, it will be helpful to introduce scrum to teams. More complex projects will benefit from shorter sprints to start. Building and continuing refining and prioritizing the backlog give the team a clear picture of what needs to be accomplished. Working with teams to set goals for each sprint provides them with clear direction and focus as well. This followed by standups, sprint review/demo and retrospectives help put teams’ minds at ease, allowing them to tackle deliverables chunk by chunk.
One of the challenges with teams moving from sprint to sprint is that there is a likelihood of losing sight of the bigger picture – what are we really trying to accomplish as a project? There are many ways that can help overcome this challenge. For example: 1) clearly articulate goals and objectives as well as success metrics and periodically review with teams; 2) establish milestones and proactively identify risks and dependencies and the next bigger steps.
Besides what we usually refer to, a predictive (waterfall/traditional) approach and an agile (Scrum, Kanban, etc.) approach, if we are trying to improve a business process, Lean Six Sigma’s DMAIC approach would be most beneficial to follow.
To digest these five phases easier, you can map them to the five process groups under PMI’s predictive approach.
Question 2: You mentioned multiple systems used among users at the beginning; do you have now one centralized system? Which one?
When PMO was brought into the organization almost four years ago, we had 5+ tools being used by various functions - Trello, Asana, Smartsheet, Traction, Jira. As you can imagine, this created many challenges. One, there was no centralized platform to house all project information; thus, communication was scattered in different places, making it difficult for teams to collaborate. Second, company data could not be protected with free tools when an enterprise solution was not in place. The immediate need was to evaluate all teams’ needs and wants and consolidate these tools. After careful evaluation, we learned that 80% of the teams shared the same or similar needs. We selected Wrike to be the main tool for business groups and Jira/confluence for technology and product teams.
When introducing Wrike to the organization, we developed a change management plan, assembled Deploy Champions composed by individuals representing all core functions, and designed and configured Wrike to meet internal needs before rolling it out. This was followed by a series of group and individual training sessions. The additional functionalities Wrike offer, the intake form, workflow customization and enhanced Board Views, helped elevate the organization of work. At that time, our executive team decided to move away from Traction. Their adoption of the new tool paved the path for our implementation success.
Wrike and Jira are two coexisting tools. Being able to use Unito plug-in to perform one way (Wrike to Jira or Jira to Wrike) sync and two-way syncs helps reduce duplicate entries and allow teams to collaborate more smoothly. One example was the executive portfolio view built by pushing epics from Jira into Wrike with one click and a prefix indicating development efforts needed. By aligning the Kanban flow in Jira and Wrike we could have better visibility of both worlds without manual adjustment on the status of each epic. To make this successful, the first step is to understand teams’ needs and create a vision on how to bring the information together. Second, it is important to have someone with the knowledge and expertise on board as Jira does require significant configuration to make it work well.
For Program Increment Planning, we installed the Ativo plug-in to Jira so teams can pull features from Jira to the Ativo Program Board for planning. This helps dissolve many spreadsheets and increase the efficiency of planning by having PI Objectives, team capacity allocation for each sprint, dependencies and risks all identified and shared in one central location.
If you are still heavily relying on spreadsheets or word documents to keep track of information, there are probably tools out there worth exploring and implementing. Let the tools do the work for you and automate as much as you can so team can focus on more value-add activities.
Question 3: What are your recommendations for PMO Managers/Director as to PMO certification? Focus on best practices of how to organize PMOs?
Previously we have required project managers to obtain PMP certification within one year of hire. Recently we have made the change to require ACP (Agile Certified Practitioner) to meet our organizational needs better as most of our projects have development and tech elements. It’s very important for our enterprise PMs to not just have a deep understanding of the Agile principles and values but truly internalize them and embrace them in their daily interactions with teams.
For process improvement, Lean Six Sigma is a proven methodology with very rich tools to learn and adopt. The process of being certified exposes you to many useful tools: Affinity Diagram, Value-Stream mapping, RCA – Root Cause Analysis (Current Reality Tree, Fishbone Diagram, FMEA, 5 Whys), Pareto. A green belt certification is a good start. It takes a lot of practice to become proficient and know when to apply what tool to solve real business problems. Having a continuous improvement mindset is the first step as it helps you quickly identify opportunities, and having this toolbox helps you structure your approach to solve the problems.
For portfolio managers, SAFe’s Lean Portfolio Manager certification not only provides high-level guidance on establishing the portfolio strategy and vision, realizing portfolio vision through epics, but also shares useful tactics on how to set up and manage your portfolio flow.
Having teams go through the certification process offers many benefits. It allows them to reflect on their own practice for improvement, gives us a common set of language to communicate, and standardizes our practice for execution consistency.
Participating in PMXPO was a great experience, and the entire presentation will be available on demand through the end of January 2023. Visit PMI Virtual Experience Series 2022 for more details.