Critical Aspects of PMO
Creating an Effective Enterprise Program Management Strategy
The Project Management Office (PMO) at its Core. The focus of a PMO is strategy and project portfolio management. A PMO is essentially the backbone of project standardization in an agency and organization. Serving as the interface between strategy and project work, the PMO makes a substantial contribution to value creation.
The PMO is there to drive project / program / portfolio planning, resource planning, project implementation, as well as the introduction of methods, tools, and technologies in a multi-project management environment. Leadership is vital to the success of a PMO, and a successful PMO Director / Lead is responsible for focusing on strategic objectives, feasibility, resources, lean project portfolio management (PPM), transparency, visibility, and delivery.
Enterprises can capitalize on the specialization, experience, and expertise of PMO staff when they centralize project management tasks in the PMO. Furthermore, the PMO fosters consistency in project management that makes it possible to repeat processes from one project to the next.
Within the PMO, high priority is given to identifying and implementing industry-standard project methodologies such as PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge), Agile, Waterfall, Kanban, or PRINCE2 (Project in Controlled Environments). These approaches are consistent with requirements related to ISO 9000, CMMI, and government regulatory requirements such as the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
The PMO should be set up to address four significant segments of business management, which include Execution Management, Resource Management, Communication Management, and Change Management.
What Are the Benefits of a PMO? Standardizing the way projects run has its benefits. For example, it’s more cost-efficient to have everyone doing things the same way. Sure, there are economies of scale that come with standardization, but it’s also more efficient. Imagine handing someone a template on how to manage risk. The template serves as a roadmap for said individual, guiding them through a proven set of processes toward efficiency and project success. There is also the added bonus of capitalizing on organizational knowledge, common reporting frameworks, and lessons learned.
Roles within a PMO. Though there is always a clear leadership role within every PMO, each organization, agency, and/or business has the autonomy to structure their PMO to best fit strategic objectives. Most PMO structures include a mix of seasoned professionals, who have a range of PMO competencies, each complementing the others, that allow them to contribute to the organization. According to industry trends across both the public and private sectors, more project managers are reporting into a PMO as the PMO function matures. This, in turn, provides a better opportunity for standardization.
Ultimately, capitalizing on the PMO function means organizations and agencies have an enhanced opportunity to reach goals more quickly and deliver strategies with more certainty in the outcome.
The Importance of Project Stakeholder Management
Project Stakeholder Management is a highly important, yet often overlooked, area of project management. Though not as commonly thought of, or given as much attention, as other project management knowledge areas such as scope, time, or cost management, planned & effective stakeholder management can be the difference between a successful project and a painful learning experience.
Project Stakeholder Management was previously not considered to be a separate knowledge area by the Project Management Institute (PMI), but with the introduction of the 5th Edition of the Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide (PMBOK) in 2013, it was split from the Project Communications Management knowledge area into an area of its own. The processes comprising this knowledge area are, in order, Identify Stakeholders, Plan Stakeholder Management, Manage Stakeholder Engagement, and Control Stakeholder Engagement.
In essence, it includes identifying who the project stakeholders are (defined roughly as those who could impact or be impacted by the project), planning how to effectively engage those stakeholders and ensuring that the desired level of engagement and support is cultivated throughout the life of the project. The goal of this knowledge area is to garner as much support from stakeholders as is necessary and reduce resistance to the project.
Setting Expectations in Project Management. An important element of stakeholder management is setting the expectations of the key stakeholders. Project managers need to inform stakeholders such as clients and senior management of the conditions required for the project team to succeed in terms of support, resources, time, etc. Just as important, the team and the key stakeholders must come to a common understanding of what project success looks like.
This creates a strong foundation for the project manager to begin the project, as the relevant stakeholders have now been made aware of what support the project manager/team will need, and the terms of success are now shared between the project team and the stakeholders with the most influence. This can prevent difficult conversations later in the life of the project about why targets were not met or, worse still, disagreement between the project team and key stakeholders on whether or not the project was successful. A shared understanding of these points is crucial.
The project manager should look to manage the expectations that have been set. How to do this will depend on the individual stakeholder, including their interest in the project and their ability to impact the project. Identifying the needs of the different stakeholders can be done through the use of tools like a power/interest grid that identifies how interested particular stakeholders are in the project and their power to impact its outcome.
Sorting stakeholders in this way will help the project manager recognize who needs to be closely managed and who only needs to be kept periodically informed. By identifying the needs of the various stakeholders, the project manager can then keep track of them with a stakeholder engagement matrix, a simple table which records where a stakeholder's current engagement level/attitude toward the project is compared to where the project manager would like it to be. Keeping track of this allows the project manager to assess what actions might need to be taken to maintain the necessary support for the project to allow success.
The stakeholder management plan should remain internal to the project team as it contains somewhat sensitive information. Depending on the scope of the project, perhaps only a few key members or just the project manager should be involved. However, it doesn't necessarily have to be formal or even written down. Going through exercises such as creating a stakeholder power/interest grid or stakeholder engagement assessment matrix can be done quickly and informally, or even just as a mental exercise.
What counts is that the questions of what the stakeholders are expecting and how they are reacting to the project have been thought through. Having senior management under the impression that a project can succeed with only half of the necessary resources or a client expecting much more from a project than is realistic are recipes for disaster. Simply recognizing the need for a particular stakeholder to be kept up to date on progress can maintain support and prevent potentially major disruptions.
Project Stakeholder Management doesn’t necessarily require much time or effort but is certainly a worthwhile investment of both. Managing scope, time, cost, and resources can be challenging enough. Project managers should make sure to set themselves up for success and allow their prowess in these other areas to shine by taking the care to think through stakeholder management, rather than allowing easily preventable perception issues to overshadow their hard work.
How to Manage Upcoming Projects
Project management (PM) techniques are essential to the successful execution of vital projects. As effective management is critically important in aiding increased sales and sustained growth, results driven project management ensures existing environments maintain and sustain expected trajectory for desired outcomes.
Whether your next business project is the development of a new online marketing channel, construction of a new business facility, or the launch of a new product or service, look to these project management tips and strategies below to plan, coordinate and implement it successfully.
#1 Know the Basics of Project Management. If you are new to project management, you need to understand the basics of project management. Mainly, you need to about how to manage the following:
Project Scope: the objectives, requirements, and size of the project
Project Resources: the people, equipment, and materials required to complete the project
Project Timelines: the time for each task, critical path, dependencies, and overall project duration
Project Finance: the budget, costs, contingencies, and profit
#2 Define the Scope of Your Project. Define your project's objectives and make sure they are in line with your company's strategic goals. Be precise about what the project will accomplish and what the plan should not include. For example, if you are embarking on a new online marketing project to sell some of your products on Amazon.com, you should define the products, the mode of shipping, the target consumers, geographical region, and demographics.
#3 Identify Available Resources and Finance. Determine the people, facilities, equipment, money, and all other resources that you have to execute your project. Identify the internal resources in-house and those that you may need to hire externally from partners and collaborators. At this point, you should have a budget estimate for the completion of the entire project as well as an allocation for contingencies. This estimate may need to be modified subsequently, but it is essential to have an initial assessment to guide your planning.
#4 Establish the Project Schedule and Timelines. You should build an exact date of project completion into the plan. Knowing the deadline offers some flexibility while allocating time to different tasks and activities involved in the project.
#5 Build a Project Team. Assemble all the people who will function as project team members. Assign specific roles to each person. Make sure you have capable hands for each aspect of the project on your team. Get all their names and contact details and circulate them to each team member. Establish a suitable means of communication. Then agree on the frequency of communication and the time for project reviews.
#6 Itemize All Project Tasks. If you have an established business model for your project, you should use it as a basis for identifying and listing all the primary tasks in your project. However, you should make sure you are aware of the peculiarities of your project and avoid using a cookie-cutter approach. Have a few brainstorming sessions then list all the activities identified in the chronological order.
#7 Create a Detailed Plan and Allocate Resources. You should schedule all the activities and then look for those that can be done simultaneously to save time and cost. Assign people to each assignment and allocate resources for each task. You can simplify this aspect of project management by using project management software packages specifically designed for small businesses.
#8 Monitor the Project's Progress. Keep detailed records to monitor the progress of the project. Let every team member have a project diary for recording all activities. In particular, you need to log the time taken and the money spent on each task. If there is a need to extend time or allocate more resources, you should adequately document the reason.
Effective project management can help small business owners to implement vital projects cost-effectively and on time. You can perform your next project successfully through proper understanding and control of scope, resources, time, and money.
Essential Characteristics to Adopt for Successful Project Management
Here are several characteristics of a successful project manager.
#1 Elevated Leadership Abilities. Being a manager of any project means making sure your leadership skills match the scope of the assignment. Remember, you are not only leading teams, but establishing a goal, motivating your team members, guiding them, providing a source of inspiration, and helping them individually grow. If you are both a strategic and operational leader, the team only benefits from your role. In addition, you can grow as an individual yourself by emphasizing your leadership capacity in this position.
“Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet.” –Henry Mintzberg
While you can be a cheerleader-type of manager, enforcing and taking the initiative on action plans remains essential to effective project management. You can be accommodating to other ideas, but also recognize that your influence and direction is going to be the main driver in terms of getting any project or assignment done. Even if you are faced with duties outside of your scope, remember that doing whatever it takes to get deliverables done is the foremost priority on your agenda.
#2 Extend Your Communication Line. Project management cannot be effective without the right communication system in place. Excellent communication is not about speaking but also listening to and understanding your team members. With excellent communication, you not only influence your team members but the actions and motivation of other stakeholders as well. With consistent and routine talking points, you can boost your relationship with your team members and clients.
Even when you are exhibiting your communication skills, remember that some information can get lost without the proper context. Make sure your team not only hears the message but also understands the goal and objectives you have set. By improving the frequency and clarity of your words, you can ensure that your team members understand your ideas and convert them into actionable task points.
#3 Have a Good Planning Eye. Planning is a critical component of effective project management. A project manager without a plan is one that leaves the team at most risk for missing deadlines and deliverables. In a project management role, being able to do things with supreme detail and the utmost attention to the organization is valuable. With these considerations in mind, providing more attention to project scheduling and mapping can be helpful to everyone involved in the project. When every performer understands their role and has a clear sense of scheduling and goals, you can perform your function more successfully.
#4 Treat Time as a Valuable Resource. Effective project managers treat time as a precious commodity. When it comes to organizing and allocating resources for a project, having a detail for scheduling and time can be critical for success. Start by creating an outline of what the most important priorities are in a project and delegate the appropriate amount of time in completing them. If you are organizing meetings, be sure to slim down on the meeting time and only hold them when necessary. Create an agenda that makes it clear what each team member's responsibilities and timelines are. Communicate your agenda consistently and perform progress checks to see if goals are being met.
#5 Outline Risks Ahead of Time. Great project managers know how to target goals and identify potential risks before they affect performance. Regardless of your resources or current situation with resources and timing, underlining your risks early can only benefit your ability to oversee the project. Many stakeholders or sponsors involved in a project may not take surprises or unlikely turns too well. One way of avoiding and preventing these obstacles is to formulate a map of your project and anticipate any complications that may develop. The more possible risks you can account for, the better you can manage the project.
Project management requires as much dedication, skill, and coordination. With multiple complications and obstacles in the way of successful project management, it is essential to understand your abilities and apply them correctly in being successful in this role. By developing your skills in the areas mentioned above, you can improve your chances of being a successful project manager for your team.
WBS Done Right
What is a WBS? A project work breakdown structure (WBS) is a product-oriented grouping of project work elements shown in a graphical display to organize and subdivide the total work scope of a project. This visual tool is used in the planning phase of the project and allows project managers to divide the project into more manageable parts. The WBS gives priority to the deliverables required to complete the project. This tool helps to quickly communicate the work and processes involved to execute the project.
The Project Manager and project team leverage the WBS to develop the project schedule, resource requirements, and costs. The depth of the WBS is dependent on the size, complexity of the project, and detail needed to plan and manage it.
The 100% Rule. According to Practice Standard for Work Breakdown Structures, published by the Project Management Institute, this rule states that the WBS includes 100% of the work defined by the project scope and captures all work deliverables to be completed, including project management. Simply put, if it is not part of the WBS, it is not part of the project.
Popular WBS Layouts. A WBS can be displayed as an indented lists or organization chart. See Figure 1 to the right for an example.
A product-oriented WBS (also known as deliverable-oriented WBS) decomposes the project scope into manageable deliverables. In this scenario, the deliverables are physical components or items that need to be produced or supplied as a result of executing project activities to satisfy project requirements. See Figure 2 to the right for an example.
On the other hand, a process-oriented WBS focuses on defining the scope of work in process steps such as functions and work phases. This hierarchically structured WBS design depicts the process steps (e.g., detailed design, procure, engineering, install, etc.) needed to deliver each of the project deliverables. See Figure 3 to the right for an example.
WBS Levels. The WBS structure is broken up into four levels, which consist of the following:
The first level consists of the project or product title.
Level two houses the control accounts (i.e., major parts, systems, phases, or deliverables) of a project. For a software project, the Database System can be the control account level in the WBS Levels.
Level three focuses on work packages or key activities required to produce the Level 2 deliverables.
Level four (+) represent the activities assigned to project team members to complete the work packages (e.g., install, configure, integrate, etc.)
Assigning a unique identifier to each level of the WBS is always a good practice.
A WBS should be significantly detailed, which allows the PM to reliably estimate schedule and cost, easily assess what project work is complete, the responsible party for the execution of that work, and task variances in the baseline plan. Here are some WBS examples:
The WBS Dictionary. Creating a WBS Dictionary which captures task characteristic information (i.e., task names, work products, level of effort, resources, dependencies, etc.) is highly recommended. Making the WBS dictionary detailed and consistent with the WBS will help the Project Manager to develop the detailed baseline schedule later. See Figure 4 below for an example.
Ultimately, the WBS should be thought of in terms of a deliverable breakdown structure, or a model of the finished product. When a structured WBS process is implemented and followed the chances of successful project planning and implementation increase astronomically. Project Managers and project teams are able to mitigate risks and avoid unnecessary scope-creep and project-delays.
Practice Standard for Work Breakdown Structures, PMI, Second Ed.
WORK BREAKDOWN STRUCTURE - Maryland. http://doit.maryland.gov/SDLC/FormServerTemplates/WBS.doc
Project Management Institute. (2013). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide). Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.