Cloud computing, mobile devices, big data: there are lots of technology concepts in the news right now and it’s interesting to see how they are affecting project and program management. A recent article in PM Network by Abid Mustafa brought the idea of a digital Project Management Office to our attention. It’s a really interesting idea and we are certainly seeing more and more PMOs start thinking about using technology more creatively. Let’s look at some of the concepts behind a digital PMO and how you could adapt your own PMO to take on board some of these ideas.
What Is A Digital PMO?
A digital PMO, Mustafa says, is one that has the capability to provide information about projects to any relevant staff member, at any time, on any device. It’s basically real-time data processing, made available in a web-friendly format.
The main benefit of a digital PMO is that executives can get access to the information they need to make informed decisions at any time, from wherever they are in the world. It speeds up projects and day-to-day processes (including the process to approve new projects) because there’s no waiting around for reports. It’s easy to see the current state of everything happening in the business and make decisions accordingly.
Embracing Technology Change
Do you have this already? If you have a PMO then they are probably working towards real-time data and accessible reports, as this is definitely the way we see the market going. However, one of the things Mustafa says is that the digital PMO at his company also has the capacity to see the situation with regards to physical resources (servers, applications and so on) and the manpower. So it’s full on resource planning. You can make the call about whether a project should be approved by considering whether there’s the available network and storage capacity, a suitable spare server and the right technical resources to kick the project off. It makes it easy to see who’s doing what and when they can start work on a new initiative, and makes costing projects much easier.
To do this, you need a database storing all the information, and that’s not the only technical bit that’s different about a digital PMO. Customers of the PMO are likely to want to interact with it in different ways too: requesting changes online, downloading templates or corresponding directly with PMO resources through tools like instant messaging. You can take this further too: want to know where your business case is in the approvals process? Log in and track the status of your ‘order’. This technology is available for other businesses, like postal mail providers and online shops, so why not for your PMO?
Making It Work For You
We think that it’s fair to say that all areas of business are moving towards a more real-time, digital services model and the PMO is no exception. However, what it means in practice is probably implementing another layer into your PMO technology, something like a web portal that will bring together information from various different software applications as well as providing workflows for things like change requests and new project proposals.
With that in mind, it’s essential to integrate your existing systems with new technology for a seamless service – don’t throw out enterprise tools in favour of lightweight ‘social’ tools. If you want instant messaging and a web front end to your enterprise systems you can have that, as they can both work effectively together.
It’s best to start small and build on your capability rather than launch a huge project to upgrade everything at once. For example, make data accessible via a web portal. Then add online change requests, then add workforce reporting, and so on. Pick a pathway that prioritizes the most important things for your business and go with that.
The most important thing is to really think about how digital tools will be used. Is there any reason to invest in making your enterprise project management system available 24/7 if it’s only used by people in one time zone, and normally during office hours? Do your senior managers really need to approve budget requests on their smartphone from a beach in the Bahamas, or does someone else process requests while they are away? If so, it would probably be better to use the cash to improve something else. Digital, social, Web 2.0: whatever you want to call it, it should only be implemented if it will help you do your job better and not because it sounds trendy.
In summary, it’s about taking your PMO into the digital age. That means looking at what you currently have, considering where you want to be and finding out what tools will help you and your PMO customers get there. You may find that your existing enterprise systems will do 80% of what you want, or you may have to bring other tools into play. Either way, you can go digital and provide a great service to your PMO customers, and ultimately, better decision-making information sources to your project executives too.