Earlier this year, the Gartner PPM & IT Governance Summit in London, UK, had a heavy focus on data handling. There were several presentations covering Project Management Office measurements and metrics including speakers who looked at sample PMO metrics, how to implement new systems for metrics and why key performance indicators and other measures are so important.
It was a very interesting discussion – both in the sessions and informally during the day, so we’d like to share our key take aways on the subject. Here’s our brief guide to choosing good PMO metrics.
Choose Meaningful Metrics
Good metrics are meaningful metrics. One of the key themes at the Summit was that there is no ‘one size fits all’ PMO metrics template. Each PMO is unique, serving a unique organization, and it’s important that the PMO reflects that. There’s no benefit to be gained from using a boilerplate PMO dashboard, as it might not show you what you need. However, it could be a useful starting point from which you can tailor it to suit your own project environment.
The first thing to consider is what your PMO actually does. Maybe you focus on project tracking and reporting. Perhaps you provide governance support or process development. You might carry out Earned Value Management or benefits tracking alongside some coaching for project managers. As you can imagine, a PMO that predominantly provides project management training and manages company best practices will be measuring very different things to a PMO that does strategic portfolio management.
Improve Your Decision-Making
Your PMO metrics should help stakeholders and executives make decisions. As a result, your measurements should be crystal clear and easy to understand. And they should give executives the answers they need to be able to resolve issues and make decisions that move the portfolio forward quickly.
A good dashboard should show you where the problems are as this gives you a chance to fix them. Think about what is important, and recognize that this might change during the year as you go through budget cycles and strategic planning activities. As your PMO matures, you’ll want to track other things as well, maybe dropping some of the earlier measures that are now not so relevant to the decision-makers.
Make Them Comparable
Another tip from the Summit was to align your PMO metrics to industry best practice so that you can compare your performance against external benchmarks. You might not be able to (or want to) do this straight away, but you can guarantee that at some point someone is going to ask whether your PMO is performing in line with industry competitors, so you may as well get ready.
Automate As Much As Possible
Use your enterprise project management software to its full advantage by automating as much of the data-gathering as you can. Setting up information flows to give you the metrics can feel like a time-consuming task, but it’s guaranteed to save you hours of time in the future.
You can also look at automating the delivery of data and dashboards to senior stakeholders. Could you set up reports to run and be emailed out on a particular date each month? This would save you time and helps you manage by exception – you’ll deal with the questions coming back as a result of your latest report instead of having to prepare it from scratch each time.
Establish How To Track Them
Of course, once you have defined your metrics you then need to track against them! When you are choosing what to measure, think about how you are going to get that data on a regular basis. You might discount some metrics because with the systems you have in place at the moment, data collection is simply too difficult. At least you can recognize that and work towards doing something about it. You may find that when you reach the next maturity milestone, or with the help of an external consultant, you can start to collect that data and use it to improve decision making and awareness within the business.
Engage Your Users
Who is receiving the data from these measures? What are you going to do with the results? It’s great to produce automated, real-time dashboards, but if no one is looking at them and using them, then what’s the point? Talk to your stakeholders about how they measure success and what metrics they would like to see in place. You may be surprised – we’ve known some executive sponsors who have had a very clear idea of what’s important to them and it’s been very different to what the PMO thought they should track! You should be able to easily accommodate everyone’s needs as long as you know what they are.
As each PMO is different, choosing meaningful PMO metrics becomes something of a challenge. It’s important to identify the functions that your PMO provides and then assess how they can be tracked and supported with a set of targeted metrics. What works for one PMO won’t necessarily work for another, and if you use that as your starting point, you’ll be sure to find ways of measuring your performance that are appropriate for you.