The PMO is a hub for all new project ideas and they’ll be coming in from all areas of the business. As PMOs are generally considered impartial, you might feel that you can’t put forward any ideas for new projects of your own. That’s not true! In an inclusive environment everyone should be able to pitch new projects and that includes the PMO team.
In fact, we’d argue that PMOs have a huge part to play in suggesting new, strategic and tactical pieces of work that provide deep business benefit because they have a comprehensive understanding of business challenges, top-level strategy and ongoing pieces of work.
Here’s where to look for great business ideas to put forward as projects.
Projects That Are Starting
Projects that are just going through the approval and initiation process are a good place to look for new ideas. These projects reflect up-to-the minute business challenges and you may be able to add greater value to them by pointing out a similar situation in a different business unit, or following up on the way that another team have dealt with the same problem in the past (this is especially valuable if that approach failed – let’s not repeat the same mistakes).
Good business ideas can often serve to spark more creative ideas. What if another team were involved in this? What if it was even bigger? How could you make it more strategically aligned? The PMO team often has the contacts to make this possible and you can replicate or extend the business value of projects by commenting on projects that are in the very early stages of consideration.
Projects That Are Inflight
Inflight projects are those that are already running. With defined scope and a detailed plan already in place you’d be forgiven for thinking that they wouldn’t be a good source of new ideas.
However, inflight projects are subject to frequent change requests. These will go through the PMO processes and can give you an idea about changing business priorities. Equally, rejected changes could be banked and stored for later to provide inspiration for additional work or features within new projects.
The PMO is in a great place to be able to continually ensure projects align with organizational strategy. As projects continue through the life cycle, you can keep checking that the alignment is there. If it starts to stray, perhaps that element of it could be broken off and managed as a new project, assuming it can still find alignment somewhere.
If nothing else, inflight projects show you what the business values and the current priorities, which is useful if the current strategy leaves a little to be desired. Focus your creative energy on thinking about how you could extend or adapt the current work, or offer more value to that team, and see what ideas jump out at you.
Projects That Are Finishing
It’s common for project teams and sponsors to take work out of scope on a project because it means another area of the iron triangle (also known as the triple constraint – see below) needs to take priority.
In other words, functionality is descoped to save time or money. Often the project team intends to pick this work up later as a ‘Phase 2’ or have it incorporated into a later sprint.
It might seem cheating to be thinking of suggesting new projects based on what was originally supposed to be in a project, but oftentimes those Phase 2 initiatives never get off the ground. The PMO team is unique in being able to see the bigger picture and you may find that if you combine enough of these pieces of dropped scope from a number of projects you can build the case for a substantial and beneficial new project.
Think about keeping a log of enhancements, improvements and new work that has been asked for as part of every project but not approved for whatever reason. Even if there’s nothing on there that could genuinely be put forward as a new project it may well spark ideas for additional value-add projects.
Tip: You could include a brainstorming session about new project or feature suggestions in your PMO team meetings once a month. This would give the team a safe space to explore creative ideas around new initiatives and keeps a focus on the changes, dropped functionality, Phase 2’s and so on that you can use as a springboard for new projects.
How To Propose New Projects
As the PMO team, you work normally on the other side of the project selection process: filtering and assessing incoming business cases, checking out strategic alignment, making recommendations, prioritizing resources to work on newly-approved projects and so on. When you are proposing new projects yourself, you sit on the side of the customers for that process.
Use the same processes as your business colleagues do for suggesting new programs of work. Use the same templates to prepare a business case or project charter for review and assessment. If necessary, find a business owner to champion it and be the project sponsor unless it’s a natural fit for you to fill that role. Then hand it over to someone else in the team to take through the process so you can’t be accused of being biased. In other words, don’t assume that because you work in the PMO your ideas will be approved automatically and you can skip the process.
When your approved project comes out the other end of the process you’ll be confident that it’s a robust and well-thought through piece of work that adds real business value. You can then assign a project manager to it and watch as your creative idea turns into reality.
It will prove that project initiation is open to anyone, and is a truly inclusive process designed to support innovation across the organization.