The PMO has many functions in an organization but they can all be broadly summed up by helping project managers and their teams get work done more effectively. That can only happen if the project managers work with the PMO in a seamless way. There shouldn’t be tension between the program and project managers and the PMO team: whether you all report to the same director higher up the hierarchy or not, you are all part of the same extended team.
Sometimes that relationship isn’t as good as the PMO Manager would want. When that happens, you can build better working relationships with the project managers. Here are 5 ways to bring the PMO closer to the people who do the project work.
1. Be Responsive
Project managers work with tight deadlines. If you don’t get back to them quickly when they ask a question they’ll start asking their questions elsewhere, or not asking them at all.
Try to see it from their perspective: their project sponsor has an urgent query and they need some data or advice from you. It’s probably not your most urgent job of the day, but it’s urgent for them. If they don’t respond to their sponsor within a reasonable timeframe (normally as soon as possible and definitely within 48 hours) then they’ll start to lose credibility and it could affect project delivery. Shifting your perspective can help you see what they are working with and how you can help them be more successful with timely responses.
Action: Set internal service levels. Could you respond to all email queries within 5 hours? Pick some target times and measure the responsiveness of the team against them. Give yourself extra credit if you then diary a reminder for yourself to follow up with that project manager in a few weeks and find out how their conversation went, offering additional resources at that time as needed. This is a great way to keep the communication channels open for more than just a one-off interaction.
2. Go on Field Trips
Why not? Make it part of your induction program to send new PMO team members out and about with project managers. It really helps to see what the project managers are doing and the challenges they face on a daily basis. It also gives the project managers confidence that the PMO team understand their job and that they will be sympathetic when the time comes.
You could also make it part of the objectives of the PMO team each year: workshadow a project manager on a project for a few days every year as part of their professional development. Try to mix up seeing what life is like on high profile projects and more routine ones, and try to spend some of the time learning how they interact with your services such as how they do project reporting, use your templates, interact with any online training you offer and so on.
Action: Ask a project manager if you can workshadow their project for a day. Then do it!
3. Set Routines
Project managers don’t like being messed about – in fact, not many people do! So make the PMO easy to work with. As the center of project governance, there are a number of processes, not least status reporting, where you’ll need input from the project managers. Make sure that the deadlines for their information are clear and regular. And remind project teams what you expect from them (frequently).
Project managers will appreciate the nudge to remind them to do their monthly reports, update timesheets or whatever it is, but keep it on a regular schedule to make it routine.
Action: Work out your monthly communication schedule and create some standard email alerts or reminders to fit in with that. Create a mailing list so that the alerts go regularly to the same group without being too much of an overhead for you.
4. Be Useful
Wouldn’t it be great if someone sent you the exact data you needed at the exact right time? Well, project managers also think like that.
When you know that a project is approaching closure, reach out to the project manager with the right templates, especially if it is a while since they have closed down a project. You could also offer to facilitate the lessons learned meeting.
On the subject of lessons learned meetings, when someone picks up responsibility for a new project, trawl your organizational lessons learned and pick out the most relevant pieces of information to pass on. Many project managers won’t have time to do this themselves but would find this really useful.
Action: If you don’t have this already, work out which templates are appropriate for each project phase and build ‘template reminders’ into your ongoing communication with project managers when they reach the right stage of their projects.
5. Market Your Services
Project managers, senior managers and their teams won’t come to the PMO for advice or information if they don’t know what you can do. And given that the remit of a PMO varies between companies, they probably don’t know what you can do for them.
A bit of internal press can raise your profile and build your credibility, which is a core skill for PMO managers today. Phrase your communications in terms of benefits and what you can do for other people.
Action: Review the marketing you already do about the services you offer. What can be refined? Updated? Scrapped? Focus on the core benefits that you offer your customer groups and work out how you can reach them with the information they need to be able to both trust you and make use of the PMO.