You regularly assess the performance of projects, but as a Project Management Office team, how often do you assess your own performance? It might be time to give your PMO a health check.
In this article we look at why you would want to do that, when is the right time, what a PMO health check covers and what it looks like to go through one.
Why Do A PMO Health Check?
Getting the most out of your PMO is a journey. The PMO that you set up, whenever you set it up, should evolve as the levels of project management maturity involve in the organization. The services you offer change as the needs of the business change over time.
As a result, the objectives you had for your PMO at its inception may not be the objectives that you hold for it today.
Therefore it’s useful to take stock of where you are and where you have come from, with a view of making informed decisions about where to go next. PMOs typically manage and oversee a large part of the company’s investment, so it makes good business sense to ensure that your PMO has the capability you expect at each point of its evolution.
When To Do A PMO Health Check
The short answer to the question of when to do a PMO health check is at any time. You can make a short health check an annual event or do one whenever you feel that you need to be sure that the PMO is delivering the business value you expect.
However, we often see certain trigger points for kicking off a health check for your PMO. These are:
- The PMO team wants to move to the next level of capability and deliver more. They are uncertain about how best to make the leap. An assessment of where they are now will allow them to uncover the areas of focus for that change.
- The PMO has been operating successfully for some time and while it is adequately serving the needs of the project management community, it’s struggling to meet the needs of those higher up in the organization especially around making sure projects are prioritized in line with strategic goals. A health check can uncover the reasons for this and help address them.
- Overall, the business does not have a mature approach to benefits management or realization and wants the PMO to take a more active role in this. A health check can pinpoint areas where benefits are already being managed and pull out actions to ensure that company-wide strategies are put in place.
- Projects suffer from overruns of time or budget and project teams find it difficult to work out exactly how much money a project will need or how long it will take. A health check can dig deep into estimating practices with a view to working out how to improve estimating and planning for projects.
- It’s hard for managers to get access to data that helps them make the right decisions and steer their operational teams. Health checks can delve into the metrics that the PMO are producing and what happens to these, uncovering problems and making it easier for managers to get the information they need.
What A Health Check Covers
A health check can be a long drawn out investigation, but we wouldn’t recommend that. We’ve seen better results with the opposite: a short, rapid assessment that doesn’t interrupt business operations and gets fast results.
Typically, a PMO health check will look at everything to do with how the PMO works and the community it serves including:
- How your PMO is structured
- The project management processes in place for project initiation, planning, monitoring and controlling the work and closing projects when work is complete
- Metrics and data produced by the PMO, including that from your software tools such as Primavera
- The quality of project schedules and estimating, looking at what your results are for hitting baselines and targets
- How the PMO approaches risk management and how risks are actively managed by project managers
- General capacity and resourcing within the team, especially with a view on how the team can proactively and reactively respond to executive requests.
There’s a lot of flexibility to cover what you want to investigate more thoroughly. If your annual objectives as a PMO leader, for example, include setting up a full project management career path for the team, a health check could focus on the professional development opportunities offered by the PMO to date and the expectations of project managers with regards to their career progression.
In short, given that the PMO should exist to serve the project management and senior leadership teams, a good health check will look at how well that aim is being met.
How A Health Check Works
So if you want to do a health check for your PMO, what does it look like in practice? When we do what we call a PMO Pulse Check, the Ten Six team carry out an on-site review that takes between five and ten days. The team look at project information and the business context. They’ll also interview managers involved in the PMO process, project managers and program managers working in or outside the PMO and other key stakeholders.
The review concludes with a debriefing for senior managers and PMO leaders and also includes actionable steps to move your PMO forward and improve capability. We share our recommendations giving you everything you need to put those plans into action, should you want to.
It’s good practice to factor in a health check for your Project Management Office because the insights you’ll get from it are informative and will help move your department to the next level. Just as you regularly audit the performance of projects and project managers, make time to audit your performance as a PMO team to ensure you are delivering the best value that you can.