For many organizations, trying to deliver a project without the support of a Project Management Office (PMO) would be unheard of. PMOs operate at so many levels within a business from providing executive insight and portfolio management to supporting the day-to-day operations of the project community.
Here are 5 of the ways that your PMO supports project managers delivering projects.
1. Scheduling Support
Scheduling is a critical part of project management but it is definitely not the easiest. The tools project managers use, like Primavera, can be daunting for inexperienced users. This is where the experts in the PMO can really help.
They can provide scheduling support through technical software training, assisting with preparing schedules, reviewing schedules prepared by the team and reminding and encouraging project teams to keep them up-to-date through regular oversight.
The end result is that your project schedules will be more robust, peer-reviewed, more accurate and more likely to deliver a realistic result in the time frames that you were expecting.
2. Risk Management Facilitation
You might think that your project managers are skilled at risk identification, so why would the PMO need to get involved here?
The simple answer is that a fresh pair of eyes can help uncover a wider range of risks. The PMO team often includes skilled facilitators, and a project manager can benefit from having an independent, experienced facilitator in the room during a risk workshop.
They can then fully participate in the session instead of having to try to chair or run the meeting and contribute. They may also be too close to the detail to be able to see all the risks: having an external party there asking the right questions can result in a deeper risk analysis of the project with a wider range of practical management plans identified to deal with them.
3. Issue and Escalation Management
Project managers are empowered to do what is required to keep their project on track within boundaries, but sometimes they aren’t able to take forward a course of action without support.
This is when they would raise a significant issue, flag the project with the status of Red and/or generate an escalation for senior managers.
While these processes normally work effectively, the PMO can support and add value at this time by ensuring that the escalation process happens quickly and with the right inputs. The management team need the correct decision-support information to make the right call as to what to do next. The project manager needs confidence that this is all being dealt with speedily as the project team may be unable to progress with their next tasks until this problem is resolved.
The PMO can facilitate the whole project, support the project sponsor in making the right decision and then get the project team back to work.
A common function of PMO teams is to provide a library of templates. These support delivery because they save so much time and standardize the efforts of the team.
Project managers don’t have to spend hours scouring the internet for a template that would do, only to find that they have to copy it out from a PDF to get it in a format they can actually use. Project leaders don’t end up with lots of different versions of the same type of document. With templates they know what a Project Charter should look like and should include and that enables them to read them more quickly and compare quality between projects.
Setting up a template library is simple and your project management community will thank you for it. This is an easy way to support the delivery of project work so if you don’t already have this function within your PMO it is definitely one to consider.
5. Project Closure Support
Finally, the PMO can add immense value at the project closure stage. This is another area where the facilitation skills of the team really come into play.
A lessons learned meeting is held at the end of a project and this session can often be challenging. Having an impartial facilitator can result in more learning being shared, more lessons being discussed and a better outcome for the business overall.
The PMO can also document the meeting, ensuring that everything is captured in a factual way, as these sessions can result in sharing a lot of the emotional reaction people had to working on a project – this is all valuable for discussion but has to be reported sensitively in the minutes and someone less close to the project can do this with more ease.
There are other practical steps that the PMO can assist with during project closure including ensuring the closure paperwork is completed and that the business as usual team accept delivery of the outputs. This leaves the project manager free to go and work on other initiatives, creating a smooth handover period and shortening the time it takes to close out work.
While you can deliver projects successfully without a PMO, as you can see, having a PMO team available to support delivery can streamline the process considerably. On top of this, PMO team members can offer other types of support to project managers such as minute-taking and other administrative assistance, freeing up the project manager to build positive working relationships with key stakeholders and deal with some of the other crucial aspects of the project.
Of course, your PMO is far more than a secretarial pool but by offering a range of services that support delivery at all levels, you can keep your projects moving in the right direction time after time.