We hear a lot of executives talk about wanting their Project Management Office to ‘add value’ but people aren’t always clear what they mean by that. And even if they do know what they are striving for, the PMO team sometimes struggle to work out what it really looks like in practice.
In this article we’ll dig into how the PMO can constantly add value to the organization by looking at 5 ways they can do just that.
1. Keep People Focused on What’s Important
Rabbit holes, gold plating, scope creep… whatever you want to call it, project teams sometimes take a sideways turn. One of the key ways that the PMO can add value is to keep delivery teams focused on the main objectives.
In practical terms, Earned Value Management is the most common way to do this. Project teams, with the support of the PMO, assign a financial value to milestones, and then these are tracked during the project. The team monitors the deliverable progress in monetary terms. When this is compared to what was planned, you get a good insight into whether work is focused on the right areas, or where problem spots might be.
Read Next: A Brief Introduction to Earned Value
You can also keep people focused by asking pertinent questions, carrying out informal peer reviews and querying project reports. Steer people away from the low priority tasks and support them in working on the top priority actions.
2. Add The Right Level of Governance
Research by KPMG shows that the top reason for introducing a PMO is to improve governance. However, it needs to be the right level of governance. “Value” doesn’t come from wading through pages of authorizations or jumping through hoops to move your project from one stage to the next.
Right-size your governance. Even better, allow project managers to tailor the governance approach (within parameters set by the PMO) to best fit the type and size of project. The governance methods appropriate for a multi-billion dollar investment are very different from what is required to implement some process changes in one department.
Removing waste from project management processes is definitely a way to show that the PMO adds value and is flexible to the needs of project teams and the business more widely.
3. Facilitate Risk Management
Failing to adequately manage risk can be expensive. There’s huge financial and operational value to be had in ensuring risk management is done well at every level across the portfolio.
The PMO can take an active role in facilitating risk management processes. The team can support project practitioners with risk identification and management at the project level. They can be involved in program level risk management, managing dependencies across multiple projects. The PMO team can also lead on portfolio and organizational level risk management.
Facilitating risk management involves identifying who should be involved, setting up and running workshops with the right people, capturing risk and actions, and following up to ensure that action plans are being followed through, providing support and reporting as appropriate. Essentially, it also involves prioritizing risk so that the organization focuses its efforts on addressing the risks that are the most important.
Underpinning all of this is creating a culture where risk can be spoken about openly. As an independent team, the PMO can lead on having transparent conversations about what might go wrong, removing any indication of a blame culture.
4. Hold Project Leaders Accountable
Successful project have active sponsors. These are people who champion the project, help resolve issues, remove roadblocks and make sure that the team has the resources it needs to deliver.
But sometimes project sponsors aren’t active in their support of the project.
Project managers and their teams don’t always have the authority to challenge an absentee sponsor. The PMO does: whether your authority is absolute or implied, the PMO team can reach out to ineffective sponsors and question their involvement. They can also facilitate replacing a sponsor with someone else, or at least have conversations at a broader and more impartial level than that of the project team.
This is a fantastic and under-utilized way to add value to the delivery teams working on initiatives in your business. Help them get the executive support they need and set them up for success.
5. Smooth the Way
As the PMO is an independent group within the business, it has the unique ability to be able to see conflict from an impartial perspective. And that means the PMO team have a part to play in facilitating conflict resolution, helping all stakeholders move towards a resolution.
This adds value because once conflict is resolved, the whole team can get on with their work. Taking time out due to miscommunication, or whatever caused the conflict in the first place, slows everyone down. When you interrupt the flow of work, it can take people longer to get back into what they were doing – and delays of any kind cost money.
Staff your PMO with some exceptional negotiators who can help project and program managers resolve conflict between stakeholders. This is especially important in complex environments where transformative change is happening. These situations are naturally volatile and have a lot of moving parts. A team skilled in smoothing the way forward, resolving issues and negotiating solutions, will make a significant difference in your business.
These are not the only 5 ways that a PMO can add tangible value to an organization. However, they are straightforward and a good starting point for discussions with executive stakeholders! Start talking to your leadership team about what value looks like for them, and how you can align the roles and responsibilities of the PMO to best deliver value across the portfolio.