Many businesses make the decision to get started with PMO processes, (or risk management, or project management approaches) and then add the tech in later.
This is a perfectly acceptable approach, but it does have drawbacks.
There’s no escaping that paper-based (“electronic” paper!), highly manual processes are cheap to start off. And if you’ve got a very new PMO, you may find that a set of templates feels like all that you need to get going.
However, that’s a false economy. It will come as no surprise to learn that documentation-based processes are highly manual. Those risk logs on spreadsheets and change control template documents are going to start to be a time sap when you’ve got 150 projects on the go.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Start as you mean to go on.” That applies to PMO teams as well. Even though you might not have a full understanding of where your PMO will be in 5 years, you can still benefit from getting your technology right from the beginning.
Below we explain the 3 steps that will help you use technology to improve the capability of your PMO team. And it starts with getting software tools in place from the beginning. Read on to find out why.
Step 1: Get Your Tools Established Early
When your software is in place, using it becomes the way things are done. It’s the established way of managing a process, or completing a task. There is no other way; compliance is compulsory.
While that may sound draconian, it’s an effective way of driving standardization and best practice. New starters into the team learn the tools that they are given. You are starting with the expectation of how the work will be done, and that can give you an instant boost in the capability stakes.
Establishing your toolset early helps minimize the change management overhead later. Let’s say you start out with PMO processes as a largely paper-based exercise. You start managing your PMO with spreadsheets and document templates. Then when you introduce tools like Primavera P6 at a later date, team members are going to have to learn those tools – and unlearn what they currently do.
This can be a huge overhead for teams. No only do they have to change the way they work, which can be as uncomfortable as any other process change, but they have to learn to use the tools while trying to forget the process they used before. More often than not, people try to replicate existing process in their software.
That might be acceptable, if you have implemented a streamlined, best practice paper-based process that drops effortlessly into a tech solution. But generally, we see people try to replicate poor process in a tool that is designed to offer you so many more benefits. People like what they know, and they’ll often try to replicate a broken process in a new tool. Teams don’t get the benefit of the software they’ve purchased as they aren’t using the features that help build capability.
Step 2: Embed the Way to Do The Work
Technology helps you get work done in the right way. This alone can give you a boost to capability. Enterprise software like Primavera P6 is designed to empower users to do things in an effective way. Many PMO tools come with functionality out of the box that will give you best practice processes. Built-in workflows help organize tasks. All these features have been tried-and-tested by thousands of companies before you. By taking the latest version of any tool, you are benefiting from the wisdom of a huge group of users.
Many software products come with out of the box features. Typically, you can also customize those workflows to make them even more appropriate for your organization. That’s not an excuse to change best practice processes beyond recognition, but it can give you extra benefits like adding bespoke fields.
If you start using software tools from the beginning, you avoid the headache of having to convince your team that their existing process is suboptimal. That can be a hard conversation! Changing process at the time of adding a new software solution is yet another change to subject people to – and it can be avoided if you start with technology supporting your best practice from the beginning.
Step 3: Scale
Technology helps you improve project management and PMO maturity. You’re starting out with best-in-class technology. You’re starting out knowing that you can grow into the tools that are available to you.
Too often, the tools and processes chosen at the beginning of the PMO’s journey are temporary and highly manual – like spreadsheets. These are difficult to scale. When you have technology that supports you from the beginning, you can scale rapidly. This is helpful when senior managers are asking for yet another version of the portfolio report! You can generate a new one with a few clicks, instead of taking another day to cut all the data together in a neat presentation.
Just because you have bought a feature-rich software tool doesn’t mean you have to use all the functionality from Day 1. Start with the functionality you know that you can use to best effect, and then add in other modules, workflows or features as your PMO capability improves. The right tools will make it easy to grow because you’ll be able to switch on features as and when you need them.
A final benefit of using technology to help drive PMO maturity and capability is that choosing the right software product is a long-term commitment. Having the tool in place cements the business’ commitment to the PMO.
You can capitalize on that commitment by making creating a roadmap for your team. Understand the features that your software brings, and map those to where you want to take the PMO. You’ll see far more synergies between your project management tools and your future plans than you ever will between those plans and your paper-based processes.