Do you know what your PMO annoyance factors are? Project Management Offices (PMOs) set out to be centers of excellence for their business. However, unintentionally over time little changes can take away from that purpose.
You might not have noticed those changes happening. An extra field on a form here. A little tweak to a process there. An additional quality check or approval level, another request to complete a report. But your project teams will have certainly noticed. And those little changes add up.
In this article, we examine the things that could be making your PMO annoying to the people you are trying to serve. When stakeholders are unhappy, or struggle to see the value in the services provided by the PMO, you will find it harder to drive through change and increase project management maturity.
It takes a great deal of self-reflection to identify where you have drifted away from your core purpose as a PMO team. Thinking critically about your function is definitely a worthwhile thing to do. When you know how you are perceived as a PMO, you can take active steps to ensure you are going back to first principles, and delivering what you originally wanted to do.
Let’s dig into the PMO annoyance factors. How many of these do you recognize in your own team?
PMO Annoyance Factor #1: Cumbersome Processes
How many processes does your PMO support? Probably a substantial amount. You are asking project and program teams to follow these processes daily. If they are too difficult to follow, or there are too many variations, people will start to look outside the processes. They will find their own ways of working because what they choose to do will be easier for them than following the approved steps.
Your colleagues want their work to be easy.
There are business benefits to avoiding cumbersome processes as well. The more you can standardize, the more time people will have to do the challenging work of managing projects, like stakeholder engagement or risk analysis. If they have to spend some of their week working out how to submit a change request or which of the three project initiation processes they should be following, they aren’t doing their best work.
Fix by: We all need processes. But take a careful look at some of the steps you are expecting people to jump through. Streamline where you can. Take out steps that add little value, and question every part of the process to ensure it is necessary and adds value.
PMO Annoyance Factor #2: Long Templates
PMO teams produce templates by the dozen. And you may need all those templates. However, they don’t have to be difficult to complete and dozens of pages. Simple is nearly always better.
Short templates take less time to fill out. They require people to think more carefully about the questions, and you keep goodwill high by not asking for a ton of erroneous detail. Each field on a template or form should be essential to the purpose of the form, and – more importantly – the person filling in the form should be able to see why that piece of information is required.
Fix by: Take out duplication. Don’t ask people to submit information on a template that they have already submitted on another template unless it’s absolutely essential. Try to make templates work together as a set, rather than individually. Where you can, pre-populate information in the template for them. This is easier to do with software-led forms like the ones in your project management tools. Ideally, try to get your templates on to one page.
PMO Annoyance Factor #3: Too Many Approval Steps
There are lots of approval workflows within project and program management. And, for the avoidance of doubt, it’s essential that work is adequately approved and that people in positions of authority are comfortable that projects move forward.
However, when a process requires more than three levels of approval, it becomes time-consuming and over-engineered.
Fix by: Ideally, you want to keep approval steps to a minimum. One, maybe two, managers are all that is required to sign off a process step. Delegate decision making and approval to the lowest possible level in the organization, and support your team members to make decisions. Empower people to take decisions and grant approvals.
This will speed up processes – they won’t be delayed through having to find the right people to approve the next step at multiple layers. Overall, a streamlined approach to approving activity will keep your projects moving in the right direction faster.
Use project management software tools with built in workflows to help you streamline processes.
PMO Annoyance Factor #4: Excessive Reporting
A lot of reports come out of your PMO. Pointless reporting is a low-level annoyance factor. People will ignore your reports if they aren’t interested in them. But that behavior – filing away your emails without looking at them – happens because they aren’t convinced in the value of the information.
When people aren’t convinced in the need for your reports, they could start to doubt the usefulness of the PMO more generally.
Equally, reporting demands can be tough on project teams as well. Find a schedule for reporting that doesn’t feel onerous, and stick to it.
Fix by: Only send reports to people who need them. Make your reports as useful and as ‘value-added’ as possible, whatever that means for your business. Distil down data. Use visualizations to show complex data sets. Provide dashboards and click-through summaries.
Making reporting as personal as possible for the people who receive it can take some work. This is where powerful project management tools come into their own. Set up automated reports in a tool like Primavera, to avoid manually processing lots of data each month. Remember to check in with report recipients regularly to ensure they are getting what they need to do their work.
PMO Annoyance Factor #5: Creating Obstacles
Making life harder for stakeholders and project managers isn’t in any PMO leader’s annual goals and objectives. Yet, that is sometimes what happens. It’s often by accident, and as we saw above, changes creep in over time. Suddenly, you’ve created a PMO that is known for putting up obstacles.
Obstacles can be large, like processes that inadvertently stop people recording good ideas or sharing lessons learned. Or they can be small, like an online workflow that only works part of the time.
Fix by: Look at what obstacles you can take out of the way. You should be doing everything possible in the PMO to make people’s lives easier, not harder. Think about what your stakeholders would love you to stop doing. And stop doing it!