Managing a Project Management Office (PMO) can be quite a challenge. Staying on top of the latest best practices can make a world of difference.
Setting up a PMO is not a guarantee of project success, regardless of a company's size. Building an effective PMO is complex and comes with its own unique challenges. It's not just about having a PMO in place; transforming your company through a PMO requires a clear understanding of the process.
The PMO is the vital engine room of change in your business. It serves as a centralised hub within an organisation, responsible for overseeing and managing projects. It provides guidance, support, and governance to project teams, serving as a centre for project-related activities.
Implementing PMO best practices is crucial for providing a consistent and effective framework for project management. By adhering to these best practices, PMOs can deliver projects on time and within budget, ensuring alignment with organisational strategy. This, in turn, improves project success rates, enhances stakeholder satisfaction, and drives organisational growth.
In this article we’ll explore 10 fundamental best practices. These practices are not only crucial for the slick operational running of your PMO but are also key for delivering value from your portfolio. By taking advantage of these practices, you can equip your PMO with the right tools it needs to navigate the fast-changing waters of the project economy and increase and drive more strategic value from your project portfolio.
Best practices for your PMO
- Align your PMO with organisational objectives
Arguably, the most important PMO best practice is to make sure your PMO is aligned to your organisation’s strategic objectives, to deliver the maximum value from your portfolio. To do this, your PMO will need a deep understanding of your organisation's vision, mission, and strategic priorities, and a commitment to aligning all activities accordingly. By establishing this alignment, your PMO can significantly contribute to the overall success of the organisation.
To achieve this alignment, your PMO should actively engage with senior management and key stakeholders. It should actively participate in strategic planning sessions, providing valuable input on project selection and prioritisation. Regular reporting on project performance will allow your PMO to demonstrate its impact and enhance its credibility and influence within the organisation.
It's also really important to remember that aligning your PMO to strategic objectives isn’t a one-time occurrence. For instance, if a company's strategic objective is to break into a certain new market, your PMO will likely focus on overseeing projects related to market research, product adaptations, and establishing distribution networks in the target locations. However, once you’ve succeeded and tapped into this new market, what next? The organisation is likely to have shifted its focus onto the next growth driver, and as the priorities of your organisation change, so will those of your PMO. Your PMO will need to continuously readjust to ensure it still aligns to the developing strategy of the organisation.
- Clearly define your PMOs role and responsibilities
Clear communication of the purpose of your PMO, its authority, and the services it offers within the organisation is key for success. By establishing a clear role for your PMO, everyone in the organisation gains a comprehensive understanding of why it exists and how exactly is contributes to project success.
Clearly defining roles and responsibilities also helps to manage expectations and prevent miscommunication. Ultimately this supports the first best practice too as it ensures that your PMO's activities are aligned with the organisation's goals and objectives, and that its efforts are focused on delivering value.
Your PMO is likely to be much more successful with its projects if it communicates its activities. For example, if an organisation is aware of the responsibilities of your PMO and are well informed on the aims and overall activities, it’s much easier to garner buy-in from project teams and stakeholders. This clarity, in turn, means your PMO can provide the necessary guidance and governance needed for project teams and stakeholders to succeed too.
- Establish standardised project management processes
When it comes to projects, you want everyone involved in them to work in the same way. Ideally, you would like all projects to run in the same way, using the same tools, templates and processes as set out by your PMO. Setting up a standardised project management processes is needed to ensure consistency and efficiency in project execution. The transparency of the process across all projects also helps to streamline workflow, facilitate clear communication and overall effective decision-making.
Establishing standardising project management processes allows your PMO to streamline project delivery and minimise errors, enhancing overall project quality. Any standardised project processes should include all aspects of the project management process, from initiation through to closure for maximum benefit.
When developing standardised project management processes, it’s important to consider the individual needs and requirements of an organisation. For example, the processes need to be flexible enough to allow different project types and sizes to follow it, but also provide a consistent framework for effective project management across the board. By implementing these, your PMO can ensure that projects are executed in a uniform manner, and project teams have clear guidelines to follow.
- Implement effective project portfolio management (PPM)
Organisations that handle multiple projects at the same time rely on effective project portfolio management to maximise value and ensure projects are aligned with their objectives (number 1 on the best practice list!). This means carefully selecting, prioritising, and managing projects. By putting robust project portfolio management practices in place, your PMO can effectively allocate resources, manage risks, and align projects with strategic goals.
To implement effective project portfolio management, your PMO would want to identify all the projects it has laid out within the organisation. Then you can go on to evaluate each one based on its strategic alignment, potential benefits, risk level and the resources it needs. This is a great way for your PMO to prioritise or rank projects and, whilst working with key stakeholders, you can carefully select a balanced portfolio that aligns with your organisational strategy. Much like every other practice, this isn’t a one-time endeavour. Your PMO needs to continue to regularly review and adjust the portfolio and take a dynamic approach to get the best value for the organisation.
- Promote strong communication and collaboration within your organisation
Effective communication and collaboration are vital for project success. Your PMO plays a crucial role in promoting these qualities within the organisation. An effective communication channel or platforms would need to be established to enable the exchange of information, updates, and effective collaboration among project teams, stakeholders, and your PMO.
Communication is key and your PMO should encourage an open culture of communication and collaboration. Examples that your PMO could carry out to achieve great communication includes regular meetings, workshops, and training sessions that bring together project teams and stakeholders. Strong communication and collaboration is means your PMO ensures everyone is aligned and that project-related information is shared in a timely and transparent manner.
- Develop and maintain a project management methodology
Project management methodologies offer a structured approach to project management. They typically include processes, tools, and techniques for successful project delivery. By establishing a project management methodology, your PMO can provide project teams with a clear roadmap, ensuring consistent and efficient project execution.
Some key considerations that you’ll want to take when choosing your methodology are:
- Your organisation’s project management maturity level
- Your industry
- Project types
- Flexibility required
- Any other needs and requirements specific to your organisation
Once the project management methodology is developed, communication is key! It’s crucial for your PMO to communicate it effectively to project teams and stakeholders. Providing training and support to help project teams understand and implement the methodology will help with buy-in.
- Ensure regular project status reporting and monitoring
Your PMO should establish a comprehensive project reporting framework that clearly defines the requirements, frequency, and format of project updates. It would also be useful if this framework outlined the roles and responsibilities of project teams and stakeholders in reporting project status. Effective project status reporting and monitoring is important to maintain project timelines and ensure timely delivery.
Some key project metrics/data to include in your project status reports are:
- Resource utilisation
- Highlight any issues/risks or changes that may impact project delivery
By consistently monitoring project status, your PMO can identify potential issues early on and take necessary actions to keep projects on track. You should also establish a robust project monitoring process that allows accurate tracking and evaluation of project progress. For example, this process should include regular project reviews, performance assessments, and milestone tracking. By effectively monitoring project progress, your PMO can identify areas for improvement and proactively ensure project success.
Remember, the key word here is regular. Again, this isn’t something you do randomly or on a one-off basis. Setting a routine to make this regular will make this much more effective for project success!
- Provide training and support for project managers
Project managers are vital for project success. They’re responsible for project planning, executing, and monitoring projects to ensure project objectives are achieved. For projects to be successful, your PMO needs to support project managers. This support can come in the form of comprehensive training to enhance project managers' skills and knowledge in project management.
Training programmes should cover an array of project management aspects, such as:
- Project planning
- Risk management
- Stakeholder engagement
Your PMO should also provide project managers with access to helpful project management tools and templates, streamlining their processes. On top of training, your PMO should offer continuous support to project managers through mentoring, coaching, and guidance in project management best practices. By providing training and support, your PMO can elevate the capabilities of project managers and ensure successful project delivery.
- Continuously improve and adapt PMO processes
It’s been a key word throughout this article, but to continuously improve is so important for your PMOs success! No activity can be a one hit wonder because it just won’t achieve prolonged success. It’s crucial for your PMO to consistently review and evaluate your processes, tools, and practices to identify areas that can be enhanced. You might do this through project reviews, lessons learned sessions, and by gathering feedback from project teams and stakeholders.
Once areas for improvement have been identified, your PMO should take proactive measures to address them. This may involve updating processes, implementing new tools or technologies, or providing additional training and support to your project teams. By continuously improving and adapting its processes, your PMO can enhance its effectiveness and deliver even greater value to the organisation.
- Measure and track PMO performance
This one goes hand-in-hand with number 9, but measuring and tracking the performance of your PMO is crucial for assessing its effectiveness and identifying areas for improvement. To achieve this, your PMO should establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure performance and impact. These KPIs could include project success rates, stakeholder satisfaction, project delivery time, and resource utilisation.
Regular collection and analysis of data related to these KPIs is important for driving performance improvements. By doing so, your PMO can identify trends, assess the impact of its activities, and make data-driven decisions to enhance its effectiveness.
Overall, effective measurement and tracking of your PMO performance will empower you to continuously improve and deliver greater value to the organisation.