In past years, project management offices (PMOs) had somewhat of a bad reputation. Their failure rates were high, and everybody seemed to hate them. From my experience, that is now changing. PMI’s Pulse of the Profession 2017 reported that companies who align their PMOs to strategy report “38 percent more projects meet original goals and business intent and 33 percent fewer projects are deemed failures.” On top of that, when I attended the PMI Global Conference in Chicago last October, I noticed that all of the sessions having to do with PMOs were very well attended, some were even standing room only. So, it seems people are changing their minds about PMOs, and realizing that when they are done right, they increase project and company success. That being said, if you are part of a PMO, there are some things you want to avoid. Here is my list of things you shouldn’t say or do as a PMO manager or director.
1. “Great idea! We’ve got to implement this immediately!”
Have you ever had an idea pop into your head, and you were sure it was going to be a game changer? Has someone mentioned a project idea in a meeting, and you just knew that this is a project that needs to be implemented immediately? Has your best customer made a request, which has become the latest top priority just because they requested it? If any of those scenarios sound familiar, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there. But, it is very important that the PMO has a project request process, and it is even more important that we stick to that process. It is best to compare projects using the same criteria to realize the true priorities. In Lean PPM, that usually means that a project coordinator will work with the project initiator to analyze the project initiative, consolidate information and add more details as needed. Then, the proposal will be brought to the appropriate committee to compare and prioritize the initiatives and make a decision on how to proceed. Consistently using the right process means your plans are much more likely to work.
2. “We’ve decided all project teams must switch to agile next week.”
Your project teams already know what tools and methods work best for them. It doesn’t matter if it is agile, waterfall or some other method, if you try to force the entire organization to use one methodology, you will probably make a lot of people unhappy and be thought of as the "process police". There are so many great project management methods out there, and no single method works best for every project team. If you focus on the project portfolio, and let your teams handle the management of single projects, instead of making enemies, you’ll gain your teams’ respect and support.
3. “We should use the planning software with the most comprehensive features.”
At first glance, a PPM solution with every possible feature seems like a great idea. In reality, implementation and training for these systems can take months, and they are typically expensive to purchase and to maintain. The fact is, you probably don’t need all or even most of the capabilities of those solutions. We’ve found that a lot of companies are turning to Lean PPM for a method and tool that are simple with just the processes and functions that they really need. In this way, they are able to learn and implement the solution and method together, focus on the main issues, and create achievable plans, all while paying a fair price.
4. “I’m going to go with my gut, and say we have enough resources to implement eight of the ten projects we’ve prioritized. What do you think?”
You’ve done the prioritization, so you know which projects are the most important. That’s great. Now do you actually have enough resources to successfully complete them? Instead of relying on your gut feeling or simply guessing, you need a real understanding of your resource capacity. A tool like Meisterplan allows you to see and simulate capacity using different planning scenarios, so you can stop guessing and know for sure if you have the capacity to get it done.
5. “Did you pull in all the data from all of our PM tools? What about the Excel spreadsheets?”
Getting all the necessary data to make good decisions makes sense. But is the data you are gathering actually necessary to make the planning decisions? Also, how sure are you that the data is high quality, accurate and up to date? If you make decisions based on bad data, then you are more likely to make bad decisions. We think that you actually need a minimal amount of information (i.e., project status and resource requirements) from your project managers to make the best decisions for your portfolio.
If you want to avoid these situations and find a simpler way to do project portfolio management, we recommend reading more about the Lean PPM™ method. We’re also happy to get your opinion on ways you think this method can be improved. Our goal is to work with you to make plans that work, so please reach out to us and give us your feedback.