As businesses all over the world continue to adapt their activities to pull through the current crisis, they are struggling to balance the changes needed in both the short- and long-term. Many organizations are unfamiliar with how to deal with such a drastic change and make plans for the future in the face of uncertainty. However, for organizations that have a Project Management Office (PMO), the burden of planning and adapting has been less cumbersome. The implementation of a PMO hasn't always been a welcome change, but PMOs are proving their value as the MVP (most valuable player) during this crisis.
What Is a PMO?
According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) Fifth Edition, the Project Management Office (PMO) is defined as “a management structure that standardizes the project-related governance processes and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques.” To put it more simply, a PMO is an organizational unit or department that coordinates the management of all projects. While PMOs can vary depending on the needs of the company it serves, PMOs generally handle the planning and monitoring of projects, allocation of resources, implementation of standards and processes and provide support to projects that need assistance.
How a PMO Can Help in a Crisis
When PMOs began to rise in popularity, some viewed them as units that dictated what projects would be done and who would do them. This common misconception made many people believe the PMO would be a controlling force over their work, but this is far from reality. PMOs are meant to assist organizations and teams, not dominate, and their methods, processes and duties are particularly helpful for organizations right now. Let’s look at several ways PMOs can help organizations through a crisis (or any time).
Project Prioritization (and Reprioritization)
One important aspect of planning projects across an organization is determining which projects should be tackled first. All organizations have limits on resources (if they didn’t there would be no need for a PMO!) so it’s important that projects are properly prioritized to provide the maximum benefit for the company. Prioritizing projects might seem like a simple task, but the reality is prioritization can become extremely complicated when you have many projects. Things like project dependencies, costs and alignment to corporate objectives can make it difficult to identify the most important projects, but PMOs generally have a process for this.
The prioritization process is crucial during a crisis. Companies are working to quickly pivot their goals and adapt their plans. This also means they are taking another look at all current, upcoming and new projects. A PMO will know how to take new corporate objectives, turn them into evaluation criteria and determine exactly which projects need to be prioritized before others. Experienced PMOs do this regularly, so they’ve usually got a well-defined process that lets them do this efficiently and swiftly.
Resource Management When Working in New Ways
One of the biggest impacts of the crisis is on the way people work. People are now working remotely, which not only makes it more difficult to communicate and collaborate but is also having an impact on productivity. It might be easy to assign workers to projects and receive project status updates when you all work in the same office, but when individual team members are separated, it takes a different set of skills to keep things operating smoothly.
While working remotely may be a new change for your organization, PMOs are well equipped to handle this unique situation. PMOs are often in charge of allocating workers across the entire organization, so whether or not these workers are in an office or at home really doesn’t make much a difference for them. Because PMOs are their own organizational unit, they already operate with a distance between themselves and project teams. Using data and reports, PMOs can understand workers and projects that they might not be directly involved in. In a time like this, a PMO might use data to understand how the resource utilization rate has changed for remote workers. An industry standard is around 80%, but between providing childcare and working in a new environment, a PMO might discover the real resource utilization rate is around 70%. With this in mind, they can make sure workers aren’t overallocated and projects have the manpower available to be completed on time.
Portfolio Planning During Uncertainty
Organizations are working quickly to adapt in the short-term, but they also need to consider how to adapt in the long-term. You might be thinking that putting together long-term plans are impossible right now, but a PMO might beg to differ. Yes, there are lots of uncertainties and things can still change, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put together a project portfolio that gives your organization the focus you need to pull through.
PMOs are used to the challenges of project portfolio planning and they are no strangers to change. In fact, the value of a PMO is particularly apparent during periods of change. A large portion of a PMO’s job is defining and refining processes for creating, changing and implementing project portfolios. This means they know how to plan portfolios and can carefully balance new projects with current ones. They also can update them with new priorities, staff projects based on updated availability and analyze project data to understand what things need to be fine-tuned.
PMOs Need a Powerful Tool
PMOs around the world are being called on to help companies weather the storm created by COVID-19. Now more than ever, companies need to empower their PMOs so they can be the most effective. Companies can help their PMOs by making sure they have the right tools for the job. Meisterplan is a project portfolio management and resource management tool that supports PMOs in navigating the complex project portfolio landscape.
With Meisterplan, PMOs can quickly prioritize projects with a customizable project score feature or simply drag and drop projects in the project list to reorder them. PMOs can also visualize their resources and their resource utilization which makes it easy to spot bottlenecks that could bring projects to a screeching halt. To help make planning easier, users can also use our scenario comparison feature to see how different projects would affect the portfolio and immediately answer what-if questions.
We recommend supporting your PMO during this time of crisis, as they can be MVP that ensures your company remains viable and successful. If you don't already have a PMO, here are some tips on how to set up a PMO quickly and effectively.