Scale your PMO to new heights with Smartsheet Control Center

by Jim O'Farrell

Ensuring PMO leadership, project managers, and your internal and external customers are aligned regarding your organization's PMO can be a challenging process.

There is a general inefficiency due to traditional methods of managing projects, portfolios, and enforcing consistent PMO program operations. These traditional methods and tools usually include Excel worksheets, Microsoft Project, and a litany of meetings and emails with no formalized approval processes for project go - no go.

Just as painful as inefficiency is a general lack of program visibility which leads to lower internal accountability, often causing program delays. PMO groups struggle to forecast future demands on their team, and often aren’t able the to answer questions like “What’s currently in the pipe?”.

Limited visibility directly impacts program success - frustrating key stakeholders. Is it any wonder that you see these following statistics regarding project failure?

  • 50% of project management offices close within three years (Association for Project Management)
  • PMO implementation failure rate is over 50% (Gartner Project Manager 2014)
  • 68% of stakeholders perceive PMOs to be bureaucratic (2013 Gartner PPM Summit)
  • Only 40% of projects meet schedule, budget and quality goals (IBM Change Management Survey)

An article in CIO magazine neatly summarized the current state of IT:

“In short, when it comes to supply and demand, IT is unduly focused on the supply side of the equation, or the how ( development and managing physical assets like hardware and networks)—to the detriment of the demand side, or the what (capturing and prioritizing demand, assigning resources based on business objectives and doing projects that deliver business benefits).”

In this post, I’ll take a closer look at how collaborative work management can significantly reduce PMO inefficiencies while providing increased accountability and program visibility for both internal stakeholders (your team, peers and executive members) and - even more importantly - for your external customers! The net result is a better balance for IT between the “what” and “how”, as it relates to IT execution.

Top 4 challenges with managing a PMO operation

Let’s start by exploring the top challenges and delving into the root cause that drives inefficiencies and lack of visibility in your PMO Operations.

Challenge #1 - Scalability: With a cross-functional focus, a PMO may literally manage thousands of projects on an annual basis. It is critical to provide your organization the tools to manage these programs at scale, without worrying about systemic failures.

Challenge #2 - Tracking: Most program management processes consist of workflows for demand management (e.g. basic supply and demand), project intake and approvals, ongoing task management, time and project information updates, and general calendar management. With all these workflows in play, tracking the status of internal and customer-facing communications and quickly identifying and eliminating potential “blockers” is foundational to an effective PMO.

Challenge #3 - Automation: For effective project approval processing, the ability to support automated sign-offs for key tasks and teams is important to eliminate stopgaps in workflow. Further, it is critical to provide an escalation process based on portfolio, program and/or project priority.  

Challenge #4 - Reporting: Finally, it’s important to be able to measure your portfolio, your program and your project success while reporting status in real time to your internal and external customers. A higher-level, executive look at data and status enables leadership to make high quality, data-driven decisions based on a quick review of current and pending communications.    

Up to this point companies have used manual tools and processes like Excel and email to achieve these critical functions, implementing expensive project portfolio management systems that are difficult to use, require significant IT support, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Most importantly these systems struggle to adapt to varied user needs, and as a result often fail due to low user adoption.

So, is there a better way to balance users’ need for flexible PMO software, while supporting management’s need for control, consistency, and real-time visibility?

The solution: PMO based on collaborative work management

Today, leading PMO professionals are leveraging new approaches to work management automation. This new collaborative work management approach balances the need for flexibility and ease of use in PMO operations with the needed control and standardization required for program visibility. How will that impact your projects, portfolio and program operations?

A Director of PMO explains this way: “Moving our PMO processing to Smartsheet has helped us gain a significant increase in user adoption due to its flexibility in meeting critical business requirements while still providing our management with control and guidelines to ensure adherence to corporate standards. Additionally, our internal and external customers now have full and real-time visibility into implementation project status and timelines.”  

Let’s break down the four key requirements surrounding collaborative work management that you should consider to realize similar results:

  1. Process consistency: Every project must have a consistent process ranging from project intake and approval, ongoing task management, time and project information updates and management review and approval. Consistency is important to PMO because it ensures scalability, visibility and transparency while providing the necessary checks and balances for a smooth running program.
  2. Context-aware automation: Automating project, program, and portfolio management processes varies from organization to organization, so contextually aware automation is vital to meet the needs of your business. A collaborative work management solution can help streamline these approvals with comprehensive and rich, rule-based automation.
  3. Real-time visibility: Project reporting and dashboards are critical to understanding where there are blockers at a task level. Knowing where these blockers exist the instant they occur assures your organization that timely decisions can be made and disruptions to projects will be mitigated.
  4. User adoption: Empowering your team with an easy-to-use platform that provides the flexibility to make adjustments to individual project plans results in higher user adoption, better program execution, and faster time to value for your investment.

Bottom line: collaborative work management for PMO delivers business value by mitigating risks associated with manual processes while ensuring corporate program compliance.  

The results?

  • Better informed project teams
  • Enhanced internal and external customer experience
  • Auditable system for your projects, programs and portfolios
  • Faster project and program execution resulting in improved business results

To learn more about PMO collaborative work management and related solutions, contact our team.

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