From the Influencers

5 Ways for PMOs to Give Back

December 07, 2015
By Special Guest
Tushar Patel, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Innotas -

The holidays are a great time to take a step back and reflect on the year.  With #GivingTuesday just a few days ago and an inspiration to give back to our communities, we thought it would fun to cover ways the PMO can give back to their internal community – the organization.

PMOs are constantly giving back to their organizations, as you start to think about 2016, here are the top things to consider adding to the list:

1 – Adding More Business Value

If there is one thing a PMO can do to help themselves and their organizations, it’s to focus on adding more business value. Too often project management professionals focus on the output of their efforts, and not on their outcomes. For example, focusing on project completion or hitting project milestones – while all of these are great and necessary metrics to track, they do not do much in the way of assessing the impact your efforts made on the organization or the business as a whole.

The first step is to develop an agreed upon way to quantify the value of their projects. The most common form of measurement is scoring. By implementing project-level scoring, you enable your organization to assess that project’s value with respect to other activities. This will lead to better decision making and focus towards the highest value work. Scoring works well with all organizations regardless of maturity because scoring can be configured to fit your specific culture, goals, and process. By including all stakeholders in the scoring process, you will have a weighted score that best represents the organization’s perceived value of the project.

2 – Better Portfolio Planning

Many PMOs are great at execution of project work. This should not come as a surprise; in fact, 66 percent of business leaders and stakeholders believe PMOs should be focused on successful delivery of projects and portfolios – summed up as execution. This is a very traditional way of looking at the PMO. Doing what the business “asks” is historically how PMOs have operated. The PMO of the future will give back to their organization in the way of more predictable outcomes through better portfolio planning.

Planning is critical as it points your execution (and resources) in the right direction before hitting the “go” button. Your organization will naturally have healthy debates as to what should and should not be worked and why versus just accepting whatever is thrown over the fence. Many times execution fails because of poor planning or lack of justification from the get go. When organizations do not plan, they often end up over-extending resources, taking on new projects before older projects are completed, having lower project success, and making commitments that cannot be met. Here are three ways PMOs can give back to their organizations through planning:

  • Maximize overall value contribution by prioritizing the portfolio of projects
  • Optimize resources to ensure they are working on the right work, and not the next work
  • Accurately forecast the project portfolio roadmap and timelines

3 – Helping Finance with Actuals

Several “love-hate” relationships naturally develop in organizations – marketing and sales, engineering and product management, developers and QA. The newest one to add to this mix is the PMO and Finance. Finance professionals are always looking for more accurate data, especially financial data, that they can use as part of project and investment accounting. The challenge is always getting actuals from PMOs as they typically provide estimated data and do not have accurate cost accounting for projects. One way for PMOs to give back to their finance teams is to collect project actuals from team members through time tracking. While on the surface it may seem challenging due to team member push-back, there are ways to help the organization understand the value of tracking time.  Here are a few ways that actuals give back to finance:

  • Provide an accurate return on investment (ROI) of projects
  • Enable capitalization of labor costs
  • Accurate chargebacks and billing
  • Support meeting compliance or regulatory requirements

4 – Signal Resource Gaps and Forecast Headcount

It’s pretty well undisputed that most organizations have a bottleneck around resources or headcount to complete all of the work that is being requested. I have never heard of an organization that said “we have plenty of team members to get the work done, resources are not an issue.” One of the biggest challenges for management is to accurately forecast or predict the resource needs of the organization 3, 6, or even 12 months in advance. However, many PMOs are in a position to assess resource gaps but do not always communicate the data due to political or cultural concerns. The concern is that your PMO may look like it is complaining or looking for an excuse why certain initiatives are not on-time or on-budget. PMOs have the opportunity to take a leadership position and communicate what is required to accomplish organizational goals.

By taking a look at the entire portfolio of projects, PMOs can give back to their organizations in the following ways:

  • Providing a forecast of resource needs by role
  • Identifying where potential future bottlenecks may arise
  • Developing a hiring plan for success
  • Communicating what more could be done if specific resources were hired and when

For some organizations, these may seem challenging or unrealistic – it is worthwhile to research what project portfolio management (PPM) can do to help. By making a small investment in a PPM solution, PMOs are empowered to provide this level of detail to their organizations.

5 – Provide More Visibility to Stakeholders 

PMOs are typically chartered with planning and execution of the organization’s most important initiatives. Why? Because PMOs are trusted to get the job done. This reputation can cause some PMOs to place reduced emphasis on communicating status, risks, and milestones with their stakeholders. If things are under control (whether they are on track or not), it is easy to fall into the trap of working the problem rather than communicating its status. Often we also think that “no news is good news” or worried that we will draw unnecessary attention to a project. Why worry stakeholders with a small setback when you are confident everything will be on track next week? These are all valid concerns.

There is a fine line between communicating everything and being proactive. However, in general most stakeholders feel that there is not enough communication from their PMO. For example, in the same Gartner survey, 80 percent of business leaders believe PMOs should communicate the status of projects and programs. However, only 33 percent felt that their PMOs are doing it. This is one of the largest disconnects between the business and PMOs. Considering giving back to your organization by providing more visibility into your projects and programs. Here are some of the benefits of doing so:

  • Enables business leaders to help solve problems
  • Bridges the divide the PMO and the business by making them part of the team
  • Elevates the perception of the PMO and the reputation
  • Reduces sole blame on the PMO when things go south

There is a right time and place for communicating status of your initiatives, but in general PMOs will see the benefits through enhanced collaboration and conversation with the business.

Reflecting back on how we supported the organization through 2015 is important and will enable your PMO to make positive changes heading into 2016. Consider some of the ways you can give back to the business to improve the relationships with key stakeholders, make a bigger impact, and enhance the perception of your PMO.

Tushar Patel is currently Senior Vice President of Marketing at Innotas, a leading provider of Cloud Portfolio Management solutions that delivers a seamless way to manage projects, resources and applications across the enterprise.  Tushar holds a BSEE from Santa Clara University and a MBA from The Haas School of Business, University of CA, Berkeley. Contact Tushar at [email protected]

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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