Benefits of Following PMO Best Practices
Austin Wheelock | October 19, 2016
A Program Management Office (PMO) provides strategic and operational support to IT organizations that deliver technical solutions. At a strategic level, the PMO team works in collaboration with the IT organization to determine where to allocate its limited personnel, financial, and technical assets based on business priorities. At an operational level, PMO best practices are implemented in the areas of Integration Management, Scope Management, Time Management, Cost Management, Quality Management, Human Resource Management, Communications Management, Risk Management, Procurement Management, and Stakeholder Management. This allows for the project management infrastructure to be established through the implementation of project controls, tools, and processes.
Without a dedicated organization focused on providing program management support, organizations run the risk of not effectively managing their program or portfolio health resulting in cost overruns, schedule delays, scope creep, disgruntled customers, and increased oversight. To optimize the likelihood of program success, it’s wise to adhere to PMO best practices, as agencies can benefit in a number of ways. Here are some of the biggest benefits:
Create a cohesive vision
In many organizations, project teams naturally develop their own sets of priorities, budgets, schedules, and communication preferences. As a result, an agency’s leaders often lack a holistic, consistent, and integrated view of their entire portfolio of projects. A strong PMO function gives management a much-needed perspective on all of the agency’s IT projects. A PMO works with an IT organization and its business customers to prioritize IT investments and align them to business needs. One of the key outputs of this collaboration is an IT investment roadmap that enables proactive technology and investment planning. This provides a framework and plan of action for when technical solutions will be developed and capabilities deployed to end users. It also allows for the planning needed to determine the cost of the portfolio and its associated programs, funding sources, resource management, and coordination with internal and external programs where a dependency may exist.
The PMO also implements a structure that allows for repeatable processes for execution and performance monitoring of IT investments. This includes implementing operational controls to increase the program’s success rate. For example, a PMO team will develop a project charter that identifies the scope and governance structure, puts together a staffing plan to identify team members with the right skills, and creates an integrated master schedule to monitor the critical path towards completion. It also establishes a risk register to proactively identify and mitigate obstacles, a change control process to tightly control scope, and a spend plan that ties the program budget to expenses. These operational controls put a structure in place to monitor the program health, while promoting transparency, accountability, communication, and consistency.
A PMO team also helps to respond to time sensitive data inquiries from oversight and governance stakeholders and serves as a buffer to the development teams. On high visible programs, there is a high likelihood of audits, briefings, and program reporting, which require data gathering and presentations. Due to the PMO team’s comprehensive view of the program based on the project controls that have been implemented, the PMO team is best positioned to respond to the data inquires. This allows the development teams to focus on producing the product instead of spending their time on responding to ad hoc data inquires.
Fill in capability gaps
Another benefit of having an effective PMO function is that it brings to bear a variety of skills and capabilities across the organization that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible, to acquire. For example, a program might need assistance in developing a program life cycle cost estimate to determine their budget. This would require specialized skills in the areas of cost estimation, work breakdown structure, and sensitivity analysis. Experienced PMO teams will have the specialized skills that organizations may lack if it is not a core competency within their organization.
Not just another overhead expense
Although a PMO team is not directly involved in developing the technical solution, it serves as an integrator between all technical and non-technical stakeholders through its program management functions. The PMO team is involved in all phases of the project lifecycle to ensure a successful implementation. A strong PMO team works to minimize program risk through the monitoring of the project’s cost, schedule, scope. As noted in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), if any of these constraints are sacrificed, the program’s quality will be impacted resulting in increased project costs and/or schedule delays. Rather than seeing it as simply another layer of bureaucracy or overhead, it’s more accurate to appreciate PMO as a crucial strategy and resource for effective management.