Boo! For our Halloween blog, a couple of PMO people in our network have decided to come up with our top 5 PMO nightmares….. If you have others, please feel free to comment below (we would love to hear from you)
1. Projects changing without the PMO made aware
Arguably, the PMO has lost control. All projects are all based on estimates, and these estimates can be wrong and therefore subject to change. It’s a matter of how much change is allowed to happen within the project without the involvement of formal decision making to agree a ‘new estimate’.
Every project should have a baseline. The baseline is a snap shot of the project estimate at a point in time which the project can be measured against. Usually the baseline is for time, cost, and quality, but could also include scope and benefits.
The PMO should hold this information for the project early on in the delivery lifecycle, with the PMO requesting the project to be reported in the same way each week / month against this ‘baseline’. It still amazes me when I work with some PMO’s and they don’t have a standard list of all the projects in that department, or the estimated budget and milestones that a project is delivering too. At least if the PMO holds this information centrally, they can report if projects are changing, even if the changes have not been approved.
Ultimately, the PMO should be business driven, ensuring the projects are aligned to strategic objectives, and therefore the project should have the scope, costs, benefits etc all held as a baseline for the organisation; if the project is found to have changed, the PMO should have the appropriate governance to escalate changes to plan.
2. Project Managers not reporting on time and wrong format or quality
There are two reasons for this, the first being that project managers do not see the value, and the second is the reporting takes extra effort.
PMO’s should keep reporting simple, and approach the task as ‘once and done’. Many Project Managers (PM) have a Project Board or Steering Group which they generate a report for, and then a PM also has a PMO requesting a report (which are aggregated across multiple projects). The biggest mistake a PMO could make is asking a PM to report to the Project Board in one format, and then fill in a different template for the PMO.
PMO’s should devise one format for both scenarios, and keep it very simple. The highlight report should cover the basics of information that stakeholders need to make effective decisions. The report should be a blend of past and future (more weighted towards the future) information and activity, and not a report of justifying what was done last week / month. The clue is in the title ‘highlight’, and not detailed report; Keep the reports simple, and to be used for discussion and decisions.
PMO’s should take time to engage with Project Manager’s and show them how and when the PM’s information is used. If PM’s are aware of the senior audience that PMO can engage with, most PM’s will ensure that their reports are of the highest standard.
3. Compiling Board Reports
Copy and Paste does not add value! When designing Board reports, ensure there are 3 key things a PMO should have set up:
– First is an agreement from the Chair and Stakeholders on the type of information they need to see so they can enact effective decision making. The PMO may need to make suggestions, but, at least there is the agreement upfront
– Second, devise reporting templates which can be easily aggregated from many projects. Excel is usually the tool of choice for most here, and a PMO can temporarily employ someone who can create a macro which aggregates up the various project reporting templates, ultimately removing the need to copy and paste. The long term aim should be to move to some form of Enterprise Project / Portfolio software. In either of these situations, the PMO should be clear on what information is required and from where, and when.
– Last, a month end process; don’t let others drama, become the PMO’s crisis. It should be clear to all who are responsible for producing reports, to understand the deadlines. A month end process can be very simple and effective. The PMO can produce a calendar for the year showing when project reports etc are due into the PMO, then when the PMO will aggregate and challenge, until cascading the report out to the senior leadership audience.
4. People not following the process or lifecycle
A clear lifecycle for all projects to follow is the backbone of effective organisational delivery. The Governance is the muscle that wraps around the backbone and makes it move.
Governance is critical to ensuring a lifecycle is effective and followed. Depending on the industry and project capability of the organisation a PMO operates within, depends on the level of adherence and discipline that should be followed by all.
If a lifecycle is created e.g. Design Build, Test, Implement… each phase should have the baseline view of costs, milestones, scope etc, and then report against this baseline at the appropriate governance meeting where changes to plans can be approved or rejected.
5. Lack of interest and decisions by Sponsors
This links back to the 3rd point on board reports. Agreeing what the Sponsors want to see is critical; but, this can also be an art form.
Understanding how the sponsors like to see information will create more interest, but also ensuring that there is a greater emphasis of the future (what will happen next) seems to get more interest.
The information should be presented as if it was telling a story. It starts with a single piece of data, that on its own doesn’t mean much, because it has nothing to be compared against. So, the PMO took another piece of data and put the two side by side to create information; now we can compare and make a judgement on is this good or bad news? Finally the PMO (with their good friends the project managers) played over some knowledge onto the information, explaining what the information was telling them.
Producing a single piece of data on its own can be frustrating; leaders will ask ‘what is this telling me?’…. keeping interest usually means ‘be brief, be bright, and be gone’. Highlighting a 30 mph speed limit on its own doesn’t tell us anything, play over that we are going at 100 mph in a 30 mph zone is not good news, then say that if we don’t slow down, we are at an extremely high risk of crashing and someone will get hurt; we need to take action….. Now it’s interesting.
There are many more nightmares out there, maybe, if your PMO is having many nightmares, maybe it’s time to look at the purpose of your PMO, and ask, what problem is the PMO trying to resolve?…. then define what should the PMO do….. and it would be great to hear from you all…. sweet dreams… mwha ha ha har