Organizations tend to overlook critical planning, organizational and process requirements when pursuing technology initiatives or other strategic programs. Such initiatives can be extraordinarily complex, involving interrelated projects that need to be well-planned and executed as an integrated program. Many organizations assume that by establishing a program management office (PMO) to oversee an initiative, they can ensure project(s) will be completed on time, on budget and to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. However, by failing to consider the requirements for operating a PMO successfully or identifying individuals with the appropriate skill sets and experience to manage it, the PMO is unlikely to be effective in helping the organization achieve the desired outcome.
A PMO needs to do much more than aggregate and report status. Pain around strategic initiatives typically develops due to lack of a shared vision, inability to articulate direction, lack of alignment as to what the true vision is, or all of the above. Also, the scope, and ultimately the business value, may not be defined clearly and may prove difficult to manage effectively as other challenges and priorities emerge.
Other common pain points include:
- Disjointed communications and ineffective status reporting
- Poor work estimation and resource planning
- Difficulty balancing multiple expectations and priorities of different stakeholders
- Cumbersome mobilization and orientation of team members
- Lack of forward-looking issue and risk management processes
- Inability to recognize and manage change
- Inattention to the quality of work product
Challenges and Opportunities
A PMO is responsible for the centralized control of a group of projects essential to the success of an initiative. The PMO’s leadership defines, plans, implements and integrates a master project plan for these streams of work, identifying all interdependencies as well as critical risks and issues related to the project. The PMO also ensures that processes and tools are in place for keeping project-related communication accessible and up-to-date.
With an effective and well-organized PMO, organizations are better positioned to achieve project objectives, reduce risk, realize cost savings and avoid budget overruns. They also can identify opportunities for improving efficiency and communication among project groups more quickly, and ultimately help to facilitate learning and knowledge transfer throughout the organization. And just as important, a successfully run PMO can instill in management the confidence to undertake other important strategic initiatives that may otherwise be viewed as risky due to time and resource constraints.
Our Point of View
Without question, a well-planned and organized PMO can drive key initiatives to successful completion, on time and within budget, without overly taxing organizational resources. Keys to establishing and running a strong PMO include:
- A clear vision – why the program is necessary and expected value that is agreed upon and communicated throughout the organization before work begins
- The implementation of protocols and tools that will provide consistent, effective status and other communication to all project stakeholders
- An effective governance and reporting structure for scheduling, status reporting, and repeatable, standardized project management reporting processes
- Processes for efficiently procuring and managing the resources necessary to complete the effort (fiscal resources, human resources, physical assets)
- Definition and management of all touch points, including project teams, management, business users, consultants and other corporate initiatives
- Avoiding “analysis paralysis” by mobilizing and deploying PMO processes rapidly and incrementally
- Providing quality management and subject-matter expertise to monitor compliance with applicable standards and assess the quality of the work product
PMOs that are effective in procuring, mobilizing and ramping up project resources to full productivity can “get out of the gate fast” and increase their likelihood for success. This may involve the PMO becoming involved in such details as:
- Arranging backfills for project resources who need to be relieved of other day-to-day responsibilities
- Understanding procurement policies and processes in order to obtain and mobilize contract resources
- Providing orientation and training for PMO team members
- Facilitating sharing of “best practices” between the various teams involved in the effort
How We Help Companies Succeed
Protiviti’s PMO experts not only deliver an independent external viewpoint and project management expertise, but also work with an organization’s defined structure and utilize principles such as those promoted by the Project Management Institute. We help organizations identify key risks, improve communication and reporting processes, meet deadlines, and ramp projects and staffing up or down, as needed. Our experts have a proven record of bringing an integrated yet flexible approach to project and program management, adapting quickly to changing requirements while preserving momentum and focus, and applying strategic thinking across an organization and multiple initiatives.
Protiviti was engaged by the brokerage unit of a leading financial institution to establish program management operations to meet a mission-critical merger deadline. More than 130 people were involved with the initiative, including more than 70 contractors who needed to be onboarded. The rapidly changing environment and disparate sources of information across the organization’s intranet were making it highly difficult for new resources to navigate the organization and understand relevant technology tools and methodologies.
Protiviti worked with the financial institution to implement standard PMO processes consistent with the tools and expectations of the enterprise. Our responsibilities included managing budgets and staffing across workstreams; defining a clear resource management process to aggregate needs and expedite contractor hiring; and mobilizing other PMO processes.
As a result of Protiviti’s efforts, the various project teams were able to deliver critical technology capabilities on time in support of the merger integration effort. In addition, the processes and metrics that were developed brought attention to the fact that certain teams had significantly overstated their resource requirements. Thus, while more than 70 contractors were used on the project, the PMO helped avoid the expense and effort associated with procuring and onboarding an additional 50 temporary resources that originally were planned.