PMO Reporting Framework

A very important role of a project management office is to provide visibility of the status of all projects for which it has oversight.  This is typically achieved through the mechanism of a PMO reporting framework.

This information is often used to update many stakeholders, many who will hold senior management positions.  Therefore, it very important that the information is clear, concise and accurate.

Purpose of PMO reporting framework

In view of the importance of the data, it is important for the PMO to take the lead in creating a reporting framework to ensure that all reports are produced to the same set of standards and that there is a robust, efficient process to consolidate the date so as to produce an accurate, professional management report.

Approach

It is important that there is a mechanism to roll-up the project data from each project in a standard way to generate the summary reports.  This is achieved through 4 steps:

Step 1 – Project Reporting

This is the process of each project producing a status report for their project.  This is the most popular approach for reporting the current status, highlight areas of concern, etc.  This will include the capture of any sub-work streams.

Step 2 – Review

The report must be reviewed and signed-off by the project manager before submission.  If possible, the report should also be agreed with the project sponsor.

The PMO should then review the submissions to make sure that they are complete, make sense and to challenge.  Part of the check is that the project has followed the defined reporting standards.

Checking the consistency to standards is very important.  Senior management need to be able to trust the reports.  They can only do this if they have confidence in the quality of the reports.

Step 3 – Consolidation

When the reports are reviewed, updated where required, and agreed, the PMO need to consolidate the project data.  This allows data to be compared, reviewed and prepare it ready to be inserted into the management report.

Step 4 – Management report

The consolidated data is used to populate an overall summary report.  This will present the key metrics and will quickly identify areas of concern and where action is required.

Diagram showing PMO reporting roll upPMO Reporting Framework

Tools and templates

There are a number of tools and templates that are used to support the reporting framework.

Project Report Template

This is a standard template to be used by all projects to report status on a periodic basis.

Consolidation Templates

This is used to take data elements from each of the project templates so that the data can be quickly and efficiently consolidated.  For example, capturing all finance data to enable the production of overall progress against budget data.  Using a defined consolidation process will help reduce errors and enable the process to be documented.

Management Report

This is used to present the consolidated data in a clear and concise format.  For example, steering committee report.

Reporting Calendar

It is important that data can be compared in a consistent manner.  Therefore, it is important that all projects produce their reports based on the same reporting schedule.  This is achieved via a reporting calendar that publishes reporting cycles so everyone is clear on when reports need to be submitted and the cut-off date for the report.  Read more about reporting calendars.

Reporting Standards

While the templates are the mechanism for reporting, at the centre are the reporting standards.  This defines how the reporting process will work including definitions and values for the different data elements i.e. definition of the RAG status thresholds.

Summary

The PMO Reporting Framework is the tools and processes that define and support the complete reporting process.  The purpose is to allow the efficient roll-up of data so as to produce professional, accurate (trusted) management reports.

You may want to look at my other posts covering different aspects of reporting such as PMO Dashboard.

Example questions and answers for a PMO role

Example PMO interview questions and answersThe last post, covered the typical challenges to someone trying to secure a project management role and actions to take to address the challenges, view blog post.  If you have tailored your CV and it has passed the HR filter, you hopefully will have secured an interview.  This is great news.  Now it is important that you prepare yourself so as to present yourself as well as possible.  Before going into some example interview questions for a PMO role, I just wanted to provide a couple of general pointers that will help.

General interview tips

  • Make sure you know the information of who you will be meeting
  • Confirm date / time / address
  • Look up the address and make sure you know where it is (conduct test run if necessary)
  • Make sure you allow enough time to get to the interview (especially where public transport / driving is involved)
  • Smart dress (dry cleaned & pressed)
  • Take note pad and pen
  • Take spare copies of your CV
  • Research organisation (Internet)
  • Research interviewer (LinkedIn)

 

Specific interview questions for a PMO role

What is your understanding of a PMO?

The interviewer will want to make sure that you have a good understanding of what a PMO is.  Therefore, it is critical that you know the answer.

Make it clear that PMO’s can take many forms depending on the objectives of the organisation.  However, the PMO will be a function or department in an organisation to drive the standardisation of tools and processes for project delivery.

What do you consider the primary objectives of a PMO?

This is designed to test that you have a view on what an organisation wants to achieve by implementing / having a PMO.

Objective should be to provide transparency and visibility of the status of projects by implementing tools and standards.  The PMO should be the trusted source of this data so that senior management can be confident that the information is accurate and timely allowing them to take the required action.

What are the benefits of a PMO?

This is testing that you understand what benefits a PMO will deliver to an organisation.

By implementing practical and pragmatic tools and processes, this should ensure that all projects are executed to the same standard.  This will help ensure that all important steps of project execution are completed and allow risks and issues to be quickly identified and escalated.  Doing this will improve the probability of the successful outcome of each project.

How would you start to implement a PMO?

This is a popular question if you are going for a lead role in a PMO.  The interviewer wants to see that you have a clear plan on how to plan the implementation of a PMO.

Always good to start by saying that an environment scan will be conducted to understand current tools / processes, identify what is working (and what is not working well), etc.  Ensure that this is not made to sound like a long, bureaucratic process.

Based on the output of the scan, focus will be on core functions like:

  • Standardising / improving reporting
  • Focus on standard risk / issue ratings
  • Check to ensure all risks / issues / actions being managed
  • Review cost data – ensure visibility
  • Ensuring robust plans are in place
  • Key documents being stored

Then the next phase being to:

  • Ensure governance is in place
  • Change control
  • Benefit management
  • Dependency management

Then as the PMO has bedded down:

  • Quality assurance
  • Active challenge of projects

How would you gain support for the PMO?

It is quite common for there to be resistance to the implementation of a PMO.  This checks to see how you will win the support of the stakeholders so as to make the PMO a success.

Focus on identifying key stakeholders.  Setting up meetings to understand their requirements, concerns, problems, etc.  Credentialize yourself by talking about previous experience – demonstrate you can add value when it comes to delivery.

Discus your plans for the PMO.  Ask for their feedback.  Iterate design.

This is a good approach and will show that you know building relationships through face to face meetings is critical.

What services should a PMO provide?

This can test skills and understanding at all role levels.

For junior roles the services would be consolidation of regular reporting (status, RAID’s, costs, etc) and production of management report.  Providing support to the project teams and sponsor.

You then can expand into higher value services such as change control, dependency tracking, etc.

Then at the senior end, owning the change agenda, mentoring project managers, pro-active drive of change agenda, etc.

What would a successful PMO look like?

This tests that you have a clear idea what the end state will look like and the benefits it will provide and, importantly, to show how it is a success.

A PMO will be successful if it has implemented tools and processes that are easy to use with minimum overhead, while providing visibility and transparency.

The PMO should be the trusted partner to senior management and project teams.  Project managers should feel comfortable, actively seek the input of the PMO to help with issues.

Metrics will show that projects are mobilised quicker, reduced time projects report Amber or Red and improvement in the number of projects that deliver in line with the business case.

Summary

Of course there will be other questions that will be asked.  However, ensuring you are comfortable answering questions around the themes above will help ensure you are prepared for similar questions.

Action you can take to secure a role in a PMO

Picture of an interviewIt is becoming more popular to look from a career working within project management office’s (PMO’s).  However, it can be difficult for those working outside of this vocation to secure a role.  This article aims to help by providing insights to the challenges and how they can be addressed.

Typical challenges

This can be a problem for a number of reason’s including:

You may have never worked in a PMO and want to secure your first position.  This means you will not have had the opportunity to gain the necessary experience and understanding.

Not having the practical, “hand’s on” experience will mean that your CV (resume) will not highlight the skills.  Therefore, when this is reviewed there will be no skill match.  Most organizations use their human resources (HR) function to filter CV’s or even an external recruitment agency.  As part of the role brief the person recruiter will detail the types of skills and experience they need.  So when HR, the recruiters apply this filter they will quickly reject CV’s (especially when there is a large volume of applicants).

A common route to a path working in a project management office is where an existing employee who is working in project delivery is asked to take on a role in a PMO.  As such this may not involve having to pass an interview.  It may mean that you do not know what type of questions will be asked in a formal interview and, depending on role, may not have had time to expand your understanding and learning.

Action you can take

Review your CV

This advice applies for any role.  Your CV should be up to date, be succinct, highlight relevant experience and well written.

Tailor your CV

It is also important to tailor the CV for the job for which you are applying.  I have spoken to a number of recruiters and it is surprising that there are many candidates who do not make the effort to tailor their CV for the role.

Take time to review the job specification that has been issued.  Gain a good understanding of what is required.  Then think about your own experience and where it is related to what is being asked for on the job specification.

For example, you may not have worked in a PMO and consolidated reports.  However, you may have had experience of preparing a project report taking inputs from sub workstreams, business and IT, etc.  This can be presented as experience in reviewing and consolidating project reporting.

If you have worked in a line role and have helped provide the submission to reports, review reports, etc then highlight this experience.

Don’t tailor too much

You need to be careful not to try to make experience fit when it does not.  This will be exposed in an interview and, if by some random chance, you secure the role, there is a risk you will not have the skills and this may not end well.

Use the same terms and language as job specification

Make sure that you use a similar language and terms to the job specification as this will help the experience to be picked up by HR / recruiters during the filter process.  Then if the CV is passed through to the person recruiting there is more chance they will notice this points when they review the CV.  There is also the added bonus that, if you secure an interview, they will ask further questions on these points on your CV (just make sure you are prepared).

Secure a PMO role in your current organization

If you are currently working in an organization that has a PMO, then it will be easier to try to move into the role than moving externally.  Take time to find out who works in the PMO.  Approach them and offer to buy them coffee as you would like their advice / insights to working in a PMO.  Most people will be more than happy to share their thoughts with someone taking an interest.

As you build the relationship, you can ask more questions and make it clear that you would like the opportunity to move into PMO work and ask for their guidance.  Then if a role comes up, you should have an advocate who will support your application.

Build / use your network

You can also build an external network via LinkedIn.  This is the social network platform choice of professionals.  You should look to connect with PMO practitioner’s – just don’t approach with “I want to add you to my professional network, please give me a job”.  You need to spend time developing the relationship.

You should also link to the dedicated PMO Groups.  Here you will find a number of topics being discussed for both beginners and experts alike.

Invest in training

There are many resources available.  If you want to explore or follow a career in the world of PMO’s, take time to invest in yourself by reading helpful articles, books, online videos, training, etc.  This will ensure that you have a good understanding of project management office’s such as:

  • What is a PMO
  • Purpose / objectives
  • Benefit
  • Models
  • Set-up
  • Metrics

Summary

Working in the PMO field is very rewarding and satisfying.  To give yourself the best chance to overcome the challenges to entry:

  • Review your CV and update
  • Tailor your CV to the job (but don’t over do it)
  • Secure a role in the PMO for your current organization
  • Build your internal and external network with PMO practitioner’s
  • Invest in yourself through training

You will find many useful articles on the pmmajik.com website that addresses many of the important aspects of a PMO.

The next post will cover the typical questions and, more importantly the answers, to popular PMO interview questions.

Project management office deployment checklist

project tick listIn order to deploy / implement a project management office, you need to have a structured approach to ensure that all the right steps are completed when required.  If not there is a risk that an important step will be missed that will then impact the roll-out of the PMO.  Not the first impression you will want for your stakeholders.  Think about it, one of the benefits of a PMO is to standardise project delivery by using tools and processes – not good for credibility if standards don’t help the deployment of the PMO!

So as to avoid making this type of mistake, it is important to create a PMO Deployment Checklist.  This will allow all of the important tasks to be captured and then monitored to ensure that they are completed.

What is a PMO Deployment Checklist?

 

PMO deployment checklist

Quite simply it is a check list of all the tasks that need to be completed, very similar to the “To Do” lists that many people jot down onto a piece of paper, tap into a tablet, etc each day.

While you can create your deployment checklist using pen and paper, I would not recommend this (even though there is nothing quite as satisfying as drawing a line through a completed task).  The checklist should be created in a format that makes it easy to update and share – popular choices being a word processor document or spreadsheet.

What tasks to include?

Before covering tasks, it is important to clarify that deployment is focused on the deployment of the PMO processes not the construction and staffing of the PMO.

The tasks will vary depending on the need of each organisation.  However, a good structure for capturing the tasks would be under the following headings:

  • Preparation
  • Plan
  • Communication
  • Training
  • Publish
  • Business As Usual (BAU)

1. Preparation

Before starting the deployment activities, it is important that all of the design and mobilisation steps for the PMO have been completed.  The checklist should contain tasks such as the following:

  • Signed-off objectives
  • Signed-off mission and vision statement
  • Signed-off design principles
  • Signed-off PMO charter
  • Signed-off PMO organisation structure
  • Filled all critical PMO roles to enable deployment
  • Agreed standards – tools and processes
  • Agreed governance

2. Plan

The deployment can not all take place at the same time, some tasks will have dependencies on others.  All of the deployment tasks should be sequenced in a plan to give a timeline, idea of effort, etc.

The plan will also be an important for the communication of the deployment plan.  To make it easy for stakeholders to understand, consider a milestone or, even better, a roadmap view.  This will then provide an easy to understand view of the deployment.

As this will need to be updated, this suits being developed in a spreadsheet or even project planning software.  My preference is a spreadsheet so that it can be easily inserted into presentations.

3. Communication

Very important step!

To make the deployment a success you will need engagement and support from different stakeholders.  Sponsor, senior management, project managers, PMO team, etc.  People will engage better if they know what is going on.  Nobody likes the feeling of not being included / consulted in a process.  If someone does not feel they have been engaged they will only provide the minimum level of support, usually less.

Avoid this by ensuring that there is regular communication with all stakeholders.  Share approach, proposed timelines, etc.  Take feedback and make adjustments until the majority of stakeholders have agreed (note: there is always a risk that not everyone will be supportive so don’t think you need to include a 100% of feedback, etc.

Communication should be an ongoing activity.

4. Training

Often overlooked.

The deployment of a PMO will usually mean you are asking stakeholders, especially project teams, to do something different i.e. new templates, processes, etc.  While the templates may be simple and logical to the PMO team, you are coming from a base of acquired knowledge during the development process.  You know why they have been designed the way they have and for what purpose.

If the PMO is to be a success you need to ensure that the users have the same understanding.  Make sure that you have a training plan to spend time with the key users to ensure that they understand the tools and processes.  It will allow them to ask questions and, perhaps raise items, you have missed.

5. Publish (Deployment)

This is the action of issuing the tools, processes, guides, etc to the different stakeholders.  Make sure that you reach all of the users and that they know where templates, etc are stored and where to get help.

If there is a large number of users you should consider a phased roll-out.  You may also want to consider using a pilot to ensure that the tools and processes work as required as you want to know any issues before rolling-out to a large user base.

6. Business As Usual (BAU)

Deploying the PMO is the first major step in the journey.  To make the PMO successful, the tools and processes need to be used by everyone in the same way.  This allows the benefit of standardisation.

There will typically be recognised reporting cycles i.e. senior management need a monthly management report.  So the aim over the first couple of months is to get the routines running smoothly so that the reports are submitted on time by the project teams, fast review / consolidation to allow the publication of a meaningful management report.

Summary

In order to successfully deploy a PMO:

  • ·         Make sure all the prep work is complete
  • ·         Create a roll-out plan
  • ·         Communicate the roll-out plan, tools, processes, etc
  • ·         Adjust for feedback
  • ·         Provide training
  • ·         Deploy (using phasing and pilot where appropriate)

·         Establish BAU routine as quickly as possible

What is the difference between project and PMO templates?

If you search the Internet you will see a number of websites that feature project templates, PMO templates or both.  You may find that a page is titled PMO Templates, however upon visiting the page it then contains project templates.  Other descriptions seen maybe PMO Project Templates.  This can be very confusing, especially to someone new to PMO’s who is searching for an explanation of “what PMO templates are?”  Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to publish an article that answers this question.

Important

Before going into the differences it is important to understand the following principle:

  • There is no simple definition of if a template is for use by the PMO or by the project teams.  Every template should be used in a way that helps support the objectives of the organisation.

So keep in mind that it is not possible for all templates to mark as either PMO or project, many can be used by both.  However, saying that, it is possible to identify who would be the primary user in most cases.

 Purpose of Templates

To set some context to this article, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on the purpose of templates.  The purpose is to standardise the approach to project delivery across the organisation.  The use of templates helps to ensure that all project data is captured in the same format using the same criteria.  This means that it is made much easier for the data to be captured, formatted, reviewed, compared and reported in a way where there is common understanding.

Simple Definition of Project Templates

These are the templates used by the project teams to manage the execution and reporting of the project.  Other teams will use the same templates but only for their own project.  There is no consolidation of data.

Simple Definition of PMO Templates

These are the templates used by the PMO to capture and consolidate the data from a number of projects, programmes or work streams.

Difference Between Project & PMO Templates

Based on the above, the simple difference is that the project templates are used to manage the project, the PMO templates are used to consolidate data.  There will always be exceptions, for example the project teams and PMO will have a communication plan and should use the same communication plan template.  There may also be instances where a large project has a number of work streams, in this case the project team will use tools to consolidate data from the work streams to produce overall project reporting.  However, while simplistic, this simple difference is a good principle.

Project PMO template flow

Difference between project and PMO templates

Typical Core Project Templates

  • Milestone / Project Plan
  • Cost Planner / Tracker
  • Benefit Planner / Tracker
  • Benefit Realisation
  • Risk Register
  • Assumptions Register
  • Issues Register
  • Dependencies Register
  • Project Report
  • Change Request
  • Change Request Register
  • Resource Planner / Tracker

Typical PMO Templates

  • PMO Milestone Chart
  • Cost Consolidation
  • Benefit Consolidation
  • RAIDs Consolidation
  • Programme / Portfolio Report (Dashboard)
  • Change Request Consolidation Register
  • Resource Consolidation

Shared Templates

  • Communication Plan
  • Planning Rates
  • RAG Definitions
  • Procurement Management
  • Document Storage

There are many other templates.  However, the above represent the core templates that are needed to set-up a working framework for project teams and a PMO.  Others can then be added as and when required.

Summary

  • Templates should be used to standardise and organise data.
  • The main difference between project and PMO templates is that the project templates are used for managing a project, the PMO templates are used to consolidate data so as to conduct analysis and produce meaningful management reporting.
  • An organisation should allow the best use of the templates to meet objectives.

If you would like more information on how templates can help, you may be interested in the information on the Project Template page.

Project risk management

he post How to identify project risks, covered a number of techniques to identify risks.  Like with most things in project management, management of project risks is not a “one-off” event that you complete, tick the box and then file.  In order to effectively manage risk, you must have active project risk management.

In order to do this, there are a number of steps the project team and PMO must complete on a continuous basis throughout the life of the a project.

1. Capture Risks

If you have invested time in identifying risks that could impact the delivery of a project, it is important that they are accurately captured and recorded.  The tool for this is the Risk Register.

The PMO should provide the risk register as this ensures that all of the risks across multiple projects will be captured using the same format.  This makes it much easier to compare risks on a like for like basis.  It also helps with the filtering a consolidation of risks so those requiring urgent attention are quickly highlighted.

Example project risk register templateProject Risk Register Template

2. Risk Value

All risks are not born equal – some will have a much bigger impact on a project than others.  Therefore, it is important that there is a standard approach for evaluating and valuing risk.

The PMO should take the lead by defining a clear and simple criteria for evaluating the probability and impact of a risk.  This ensures that the same criteria can be applied across multiple projects so that those that have the highest value can be quickly identified.

3. Regular Risk Review

Following the above 2 steps will mean that each project has a register of their risks.  The project manager should review the risks, ideally with other project team members, on a weekly basis.  A good place to do this is part of a regular project working group or team meeting.

The focus should be on all of the high value risks and those that are close or passed their target close dates.  Each one should be reviewed, updated or closed.

4. PMO Risk Reviews

In  similar way to the project teams reviewing the risks, the PMO should run extracts of the risk data looking for outstanding risks, those that have not been updated and the high value risks, to ensure action is being taken.  A good approach is for the PMO to have a regular catch-up with the project manager to discus risks.  If the PMO has sufficient resource, they could even attend the weekly project risk meeting to hear the updates first hand, provide help and challenge (not all project managers like this).

5. Risk Mitigation

There may be some high value risks with a high probability where it makes sense to take mitigating action i.e. a rented HR computer system is being placed by an internal system to provide new tax functionality for payroll.  There is a high probability that the internal system will be 3 months late.  The project manager may recommend that the contract on the rented system is extended 3 months.  If the internal system is delivered on time, the organisation has paid for 3 months additional rental.  However, the cost far outweighs the risk of not being able to process payroll.

Risk mitigation is a tricky area as, like with insurance, no one really wants to pay for it.  Therefore, a compelling case must be put together for any mitigation.  The clearer the case, especially the impact, the more chance of achieving sponsor support.  Where ever possible translate the impact into £, $, etc as this makes it real to the sponsor.

In summary

  • Clearly capture all risks in a standard format
  • Value risks using a standard criteria
  • Risk management is active and continuous
  • Mitigate high impact risk with a high probability

How to identify project risks

PMO Risk Identification

If you was to ask project managers or PMO practitioners what are the common causes for project failures you would probably get responses such as “scope creep”, “incorrect estimates”, “late delivery of functionality” and many more.  What these and the other causes will have in common is that they are all issues that have impacted the project.  However, it is important to recognise that all of the issues would have come from a risk.

Given the impact that risks can have on a project, it is understandable why most seasoned project managers are passionate about managing risks.  The logic is simple, if you can identify and actively manage the risks, this reduces the probability that they will become issues that impact the project.  This means that the identification and management of risks is a very good use of the project managers and PMO’s time.  Unfortunately, not all sponsors, stakeholders or even project managers understand this.

I have met project managers who enjoy nothing more than being in the middle of complex issues, acting as Red Adair putting out fires.  Part of this is that they think this is how a project manager should spend their time.  I also think it is because they like the praise they get when they solve the problem.

I have a different perspective on this.  If a project manager is not managing their risks and letting them become issues or, even worse, have no visibility of risks and the first they know is when the issue has happened, instead of praise management should be asking them why they let it happen.  Yes there will always be issues.  However, being prepared and managing the communication to stakeholders demonstrates the project manager is in control and will normally result in the issue having less impact.

The problem

Unfortunately many project teams do not take the time to identify and actively manage risks on an ongoing basis.  This is due to no independent oversight to make sure that risk management is taking place and / or a lack of understanding on how to set about the identification of risks.

The solution

The PMO can take an active roll in helping the management of risks by:

  • Defining tools and processes for Risk management
  • Providing oversight that risks are being identified and managed
  • Educating sponsors, stakeholders and project teams in risk management

You can find out more information on risks tools and templates in the  post PMO Tools – Risk, Assumption, Issue, Dependency Management.

The following ideas can be used by the PMO to help educate on how risks can be identified.

Planning Assumptions

If a business case and plan has been produced by the project team, it is likely that they will have had to make assumptions ahead of detailed analysis.  These assumptions will present varying degrees of risk to the project.  Therefore, each planning assumption should be reviewed and assessed for level of risk.

Risk Workshop

A great way to generate a list of potential risks is by running a risk workshop for the project team.  It is also sensible to invite any other participants who have knowledge in the area of the project and will have insight to potential risks.  If somebody has managed a similar project, ask them to join.  You should also take information that will help i.e. the planning assumptions.

During the session ensure everyone contributes their thoughts on potential risks.  Ensure each one is written on the white board / flip chart for every one to see.  It is common while participants review the list that they then think of other risks.

As the meeting progresses, explore, consolidate and develop the risks to reach consensus on impact and possible mitigation’s.

Sponsor / Stakeholders

You may not be able to get sponsors / stakeholders to attend the risk workshop.  Therefore, make sure you set aside time to meet with them to get their input on risks.  It is a good idea to do this after you have run the risk workshop so you can show what has been captured so far.  This will help the discussion and demonstrate the work you have done.

Previous Projects

If your organisation has executed similar projects and / or an employee has completed a similar project at another organisation, spending time with them to understand what risks / issues impacted the delivery is very valuable.  This will be based on a real life situation so a higher chance of repeat.  Knowing this up front could result in saving a lot of time.

Tracking

The outputs of these different sessions should be captured into the recognised risk template.  Then, most importantly, the project manager must review the risks on a regular basis with the team, taking action to mitigate so as to protect the delivery of the project.

In summary

Actively identifying and managing risks is critical to minimise the impact on the delivery of a project.  The PMO can add value by providing tools / templates, education, support and ensuring that all projects are managing their risks.

PMO tips – 5 actions for a PMO to quickly add value

Unfortunately, there is still an unfair perception that PMO’s add little value, often being labelled as adding layers of bureaucracy.  While completely untrue, this is something that anyone tasked with setting up a PMO needs to be aware of and actively manage.

An important aspect to managing this is delivering value early.  Unfortunately, most stakeholders will not be prepared to wait until the completion of the PMO implementation project to see value – especially if they are concerned that the PMO may never add value.  So the smart PMO manager needs a ‘game plan’ to deliver some early wins onto the scoreboard.

Below are 5 actions a PMO can take to quickly start demonstrating value.

1. List of Projects

In many organisations with no central PMO, it is quite likely that there is no single list of all of the projects – no project inventory.  Therefore, it is difficult for senior management to understand exactly what projects are active, who is running them, budget, etc.  This can result in regular fire drills from management to try to uncover what is going on.

The PMO can take the lead in building and maintaining a central register of all projects (active, complete and pipeline).  Make sure that the list captures key aspects of each project:

  • Project ID
  • Project Name
  • Project Description
  • Grouping (if applicable i.e. Business Area / Function / Country, etc)
  • Project Sponsor
  • Project Manager
  • Project Budget
  • Project Benefit
  • Start Date
  • End Date
  • Status (active, not started, complete, cancelled, etc)

Ideally try to fit all of the projects on a single page if possible and add totals to all of the budget / benefit columns.  You may also want to order by Grouping and then Status.

While a simple document, this is important information that will be valued by senior management.

2. Standard Reporting

If you have completed action 1, senior management will be happy to know the complete list of projects.  However, this will quickly lead to them wanting to know how each one is progressing.

By implementing a standard status report (ideally based on an existing format) on a regular basis, you will quickly be able to provide senior management with the status of all of the projects in a common, consistent manner.  The individual submissions should be used to generate an overall dashboard, using a common RAG rating system so as to allow the rapid identification of projects that have challenges.

Again strive to fit the dashboard onto a single page containing only the information required by senior management.  Where possible, you may want to combine the List of Projects with the Dashboard – big time saver.

3. Define RAG Levels

If you let the project teams set the RAG status with no guidance, it is high likely, in fact certain, that all will have their own view of what constitutes Red, Amber, Green.  This causes a problem to senior management as some projects may report Amber when they should be Red and others Red when they should be Amber.

The PMO can quickly address this by defining standards for the RAG settings and then communicating them to all project teams.  The settings must be clear, precise and with little room for interpretation.  This will help ensure that the RAGs are then set across all projects on a like for like basis.

4. Contact List

A lot of time can be wasted as it is not clear on who should be contacted in respect of each project or even the PMO.  Building a list of project managers, sponsors, etc clearly identifying the projects will provide a simple but effective way for the correct person to be identified when somebody has a question.  The list should also include other key contacts (including PMO).

5. Steering Committee / Governance Schedule

It is high likely that the active projects will have steering committees.  There may also be an overall governance meeting for the projects.  There is often confusion on when these meetings take place, submission date of inputs, paper publication dates, etc.

The PMO can build and maintain a list of all meetings so that it is easy to see when meetings take place and, importantly for the project teams, when papers need to be ready.

In summary

It is important for a PMO to deliver value early.  Implementing the above, especially the List of Projects and Reporting will add value quickly and promote confidence that you are in control and making progress.  This will result in a higher probability that you will continue to receive support as you implement the other aspects of the PMO.

PMO Charter

This blog post will cover the importance of producing a PMO charter.  As I have mentioned before, there is no such thing as a standard PMO.  They are all different and should be designed to meet the objectives of the organisation while, being aligned to the culture of an organisation.

What is the purpose of PMO charter?

The purpose of a project charter is to define the scope, objectives and participants of a project.  The same is equally true of a PMO charter, it defines the scope of the PMO i.e. oversight of all change programmes over £5 million of spend, the objectives of a PMO i.e. promote the use of standard project delivery methodology to improve the probability of success and participants i.e. define the PMO organisation structure and name role holders.

A PMO charter is simply a document, normally designed in a word processor or presentation.  The document will contain words and diagrams to clearly articulate the scope, objectives and participants of the PMO.  It is important that the document is direct and to the point.  This helps to ensure that the key points are easy to understand and, does not discourage people from reading (a long document may have ‘thud’ factor but many will be put-off from reading, important points will be missed and it could be viewed as being bureaucratic).

What to include in the PMO charter?

The key points to cover in a PMO charter is:

  • Background – set the context and reason for setting up the PMO
  • Scope – make it clear what services the PMO will provide (“what it will do”).  It also is worth capturing specific services that will not be provided (especially if they are what may be expected).
  • Organisation Structure – explain how the PMO is structured and who covers each role.
  • Engagement Model – document how the PMO will engage with projects and stakeholders.
  • Services – provide more information on the services that will be provided by the PMO.

You should also add details of any specific service or responsibility over and above the points listed above if it is important and / or required by your organisation.  Remember, the PMO is designed to serve the needs of your organisation.

For more details, you may want to visit the post How to develop a PMO charter.

PMO Monthly Reports

The last post covered why it is helpful to establish a PMO reporting calendar so as to ease the task of collecting updates from all the project managers. So if you have been successful in putting this in place and all of the project managers are submitting their status reports, what next? You had better do something meaningful with them otherwise you will soon have a bunch of disgruntled project managers on your hands and no reports in future months.

On a serious note, you should aim to collect the following from the project managers for the PMO reporting.

Monthly Reporting Data Items

You should ask (expect) the project managers to provide the following:

  • Status Report
  • Milestone Update
  • RAIDs Update
  • Schedule Update
  • Costs Update
  • Benefits Update (if applicable)

The PMO should review all of the reports to make sure that they are accurate and make sense. If the PMO is aware of an emerging theme that is not correctly reflected in the reports, they should discus this with the project manager so the report can be updated. Remember one of the responsibilities of the PMO is accurate and timely reporting. How can senior management make decisions if the report is incorrect?

PMO Reporting

When you have all the reports with accurate information, you are ready for producing the PMO reporting.  What this means is taking all of the reports from the projects and consolidating them into dashboards that provide a clear overview of the status of all projects.

It is very important to invest time into building effective dashboards.  A good dashboard will definitely get the attention of senior management meaning the PMO will be seen to be in control and doing a good job.  Don’t invest the time and the information will be questioned and will raise concerns in the minds of senior management.

Take a look at the post on 5 Things you need on a propject report for some more ideas.

Project Mobilisation Heatmap

Programme Mobilisation Heatmap

If you are struggling defining reports, consider investing in a set of project templates.  It is far easier to use or adapt a template that has already been put together.