How a PMO can use cost trend analysis to identify budget under and overruns

Graph analysing project costsOne of the responsibilities of  project manager is to manage the project budget.  This covers, estimating the initial budget (in most cases or at least reviewing), creating a monthly budget plan, tracking progress (actual) spend and then re-forecasting budget required (known as the estimate to complete – ETC).

Unfortunately, while some project managers are very good at estimating and managing budget, others are not very good.  This is an issue as it can result in large budget under or overruns – both being bad for an organisation.

During my years of working in change management, I have seen so many status reports where the ETC is equal to the budget less actuals.  A clear indication that the project manager is not re-forecasting, they are simply making the ETC the difference between the budget and actuals.  This will usually result in an under or overrun.

Other issues occur where the initial budget is incorrect.  There are usually legitimate reasons such as the budget being created on a number of high level assumptions.  Unfortunately, not unless the budget demand substantially moves up as more analysis is completed, most project managers will want to hold on to excess budget “just in case”.  While this provides a level of security for the project manager, it presents an opportunity cost to the organisation.

Cost Trend Analysis

A simple way for a PMO to provide independent challenge to the budget is by employing cost trend analysis.  This is where the historic data (monthly actuals) are used to predict future spending trends.  While not 100% accurate, it is fair to say that the historic monthly spend will be more indicative of future spend that a plan created many months or years ago.

How this helps?

The PMO can implement a simple process to apply trend analysis to the regular reporting submissions received from the projects.  This will then allow a comparison of the ETC submitted by the project to the prediction from the trend analysis.  Where there are significant delta’s the PMO can then meet with the project manager to discus the reason for the delta.  If there is a credible reason for increase in monthly spend, such as X new resources just added, the PMO will be comfortable with the ETC.  However, if there is no credible reason, the project manager should be encouraged to return some of the excess budget.

Identifying the under utilisation of budget early will allow for the budget to be made available for other change initiatives.  Identifying overruns will allow for earlier intervention that may save the overrun.


Using cost trend analysis will ensure that a PMO provides value and moves up the maturity curve.  It will help an organisation avoid cost mistakes in under and overruns.

The next post will go into detail on how to establish an effective but simple cost trend analysis tools and process including what data should be included in the calculation.

PMO tips – Importance of meeting logistics

people in a project meetingThis may appear to be a strange topic to cover in a post.  However, if you stop to think, a meeting has usually been organised for a very good reason (if not do not hold the meeting).  It involves a number of people giving up valuable time which is a cost to an organisation.  Some people may have very limited availability meaning you have to book and coordinate slots many weeks in advance.

Due to these and many other reasons, a lot of time and effort will be invested into the preparation of the material for the meeting.  Defining the objectives, creating the meeting pack, etc.  However, while you the material could be very good, this can all mean nothing if the logistics of the meeting fail.

Typical logistic failures

Meeting room is not booked or double booked

You turn up for the meeting only to find that the meeting room has not been booked or somebody else is already in the room as they believe they have booked the room.

Meeting room booked for incorrect duration

You may have the meeting booked for 2 hours, at the 1 hour point there is a knock on the door as somebody else has the meeting room booked.  This is very frustrating if you are making progress in the meeting.

Conference or video call booking

The conference or video conference lines have not been booked or, you dial in to find they are being used by somebody else.  A variation of this is that you are half way through the meeting and other people start to join.

Conference or video call does not work

While the reliability of conference and video conference has improved over recent years, there is still a risk that they will fail or the quality will be poor.

Equipment missing

There is nothing worse than turning up to the meeting room to find the conference call telephone or remote to activate the video conference is missing.

Meeting room capacity

The room booked is of insufficient size and / or does not have enough seats.

These and other logistic issues can delay and disruption, or in some cases, result in the cancellation of the meeting.  All very frustrating after the effort to coordinate the attendees and prepare the material.

Proactive actions

Check room booking

At least a couple of days before the meeting check that the booking is in place.  Confirm start and end time.  Make sure that you check that the room that is booked is correct on the meting invite and any meeting materials such as agenda.

Check attendees

Check how many people have been invited against the capacity of the room.  Be aware that additional attendees may have been invited over time and that some who may normally use conference facilities to join may attend in person.

Conference and video facilities

When you check the booking is still in place, check that the room has the facilities that you require.

Check the room

If at all possible. check the room the day before the meeting to ensure it does have the capacity you require, enough seats, whiteboard, etc.  Perform a check on the conference and video conference facilities to ensure they work and that you know how to operate them.

Book conference and video conference support

If you are uncertain how to use the facilities, if it is a room you have not used before or if it is a very important meeting, you may want to book technical support.  Then if anything goes wrong you have the technician ready to fix the issues.

Book the meeting room longer than needed

This is a good idea for important meetings.  Book up to 30 minutes earlier than required and up to 30 minutes longer.  This ensures that you are not waiting outside the room when the preceding meeting overruns, you have time to set-up, make sure equipment works, correct number of chairs, etc.  Extending the meeting allows you time to close important items instead of being rushed out of the room by the next meeting.

In summary

Logistics failure can have a devastating impact on your meeting.  Following these practical steps will help ensure that you eliminate the risks.

How a PMO can help manage stakeholders

The last post, PMO Stakeholder Analysis, covered why stakeholder analysis was important to the health of a PMO and, the approach to conducting the analysis.  This post will provide some ideas on how to use the output of the analysis to successfully manage your stakeholders.

Quick recap

Stakeholder analysis is used to identify stakeholders and assess the level of power and influence stakeholders have in respect of the PMO, project, etc.  This includes guaging if they are an advocate (support), neutral or a blocker (not supportive.

A plan can then be constructed to manage stakeholders i.e. moving blockers to advocate.

Stakeholder management ideas

Reinforce the advocates

While you may have some ‘blocker’s’, it is worthwhile spending time reinforcing the relationships with high influence, high power advocates.  The reasons being:

  •  You want to ensure that they stay fully aligned to the PMO.  This is more likely if they have a clear understanding of objectives, direction and issues.
  • Their position usually means they can provide a high level or support and protection.
  • They will be more prepared to support the PMO / project in difficult conversations.
  • They will be able to help with other stakeholders who are ‘blocker’s’.

It is a good idea to set up regular sessions to update the key advocates so they are fully aware of the current status.  It also reduces the risk that they are caught “off guard” in a meeting with their peers.  Leaving a senior stakeholder exposed is a very quick way to lose their support!

Review the ‘neutrals’

Take time to review the stakeholders assessed as ‘neutral’.  Are there any that have high power, high influence it would be beneficial to make the effort to move them to being ‘advocates’?

It is easier to move a stakeholder from ‘neutral’ to ‘advocate’ than ‘blocker’ to ‘advocate’.  It also presents an easier path to get more stakeholders into the ‘advocate’ camp that can help reduce the impact of remaining ‘blocker’s’.

Converting a stakeholder from ‘neutral’ can be tricky.  They are usually marked as ‘neutral’ as they have no opinion or interest either way.  Therefore, they don’t really care in the outcome as it provides them with no direct benefit to their own objectives and agenda.

So key to converting them to ‘advocate’ is showing them “what is in it for them”.  If you can build a case why the PMO or project will help them, more chance they will move from ‘neutral’.    Remember, you must position the benefit relevant to their own goals so it is worth investing time preparing material specific to them (not just your existing benefit slides).

However, it is quite possible there really is no benefit directly to them.  This is where you call on the assistance of your advocates to use their relationship to gain the required support.

Manage the ‘blocker’s’

do not block signManaging ‘blocker’s’ can take a lot of valuable time and effort.  Therefore, make sure that you really need to invest the time.  Focus on the ‘blocker’s’ who are absolutely required to allow the PMO or project to proceed, this includes those who have the power to stop them.

When you have identified the stakeholders who need to be actively managed, spend time understanding why they have been assessed as ‘blocker’s’ and understand:

  • Is the reason for marking as a blocker valid?
  • Are they demonstrating behaviours that impact the PMO or project?
  • What are the reasons for them ‘blocking’? i.e. is what the PMO is doing directly opposing their own objectives?
  • Can they be moved to being an ‘advocate’?  Some stakeholders will never move even with a well prepared case.

When you have a good understanding, devise a strategy of how the concerns can be addressed.  Then, spend some time with your sponsor to discus the findings and options.  They will be able to provide insight and direction.

There maybe some stakeholders who will never move position.  Here the focus should be on how to minimise the impact – usually achieved by having a large number of high power, high influence ‘advocates’.

Agree with your sponsor the strategy.  This may involve using the support of other advocates to help move the challenging ‘blocker(s)’.

Execute the strategy.

To close…

  • Stakeholder management is an ongoing task, make sure you don’t treat it as a one=off event.
  • Investing time can really make a big difference to the success of your PMO or project.
  • Some stakeholders will never move position, work out how you can minimise the impact.

Remember the stakeholder analysis templates used in post 90 are available as a free download.  Simply visit the post and near the bottom click on the links to download both of the templates.

PMO stakeholder analysis

For a PMO to be effective, it needs the correct level of support (especially from the PMO sponsor – see post PMO sponsorship why it is vital).  However, it is also important to have support from other critical stakeholders.  Without their support it can make implementing the tools and processes for a PMO very difficult.

So if you are running a PMO, it is a good idea to identify the key stakeholders and have an understanding if they are supportive (or not) of the PMO.  This can be achieved by conducting Stakeholder Analysis.

What is stakeholder analysis

This is a process of identifying all of the stakeholders who have an interest and / or influence over the PMO so as to understand who is supportive and who is  not supportive.  This then allows a plan to be constructed to move those who are not supportive to being supportive.

How to capture stakeholders

This is very simple.  Identify all of the stakeholders who have an interest and / or influence over the PMO.  Note: the interest may not always be positive.

Capture the names into a simple table or grid together with role (try to make the role specific to the PMO).

Evaluate stakeholders

For each stakeholder, evaluate their power and influence over the PMO:

  1. Low power, low influence
  2. Low power, high influence
  3. High power, low influence
  4. High power, high influence

Typically those identified as 1. low power, low influence can exercise the least impact to the PMO.  Those identified as 4, high power, high influence can exercise the most impact and can be a great help (or hindrance) to the PMO.

That said, caution is required for those in 2, low power, high influence.  They may have the ability to influence those with high power.

Evaluate if the stakeholder is supportive

For each stakeholder, assess if they are a:

  • Advocate – supportive
  • Blocker – not supportive
  • Neutral
  • Unknown – note: try to reach assessment as soon as possible

Capture this information into a template such as the example below.  Then indicate for each stakeholder what level of support is required.  As you can see you can quickly see where you have stakeholders who are “blockers” where they need to be advocates.

Example stakeholder analysis template

Stakeholder Analysis Template

If you want a diagram view, it is also possible to plot the stakeholders onto a stakeholder map (similar to a SWOT analysis) using colour label’s.

Example stakeholder analysis map template

Stakeholder Map

Stakeholder Management

After you have identified and evaluated the stakeholders, you need to manage the stakeholders.  Attention is particularly required in moving those that are marked as ‘Blockers’ to ‘Neutral’ or ‘Advocate’.  Focus should be on those with high power, high influence.

However, don’t neglect those who are ‘Advocate’s’, as you need to keep them engaged and will probably need their help with those identified as ‘Blockers’.

Download the stakeholder templates.

You can download the Stakeholder Analysis Template and Stakeholder Map for free by using the links below.  All you need MS Excel and Powerpoint compatiable software.

The next post will provide some ideas on how to manage the stakeholders.

PMO Quality Assurance part 4 – mechanics of the QA review

A quick recap.  In this series of posts on PMO Quality Assurance (QA), it has covered the following steps:

This post will cover the mechanics of conducting the PMO QA review to ensure that the time is well spent.


The right preparation is very important.  Without it, the review will be ineffective and you will not be able to compare and rate projects on a like for like basis.  Before the review you will need:

Questions: A set of questions designed to investigate and test the project.  These should be aligned to appropriate dimensions of the project i.e. Strategy, Governance, Planning, RAIDs Management, etc

Rating Criteria: You should define a rating criteria for each question so as to achieve common scoring across all projects.  It is a good idea to use numbers to allow for a calculation of value against each dimension of the project.

Weighting: Certain aspects of delivery will be more important than others.  Therefore, the response to the question should carry more weight.  Use of a weighting system will make the results more meaningful for identifying important risks.

Scoring: An scoring system is required so that the results to all the questions can be rolled up to an overall rating.  This is typically 1 to 5, with 1 meaning the project is well set-up to 5 meaning there are serious weaknesses threatening delivery.

Recommendations Log: A log is required to record all the risks identified and proposed recommendations.

QA Report: A standard report should be designed with single executive summary page to communicate the findings of the review.

Conducting the Review

When conducting the review, make sure you do not approach it as an audit.  This will make the meeting adveseral and will mean the project manager will be conservative with the truth.  The objective of the review is for the PMO and project manager to work together to identify areas of concern so that they can be addressed so as to improve the probability of successful delivery.

Work through the questions with the project manager and jointly come to agreement on the value.  Make sure that additional notes are captured where required, as you go through the questions it will raise items for further investigation.  Important: make sure that you do not give in on points of concern – strive for an accurate evaluation.  Where appropriate ask for evidence (in a nice way).  It is all well and good that the project manager answers the plan is updated, however, can they show you an updated plan?

Document Results

It is a good idea to design a questionnaire that allows for the results to be captured for each question (including additional notes) during the interview with the project manager.  This should it make it easier to document the results.

Always review the results with the project manager to ensure accuracy before publishing to senior management and other stakeholders.

Track Closure of Recommendations

Where areas of weakness have been identified, agree a plan with the project manager of actions to remediate.  Then track progress to ensure that the items are closed.  If you don’t the value of the review is wasted.


The above provides the mechanics for the QA review.  Remember, it is not an audit, you are not trying to catch the project manager out.  The aim is to identify weaknesses so that they can be addressed in good time to give the project the best chance of successful delivery.  When you have identified weaknesses agree the action to be taken and track progress.  Then you will gain a lot of value from the QA review process.

PMO Quality Assurance part 3 – tips for scheduling PMO QA reviews

Man picking date for project reviewIn the last post, PMO Quality Assurance part 2 – prioritise projects to review it covered the approach for building an inventory of active projects and then how to prioritise the list in order to focus on the most important projects.  Now it is time to create a schedule of the project QA reviews.  However, before just starting from the top of the list and working chronologically through the calendar, there are a number of considerations to ensure maximum value and minimum interruption.

PMO QA Scheduling Considerations

1. Project Lifecycle

In order to get maximum benefit you need to time the QA review at a time where there is sufficient progress to perform QA, but not too far progressed so remediation action can be taken to correct weaknesses.

If the QA is conducted too early, many of the questions will come back as N/A (not applicable) or as a failing rating.  The project manager will quite rightly state that this is because the project is only starting to mobilise and the sponsor will see the QA as a waste of time and money.

If the QA is conducted too late, there may not be time to make interventions to change the course of the project meaning that the QA is a waste as, while you know there is an issue, there is very little can be done to make corrections.

So, the best approach is to work with the project manager to identify appropriate checkpoints where it will be sensible to conduct the reviews.  This is normally as a project moves from one phase of delivery to the next i.e. completion of mobilisation, analysis / design, build, etc.

2. Avoid Critical Points

There will be times for the project team when there will be many other competing priorities for the scarce commodity time.  For example, when the project team is working flat out to complete the analysis phase to a hard deadline.  The last thing they need is for the PMO trying to conduct a QA review.  This will result in effort being diverted to work on the QA review meaning the completion on the analysis phase may be missed.  That would not be a good for the career progression of the PMO manager who scheduled the review.

3. PMO Bandwidth

Likewise, there will be busy periods for PMO activity.  The PMO should avoid putting themselves under pressure of having to complete multi deliverable’s simultaneously as this usually results in inferior output.

4. Sponsor / Stakeholder Input

It is always worth getting input from the sponsor and / or stakeholders.  These are the people ultimately responsible for the successful delivery, providing funding and the most interest in the (successful) results.  Therefore, it is only right that they should have input when they would like reviews conducted to give them confidence in the outcomes.


Like with most things when it comes to project delivery and the PMO, use common sense as part of the decision process.   The next post will cover the mechanics of the QA review.

PMO Quality Assurance part 2 – prioritise projects to review

sign showing prioritiseIn the last post, PMO Quality Assurance part 1, it covered the fact that designing and building a PMO is only part of the journey.  After you have invested all of that time, effort, money and emotion, you need to ensure that the PMO is effective and the tools and processes used.  If not, not a very good return on investment!

A good way to ensure this is for the PMO to establish a quality assurance (QA) review process.  However, a formal QA process will take time to design, implement and execute each review.  As PMO’s typically are run on a very lean basis, this can mean that there is not sufficient bandwidth to execute QA reviews of all the projects.  Therefore, it is important for the PMO to prioritise what projects should be reviewed.

Project prioritisation for QA review

Inventory of projects

First step, you will need an inventory of the projects for which the PMO has oversight.  If you have already established the regular reporting and dashboard routines you should already have the inventory.  If not, complete and exercise to gather all of the projects.

Prioritise Projects

Take the inventory of projects and then prioritise with the most important at the top and least important at the bottom.  My suggestion is to create the prioritised list by applying a standard set of criteria so that all projects are considered on the same basis.

Criteria that can be applied:

  • Complexity – how complex is the project.  New or existing technology, etc
  • Resources – how many resources are required.  Skill sets
  • Duration – length of project (multi year have more chance of challenges)
  • Impact – client / financial / regulatory impact high risk
  • Budget – larger budget usually indicates higher level of focus required
  • Benefits – projects with higher benefits, better return on investment should have more attention

By applying criteria like listed above will provide an initial prioritised list.  This should then be sense checked to make sure that the priorities make sense.

Review list of prioritised projects with sponsor / steering committee

The prioritised list of projects should then be reviewed with the sponsors and / or steering committee.  This will allow them to provide further insights and you may find that there are projects that, based on criteria are low / medium but are important to sponsors so they asked them to be raised in priority.  This is OK as the purpose of QA is to focus attention on the projects important to the organisation.

You will now have an agreed list of projects to prioritise for the QA reviews.

The next post will cover important considerations for scheduling the QA reviews.

PMO quality assurance part 1

quality assured badgeYou have invested valuable time, money and emotion into designing and constructing a PMO.  The tools and processes have been created and published to the project managers.  Sessions have been held with the project teams to ensure they understand how to use the tools and what is expected.  So what is the reward for the hard working PMO manager?  The next big challenge!

After you have mobilised your PMO, the next challenge is ensuring that the project teams effectively use the tools and processes that have been implemented so as to provide maximum benefit.  If not all that investment will go to waste and the risk to successful delivery will increase.

The following can be used to help ensure that the PMO tools are used and add value.

1. Submission Reviews

Part of the role of the PMO is to review all of the regular submissions for quality and ensure that they make sense.  This should be the first step to ensure that the tools are being used to control the project and provide an accurate representation of status.  The review should ensure that the tools are being correctly completed AND that any commentary reflects RAG status, etc.  For example,  if the commentary reads “delays to xyz milestone due to critical resource not being available” yet the RAG status is Green, this is a mismatch and needs to be questioned.

Don’t be afraid in your role as the PMO to raise questions and ask for submissions to be updated.  Part of your role is to ensure that any emerging themes are quickly identified and made visible to stakeholders, allowing them to make an informed decision.

2. Regular Catch-up Meetings

It is a good idea where possible to schedule regular catch up point meetings with the project manager.  This will help build a good working relationship and allow for a better understanding of the workings of the project.  This means the PMO can add more value by identifying where a submission does not include important information (this includes successes that are not being celebrated).

The meetings should be scheduled just after the submissions are due as this then allows for a joint review and any changes agreed.

3. PMO Quality Assurance (QA) Review

PMO QA reviews are a formal review of a project with the objective to identify areas that may prevent a project delivering the stated objectives.  The review is usually at the request of the sponsor who wants an independent check that the project is set-up for success.

The review is typically conducted following a structured approach to test the set-up of the project across the key dimensions:

  • Strategy & Business Objectives
  • Scope
  • Governance & Sponsorship
  • Planning
  • Budget
  • Benefits
  • Resources
  • Risk Management
  • Change Management
  • Communication

The review is fact based and will identify strengths and weaknesses in the project.  The findings and recommendations are then agreed and tracked so that any weaknesses are addressed.  By doing this, it should improve the probability of success.

The next post will provide more information on the steps for conducting a PMO QA review.

How to challenge a project manager who does not adhere to PMO governance

If you were to conduct a survey of PMO professionals, the issue of project managers not adhering to governance and processes would be one of the common findings.  Many PMO practitioners would claim that this non adherence results in many wasted hours of chasing the project managers and a number of confrontations.

Before looking at techniques to address this, it is worth understanding why the project manager does not comply.


It can be as simple that the project manager was not aware or understand what was expected, this is particularly true for new joiners or contract / consultant resources who may not be aware of the organisations methodology and approach to change delivery.

Communication of Governance Processes

Now at this point a number of you are thinking “but I did tell them what was required”.  I am sure this is true.  However, take a moment to think how it was communicated.

  • Did you issue an e-mail to all the project managers with a very large Powerpoint attached within which, slide 73 explained the reporting cycle?
  • Did you meet the project and then only make a vague passing comment on what was required without being specific?
  • Did you check to see that the message had been received and understood – classic send, receive, check communication process?

Too Busy

By the very nature of the job, project managers are very busy.  Their number one priority is to deliver the project to the agreed business case.  This means that they need to jump on every emerging risk and issue early.  So they have received the message and know what is expected.  However, they often sacrifice adherence to governance as it is deemed (wrongly) not as important.

Don’t Want to Comply

T-shirt with I hear you but I am not listeningThere are a small group of project managers who have received the message, understand what is required, have the time BUT still not adhere.  The reason being that they see PMO governance as an unnecessary overhead that adds no value.  Or the PMO does not know what they are doing and they decide that they will use their own approach and governance process.

So what can you do to address these common themes in order to be successful?


The first step is to make sure that you and your team understand the governance process and test to make sure that the process is required and adds value.  If it does not revise or eliminate.  By doing this you and your team will be confident in articulating the key points and more importantly why they are required.


Spend time building a communication plan of the governance processes.  This should include the target of audience, method of communication and material.  If you do have large documents that contain all the information, spend time producing brief summary packs that make it easy to understand the key aspects including what you expect the project manager to do by when.  They still should be given the large pack.  However, this should be for them to delve into for targeted information that they are after.

The ideal method of delivery is to sit down and meet face to face.  This will allow you to deliver the key messages and check that they have been understood.  The project manager will then be able to ask questions for clarification.

If you have no other option but to deliver the guidance by e-mail, take time to make sure the e-mail is clear and to the point.  Ensure that there is clear direction on where they will find the important information and what is expected from them.  When using e-mail I like to include an ‘Action Required’ heading so it is clear.

Make sure that you close the e-mail with how they can get further information and assistance.  You should also follow up after sending the e-mail with each project manager to make sure they have received the e-mail, ask if they have any questions and confirm they understand what is expected.  Don’t think just because you have sent the e-mail and, perhaps, see a read receipt, that they will obey.

Another reason for meeting or talking to the project manager is that you can ask them if they see any challenges in complying / completing the required tasks in the required time frame.  Then, if they say they have challenges, you can deal with them early.

Too Busy

The project manager may say quite fairly they are too busy.  You should respect this statement (after understanding the reason for them being too busy in a nice way).  Then, remind them that the governance process is important to the organisation and will help them with their delivery and ask them for suggestions how they would like to address the governance requirements.

Make sure you take whatever steps you can to make this easy for them.  So if you and the PMO team can put some prep work in for the project manager, offer to do this as it will demonstrate you want to help.  This will make them more likely to make the time going forward.  Word of warning, while you can offer support, DO NOT take ownership – you may be held responsible when something does not go to plan!

Do Not Want to Comply

Always the hardest and, unfortunately, can not always be solved.  Take all the steps detailed and as described within Too Busy, offer as much support as you can.  If the project manager still insists on ignoring the requests, you can take the subtle approach of publishing reports without the updates.  Senior management will soon ask where the updates are.  Likewise, peer pressure may persuade the right behaviour.  For this to work you need over 80% of the other project managers to be providing their updates.

If all of this fails you will need to escalate.  This is why it is important that you have a strong PMO sponsor.


Non adherence to PMO governance processes will be a challenge that will always be with the PMO.  The steps above will help to try to reduce the time and effort to gain adherence.

5 steps for running a dependency workshop

Running a project dependency workshopThe last post covered 5 activities that are needed for a dependency management process.  This included the important step of validating dependencies as, without confirming between the “giver” and the “receiver”, there is a high chance the dependency will not be honoured.

There are different ways of validating dependencies.  This post will focus on the dependency workshop sometimes known as “dependency clearing house”.


The purpose of the “clearing house” is simple.  It is to openly validate all known dependencies between the relevant parties (givers and receivers).  Doing this in a workshop format allows for the process to be accelerated and, interested parties to contribute to the discussion.  The result is dependencies that have been well defined and agreed.

1. Capture and tidy known dependencies

Before you can validate dependencies using a workshop (or any method), you do need to complete the up front work, the preparation.  Most importantly the capture of known dependencies, ideally in a common format.

Th PMO can add considerable value by driving this process.  Contacting all stakeholders and requesting inputs.  Making sure submission deadlines are met.  Reviewing and validating the quality of inputs.

The goal is a list of the known dependencies that have been cleansed and clearly articulate the requirement.  It must include who is expected to deliver the dependency – the “giver”.

2. Define attendees and set-up meeting

In parallel to step 1, the dependency workshop should be set-up.  This involves identifying who needs to attend to ensure full representation.  Care should be taken on ensuring that the person attending has the knowledge and authority to agree dependencies.  It is not very productive if the person attending has to take a large amount of items away as actions.

Based on who should attend, a suitable room should be booked (including required facilities – wipe board, flip chart, projector, etc).  The invites should be sent out early to ensure the required person can attend.  The invite should include an agenda and proposed approach.

Where possible send the cleansed list of dependencies.  If this is not possible, send out the invite and advise that the dependencies will be issued separately.  Where this is the case, make sure the list is sent out in plenty of time ahead of the workshop (at least 48 hours) to give the attendees time to discus with their teams to collect feedback.  DO NOT send out 20 minutes before the meeting as this will greatly reduce what can be achieved in the session.

3. Dependency workshop

The workshop should be run to the agreed agenda and start with introductions (why people are in the room) and the approach.

Each area should then talk through where they have dependencies on others.  They should clearly articulate the need and the impact if the dependency is not delivered.  This will then allow the attendees to discus and ask questions, even challenge the need of the dependency and / or due date.

The facilitator should be mindful not to let discussions take too much time so as to ensure all dependencies can be covered.  The facilitator should draw each discussion to a close with the following outcome:

  • Dependency agreed (deliverable and date)
  • Dependency removed (i.e. all parties agree no longer required)
  • Dependency not agreed (i.e. still required but agreement can not be reached)

Where dependencies can not be agreed, the facilitator must ensure that there is a clear owner to resolve outside of the session.  The action should have a target date for resolution.

4. Update dependencies, publish and validate

At the end of the workshop, the PMO can capture the refreshed data.  This should then be shared with all attendees for review and sign-off.  Again set a date for sign-off.

Similarly, the PMO should follow up on the non agreed items to make sure they are progressed.  When they are complete, they should be updated in the dependency register and circulated.

5. Repeat process

Like with so many things in project management, these are not one off events.  To truly give the best chance of delivery, dependencies should be reviewed on a regular basis.  It may not be necessary to run full workshops on a regular basis.  However, the agreed list of dependencies should be maintained and, where necessary targeted sessions with subsets to ensure all is aligned.

In summary

  • Dependency workshops are effective to quickly validate dependencies
  • Preparation is critical – quality of dependencies / workshop logistics
  • Meeting must include people with knowledge and authority
  • All dependencies should result in agreed, removed, not agreed with further work
  • Data should be updated and distributed
  • Repeat the process

Following these steps will help improve the management of project dependencies with the PMO playing a valuable role.