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Straight Talk on Project Management

Health check your PMO

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Benchmarking your PMO for the sake of your business

When Innotas carried out its annual survey of Project Management professionals, one overriding and crucial message leapt out at me from the report.

Metrics by which project success and PMO success are measured are dangerously misaligned, not just with each other but with business strategy.

The Innotas survey is usually a pretty effective measure of trends within our industry and this point struck a chord with me as it is something that I have been identifying myself working with PMOs. This survey is like getting 140 Project Managers, CIOs, and IT Management professionals in a room and asking if they’re experiencing the same issues – the trick now is what we do about it.

What’s The Problem?

Consider these findings;

50% of respondents report the primary goal of their PMO is “on-time and on budget project delivery”

61% report that individual project success is measured by “meeting business outcomes”.

In 2016, when IT and IT Project Management are progressing along a path toward total business alignment, I would expect both numbers to be higher and both numbers to be roughly the same. That they are not suggests something of a separation between;

i) how success is measured for PMOs and the individual projects they manage, and;

ii) these success metrics and what the business actually expects and needs from the PMO.

NOW, a quick health warning. Firstly, the Innotas survey takes opinion from just 140 project managers, program managers, PMOs, IT managers, and CIOs – 140 is a fairly small sample given the increasing number of people with these titles on their email signatures. Secondly, respondents were allowed multiple responses. For instance, roughly two-thirds replied that project success was measured in terms of “on-time and/or on-budget” metrics (the same criteria used to measure PMO success) and almost 7 out of 10 cited “meeting stakeholder expectations” (68%).

With IT Project failure rates so widely publicised (Innotas report 55% have experienced a failed project in the past year) it is perhaps not a huge surprise that many PMOs are focussing on completion at the expense of business outcomes. Not surprising but also not acceptable. According to the Association for Project Management half of all Project Management Offices close within 3 years – I wonder how many were not focussed on delivering business outcomes?

The stakeholder expectation response is interesting. By attempting to meet stakeholder expectations you may achieve strategic objectives, but that is not a given. In quiet moments many PMs admit that stakeholder satisfaction is more about ‘internal PR’ than business strategy, more about greasing the wheels for employment longevity than corporate objectives!

Ironically, by focussing on meeting business strategy goals, you usually meet stakeholder expectations and project completion criteria by default.

This misalignment of success metrics could be exacerbating another of the findings of the survey. Over 70% of organisations report they do not have “enough resources to meet incoming project demand” – but with unclear benchmarking and metrics how can you even measure what resource you need? I’m surprised that this number is not higher – have you ever worked within a Project Management team that has talent waiting on the subs bench to be called into action? No, me neither.

However, with effective benchmarking comes control over resources. When you carry out gap analysis between what you have and what you need to achieve clearly defined business aligned outcomes, you can make arrangements to fully resource your Project Management team.

Kick Start Your PMO

Initiating a Project Management Office Assessment, either yourself or (even better) with an independent pair of eyes can;

i) Align your project portfolio to business strategy

ii) Understand the dependencies between Projects in the Programme

iii) Optimise and rationalise delivery resources

Be Creative And Explore New Solutions

That 70% of organisations do not have “enough resources to meet incoming project demand” is a concern to me. Once you have clearly identified and benchmarked the objectives of your PMO, once you know what success looks like and have the KPIs in place to measure it, the world is your oyster. Granted you probably don’t have that subs bench of PM talent waiting on the sideline but it is out there. Just about every part of the Project Management process, even the process itself can be bought in ‘as a Service’ often with no net increase in the overall portfolio costs.

Conclusion

The business you are in is only going to get more competitive. The most successful IT and PMOs are aligning themselves with their organisation’s business case and are using effective benchmarking to measure themselves against it.

For the sake of your business, measure where you’re at in terms of Project Management effectiveness, or get a qualified third party to do it for you. Then, act upon your findings with clarity and purpose.

IT is moving away from just supporting business to BEING the business. For all our sakes, when Innotas takes our industry’s pulse in 2017, I hope that “business outcomes” scores higher as a metric of success for both PMO and individual projects.
 

Contact us to learn more about how Stoneseed’s Enterprise PMO Assessment can improve you improve your project performance.

Sources
[1] Innotas
[2] Stoneseed Blog