9 essential ingredients for a successful PMO

posted by: Derron Taplin

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9 essential ingredients for a successful PMO

There is real business value and bottom line $ savings to be gained from a well-established PMO. However, it requires a skilful leader of change with the gravitas and tenacity to make this value materialise. If you don’t believe me then look at these statistics:

In 2014 Gartner reported that the PMO Implementation failure rate was over 50%, and 68% of those deemed successful were described by their stakeholders as being bureaucratic. The PMI had a similar pessimistic view of PMO’s in 2013. (see below)

PMO full potential

It is fair to say from these statistics, and from my own observations, that a truly successful PMO, that is adding business value in greater terms than an administrative service, are very rare indeed.

Success, of course, comes in different guises and “PMO” has become a generic term used to satisfy a wide array of business challenges. However, when Executives are talking about the value of a PMO I believe they are looking for a business advantage, doing more for less and speeding up time to market. So in this context I wanted to share with you my 9 key ingredients for a truly successful centralised PMO.

These points are based on my experiences and successes along with input from others who have solved some Man Playing Chess Gameof the common enigmas that are faced. However, having this ‘blueprint’ is just the architecture for success. Getting the PMO ‘Juggernaut’ rolling by putting this into practice in a busy, complex, often fragmented organisation, is a considerable challenge and shouldn’t be underestimated. Without an “A” team spearheading these changes you run the risk of adding yourself to the 50% failure rate.

Hence, pick your partners carefully, as rarely do you get a second bite of the cherry….

So, let’s go with my top 9 ingredients for establishing a successful PMO:

1. Establish a Vision for the PMO that people can identify with. This will help in baselining the PMO’s value.

2. Establish Mission Statements and scope parameters about what your PMO will, and will not, be doing. Remember the confusing 3P’s of a PMO – this is where you clearly set out which one, or parts of those functions you will do.

3. Benchmark your current PMO Maturity at the start of your journey, so you can clearly demonstrate step improvements and value.

4. Provide factual evidence that maturity generates tangible benefits and look at which of these benefits your PMO can provide. A benefits map would be perfect here.

5. Build a roadmap of improvements based on the 3 change pillars of People, Process and Technology. The temptation is to dive into the technology part, however, technology can only add value if it is built on good processes and people are ready to change how they work.

6. Establish a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) matrix for the roles covered in your Portfolio, Programme or Project process, depending on what the “P” in your PMO is.

7. Establish your PMO team, or evaluate your existing team. If you are lucky enough to establish your own team make sure you find high calibre staff and locate them close to the delivery team and / or project sponsors. Proximity and familiarity are important factors in creating trust and forming strong partnerships with the project team and sponsors. If you are taking over an existing team look objectively at who you have, the skills and interests they process, and whether they can deliver the high energy, good judgement and versatility that a high performing PMO requires.

8. Best practice communications (and the skill to compose these) need to be employed as part of your success. The PMO needs to establish itself via clear, concise, unambiguous communications as a business change enabler. This requires gaining the confidence of the business, IT, delivery teams and Senior Management and embracing the principal of “What is in it for me?” from their perspective. Answer this question and you will be delivering value.

9. Good reporting may seem obvious, but many do not consider what their stakeholders / customers requirements are and simply provide every scrap of information they have, regardless of whether the data is good or bad. This results in the report recipients having to “find” what is, or isn’t, important in the report. The PMO needs an agile approach to reporting and look at iterations of change to get to an ideal reporting structure.

There you have it. Nine easy points to follow.

keep calm and count upNow, count up how many you are doing, and this may help you analyse why your PMO is struggling. If you think you have done them all then challenge your customers to see if they know what your mission statement is, what is on your roadmap and who to go to in your team for help – if they don’t, then you need to Promote your PMO better.

Unfortunately, launching a PMO, or re-energising one, is only one half of the equation. Sustaining the PMO juggernaut momentum and growing in maturity means constant evolution and additions to your services whilst maintaining consistently on your core deliverables. If done right, and given time, you will evolve from “pushing” the PMO services, to customers “demanding” them from you. At that point, the real work begins…….

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posted in: Business Improvement, Effeciency, PMO
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How do you tell your CIO about the 200 projects in your portfolio in 5 minutes?

posted by: Derron Taplin

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How do you tell your CIO about the 200 projects in your portfolio in 5 minutes?

Ever been in this situation? Your CIO, Senior Sponsor, General Manager, or other Executive is coming to your office. You have been proactive enough to secure a ‘slot’ with his PA and this is your time to show them what you can do. You can nearly touch that extra fat bonus or maybe promotion if this goes well. So, what are you going to do with your 5 minutes?

Powerpoint

Most people will reach for Powerpoint and start composing a complete dossier of all the ‘top’ projects (in their opinion)
and grow a 50 page slide deck with text so small on each slide that you would need a magnifying glass to read it. They then convince themselves that 6 seconds a slide is more than enough time with their knowledge of the portfolio and great presentation skills to get through all the slides in the 5 minute slot.

Alas, the meeting is a disaster. The Executive leaves with no meaningful information and has been bombarded with so many facts and figures that the 5 minutes couldn’t end quickly enough.

So what went wrong?

You know how you thought this could be ‘the meeting’ for you? Well the meeting is being hosted by you but is for the Executive. So instead of focusing on what you want to say, you need to focus on what they need to hear.

Think in pictures

Secondly, humans have a finite capacity for text based information. CIO’s are generally better than most, and they need to be to hold down their role, but everyone responds better to pictures. Half the human brain is dedicated to the task of attaching meaning to visual signals, so we need to tap in to this and exploit it.

We have all seen the growing mass of infographs, well we need to take the concept of these highly visual aids and build a picture of your portfolio. Make this relevant to your audience and present this. Suddenly you have turned the tables from shooting in the dark with your 50 page slide deck of information to a simple to digest picture that fits on one or two pages.

The result is that the Executive sits, ponders and then asks YOU about what he sees as important. As you know your portfolio inside and out you can quickly and easily answer these questions, or take action points. The meeting flows effortlessly, the Executive gets the information he needs and an easy to read ‘takeaway’ of the Portfolio Data. The result is that this meeting is now deemed a success! The Executive feels he has added value, he sees you as a proficient and knowledgeable expert, who is clearly in control and is a ‘safe pair hands’. You hear him joking with his PA that you will be after his job not so long from now……..

Mission accomplished; and it was easier to prepare for, less frantic, less stressful and everyone walked away feeling good about the meeting.

The icing on the cake happens at the end of the day when the Executive finds you at your desk and says “Join me for a drink, I’d like to hear some more of your ideas.”

That is how you tell your CIO about 200 projects in 5 minutes.

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posted in: Effeciency, Portfolio Management, Strategy
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What do hotel lifts and airport baggage halls have in common?

posted by: Derron Taplin

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What do hotel lifts and airport baggage halls have in common?

Before I tell you the answer to that question, let me ask you another. Take a journey that you walk frequently and estimate how far it is. Got an answer? Good, but you are probably wrong.

A straight road going out of town. Can’t be far now.

A straight road going out of town. Can’t be far now.

Studies have shown that the more familiar we are with a route, the more we overestimate the length of that route. A study of walking students in America concluded that Year 1 students overestimated the length of their walk by 24%, more familiar Year 2 walkers by 33% and seasoned Year 3 walkers by 45%.

Why then, when the distance is the same, do we all exhibit these over estimation traits?

It would appear that our perceptions are based on our memories of that route. A route we have travelled often and are more familiar with has more memory attachments. Hence, as our perception of reality are based on these memories, the route appears longer.

So, you are now are asking yourself, how can I make this route ‘feel’ shorter?

If only there was something to look at?

If only there was something to look at?

To examine this we need to look no further than a hotel lift. The story goes that a hotel manager, was inundated with complaints about the fact that his lifts were too slow. The people were only waiting a few minutes but their perception of the waiting time was much greater. Unfortunately speeding the lifts up was deemed unsafe so they came up with another solution. They lined the lift lobby with mirrors. As soon as people were given something to do, namely look at themselves in the mirror, they no longer perceived the wait to be too long. Time occupied, goes faster than time waiting around.

The bags came out quick.

The bags came out quick.

This same time distortion perception is used in airports. If you land and get to the baggage claim area before your bag, suddenly you have the perception of waiting ‘forever’ for your bag to arrive. However, if you arrive in the baggage hall and your bag is already there you are amazed at the efficiency of the airport staff. How do they manage to achieve this? Simple, they make sure your walk to the baggage hall is longer than the time needed to unload your bags. So, the next time you are faced with a long walk when you get off the plane, be happy. It makes things go faster and your bag will be waiting!

Unfortunately, this warped time perception makes us very unreliable when trying to estimate work durations for task and activities. Hence, when these estimations are aggregated into a project we end up with a significant shortfall in time allocated to complete that project.

So when planning tasks, activities or projects remember to factor in the time distortion that people have when estimating how long something takes to do. You may also like to read one of my other post “Project Planning – do it but remember humans are fickle….” which looks at the practical side of how to address this distortion factor.

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posted in: Effeciency, Project Management
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