PMO in the Age of Hybrid – How to Adapt to Constant Change

In the beginning, let’s just remind our selves you what a PMO is. In the past, it was most commonly used as an abbreviation for Project Management Office, but also Program Management Office and Portfolio Management Office, depending on the level on which these groups operate within a business.

By definition the project management office is a group or department within a business, government agency, or enterprise that defines and maintains standards for project management within the organization. The PMO strives to standardize and introduce economies of repetition in the execution of projects. The PMO is the source of documentation, guidance and metrics on the practice of project management and execution.

The questions that arise now regarding their role are:

  • What happens with the PMO as standardization of projects keeps getting harder and harder?
  • How can the PMO provide true leadership in an ever-changing environment?

Before, there were set methods that ruled the way projects were executed. Now, as projects are getting more complex, many companies are facing new challenges that they had not experienced in the past. PMI’s 2018 Pulse of the Profession survey notes that the percentage of projects with high complexity is on the rise. It’s risen from 35% in 2013 to 41% in 2018.

The consequence of this revolution is the development of a so-called hybrid environment where the portfolio of projects embraces a combination of traditional and agile project methodologies.

In organizations that wish to maintain an adequate level of efficiency, transparency and financial control, all while ensuring there is accountability for successful outcomes of all investments, getting acquainted with Hybrid is a must.

Traditional Project Portfolio Management vs. Hybrid Methodology

Let’s talk about the “old days” and its metrics for reporting. Most of the traditional project portfolios determined the status of a project through various metrics such as SPI (Schedule Performance Index), CPI (Cost Performance Index), and likely other dimensions such as financial health, resource utilization, resource availability, etc.

These metrics were established long ago and most of the organizations are pretty much familiar with them. Especially senior executives and leaders who have been involved in project planning and execution.

This level of reporting was detailed enough to provide an effective form of communication to project leaders in order to understand the progress of a project. This took a lot of planning and was time consuming even before any action on the project was ever taken. No wonder that Agile is still on top of the list for a lot of PMs!

In the past few years, custom made approaches started coming to light as there is more tailoring in the way that things are done, at the local and even project level. It has even been brought to light by the PMI, by incorporating it in it’s conferences as a trending topic.

One basic principle prevails through all this change:

Managers are choosing their optimal approach for delivery, opting for what will most likely end with a successful result.

And don’t get the wrong idea on this new approach to project planning. It’s not necessarily anarchy when every manager has a chance to creates, tailor and choose the way he will lead a project. They still need to follow a path and have clear processes, while following the basic principle of Hybrid – blending  happens in the beginning. Keeping this in mind, helps avoid issues that can popup down the line.

When using a hybrid approach, it is important that the very first step in managing a project is recognizing that it decomposes well into the chosen method(s). A manager must plan carefully and pair every sub-project with the appropriate process. The next step would be to identify the dependencies between project components.

Let’s say we have a large scale project before us. These complex projects consist of multiple communicating subsystems that have strong dependencies on each other. This takes overcoming challenges to the whole new level.

To do so, and to do it in a proper way, the key word is collaboration.

The 5 roles of PMO and how they adapt to the hybrid approach

  1. Best practices and establishing processes
    PMOs are mainly responsible for the implementation and consolidation of best practices and process within the organization. As we said earlier, their roll was often to standardize the process across all departments and services. In contrast to setting a repeatable project delivery process, the PMO in a hybrid project management environment is there for more flexible support and guidance. The project management methods, systems, tools and metrics are constantly updated and the goal is no longer consistency, but achieving excellence.
  2. Culture and mindset
    The PMO helps keep a common project culture and mindset by informing, communicating and training employees about the different techniques, methodologies and best practices. However, now they have to take into account all the specific challenges that each of the teams are facing. This helps develop unique skill sets for many of the different teams working, while also keeping them all on the same page when it comes to common goals.
  3. Resource Management
    PMOs manage and allocate resources across projects. They also manage priorities based on timelines, budgets, resource loads and what-if analysis information and accordingly provide the right resources at the right time. Traditionally they also define roles and responsibilities. However, with the Hybrid methodology this part should mostly be left to the PMs themselves. The role of the PMOs should be to train, mentor and coach employees in general and prepare them for the challenges that they’ll face during projects, while allowing managers to have autonomy when it comes to actual division of responsibility.
  4. Creating and maintaining project artifacts, archives and tool sets
    PMOs are in charge of providing basic templates, proposing tools and different software to PMs. They need to make an informed decision to invest in tools for managing projects which then pays off in reliable data and early visibility into project performance for better decision-making. With new needs of project teams emerging every day, this task keeps getting more and more complex. Finding a software that can accommodate to various demands of managers, while also being easy to use for the team can have a significant impact on the end result.
  5. Institutional memory
    With the use of modern software solutions the need for PMOs to archive all the project documents created during the project into a document repository has almost diminished. These documents are very useful for future reference, however it no longer needs to be done manually and they can be kept safe along with other collaborative data. Keeping the institutional memory alive has now become a sort of an advisory role, more than any thing else.

Even though this new changes threaten to make the jobs of PMO teams harder, the need for their presence has never been more prevalent. In a time when everything is changing at rapid pace, they can be the knowledge base for all the PMs working in their company helping them optimize their approach for success.

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