Building a PMO is as much art as science and requires both deep understanding of Project and Portfolio Management processes, and of the organization and its culture. In the world of Professional Services, you also need excellent understanding of how Project Management fits within Sales and Services processes, and how that affects margin and benefits optimization.
In the same way that a picture is worth a thousand words, a real-life example is worth a thousand how-tos. And today, I’d like to share with you the story of how GISA GmbH, an end-to-end IT Services provider specialized in the Energy industry and Public Services, built our PMO.
How GISA GmbH built its PMO
Step 1 - First things first: setting up GISA’s PMO
GISA’s PMO was born out of a cross-company program initiated in 2009 to implement Project Management standards at Project and Portfolio level. This initiative started by defining and mapping key areas such as:
- The integration of Project Management into Sales and Services processes.
- Requirements management
- Resource management
- Project margin and benefit analysis
- Portfolio Management
For individual projects, a unified project standard was defined along with the appropriate methods and tools. A dedicated communications campaign supported the Change Management (link to change management roundup) aspects of the initiative to ensure a good uptake of the new framework. All these concepts then flowed into a brand-new multi-project system environment (powered by Planisware Enterprise) which went live in 2011, and still enables to this day the roadmapping and management of about 1,300 projects individual projects a year, and their corresponding project portfolios.
One of the key factors that made this initiative successful was the deep integration of our PPM solution with the commercial SAP platform: in addition to account assignment structures, all project-related expenses, costs and revenue are synchronized daily.
Step 2 – From overseeing Project Management processes to key internal partner
In 2011, GISA’s PMO started building its internal offering to GISA’s project organizations. This project – which lasted three years – included:
- Developing methods, processes and standards to reach the next level of Project Management maturity
- Supporting resource management for internal and external resources
- Providing stakeholders with the right project and portfolio reporting
- Providing support to project teams, including coaching, moderating kickoffs and lessons-learned sessions etc.
- Supporting the increase in project management maturity across the board
- Developing the use of GISA’s PPM solution, Planisware Enterprise by expanding the processes tracked and increasing the amount of available information for projects
- Facilitating internal Project Management Communities of Practice
Step 3 – Introducing Agile frameworks
By 2018, the number of projects managed using Agile methodologies had risen to the extent that it became obvious that GISA needed to add Agile and hybrid approaches to its array of techniques and processes.
To do this, the company developed two new roles in its PMO: the Agile Coach, and the Scrum Master, thereby paving the way to becoming an Agile IT service provider.
Step 4 – Bringing Methods and Operations together
In 2020, the PMO evolved further by merging the team in charge of Project Management methodology with the team that oversaw Project Management Operations.
GISA’s PMO now consists of four self-organizing teams:
- Project Management Methods (originally known as “PMO functions”)
- Central Project Planning GISA, in charge of mapping small projects in the processes and providing project portfolio reporting
- Full-time GISA operational project managers and project managers exclusively managing medium and large GISA projects
- Agile Office to support Agile approaches
More best practices in building a PMO
We used our PMO evolution story as the starting point for a discussion at the 2022 PM Forum in Leipzig, during which participants to the workshop further added to the key success factors in building a PMO:
Best practices when creating a project management office
- Senior management support is essential to build a PMO: it allows freedom to choose the right structure and facilitates adoption.
- A key question every company should ask themselves is: “Why do I need a Project Management Office? What will be its purpose?” The answer to this question will provide the fundamental elements to build a roadmap, and map where the quick wins can be.
- You can use external support to set up a PMO, or you can choose to go at it alone. Both options are equally valid, and depend in the preference of each company. However, having an external view can be helpful.
- Aim for a gradual introduction and construction of the PMO, so that the organization is not slowed down by the necessary change management.
Main responsibilities of a Project Management Office
- Above all, the PMO is responsible for providing methods, assistance and the necessary tools for the successful execution of projects. The PMO should keep as standardization as guiding principles and aim to make work easier for the whole project organization.
- In addition, the PMO should guide and promote the development of the company’s Project Management maturity. Here, training, certifications, and the creation of communities of practice are key.
- In addition to Project managers, the PMO should also consider other stakeholders, including executives who will benefit from the increased transparency into the project portfolio, access to relevant reporting to support decision-making (link to decision-making PMO article), and arbitrate between projects.
- The PMO can provide even more added value in its role as quality assurance and neutral project support.
The role of Agility in a PMO
Agility is a special area of a PMO’s scope. The way Agile methodologies are applied strongly depends on the needs of the company, but is also tightly interwoven with the organization’s culture, irrespective of project management methodology.
Agile methodologies are a part of the PMO’s toolbox, and they should not be applied indiscriminately, but in line with the characteristics of the project at hand. This is where the PMO’s greatest added value can be found: helping project managers choose the best approach for their project. And if an Agile (or a hybrid) approach is chosen, the PMO must be able to support the project appropriately (often through a Scrum Master – although there is some debate about this…).
The top 10 tools provided by a PMO
So what are the top 10 tools that a PMO can provide? To answer this question, we need to take a look at all stakeholders: project managers of course, but also business owners and decision makers.
Each category of stakeholder has its own needs and expectations: project managers will want to talk with like-minded people, and level-up their skills through training, coaching and sparring. Business owners on the other hand are interested in standardization and its main corollary: cost optimization. This means they will need comprehensive and meaningful reporting as well as defined processes and roles.
Some tools transcend stakeholder particularisms though, of which:
- PM standards in a project management manual
- Tool and templates (for the management of single projects)
- Coaching and mentoring
- Project management training
- Project processes and role descriptions
- Project controlling views
- Project portfolio reports
- Collaboration and information-sharing platform for project managers
- Best practice and knowledge management support and sharing
- Transparency in resource planning