In the past few decades, there has been much debate about the importance and value the project management office (PMO) adds to projects in an Agile world. The debate became more exciting and controversial when concepts of activity-based working, self-serving teams, and obsolescence of the “command and control” delivery style were introduced 15 years ago.
Of course, the proliferation of Agile has fuelled the argument about the relevance of centralised PMOs and the functions they should be performing versus those that could now be fulfilled by self-catering delivery teams. To this day, we are still waiting to see the first successful technology implementation project (medium to large scale) completed satisfactorily without using a centralised PMO.
PMO Frameworks tailor-made
PMO frameworks should be based on standard methodologies and tailor-made for each project. Although uniformity across the industry and within an enterprise is highly desired, each project will have different drivers, influences, and dynamics to warrant a version of a PMO framework custom suited to the project.
The PMO framework of choice is usually decided during the inception phase of a project and is then regularly reviewed and tweaked, throughout the life span of the project, as part of PMO Governance. The delivery method of choice has driven many projects to go on a bold mission to be fully Agile (or Scaled-Agile). Depending on the size and complexity and muti-tech-tier solution, many realise that perhaps there are elements of the Waterfall methodology that they cannot do without.
Project management and banking modernisation
Agile project methodologies work well for low-tech integration complexity implementations. Most projects these days tend to apply Agile-like implementation methods, including cross-skilled scrum teams, Agile ceremonies, and collaboration tools. Hardly any banking modernisation projects we have seen in the industry have Agile (or scaled-Agile) in their pure form. Custom Agile and Hybrid (a mix of Waterfall and Agile) are the most dominant approaches in our industry. The PMO framework will need to consider the delivery method that the project decides to use. The PMO will help influence decision-making on delivery methods, set the tone for the project, and drive a standard approach to data collation, reporting, and insights development.
Strategic PMO Frameworks
In our mind, PMOs these days have long distanced themselves from the mentality of an “order taking” service provider to projects. PMOs should not have their remit limited to “robotically” executing instructions by the delivery teams, project managers, SteerCo’s or ExCo’s, nor should the PMO be an administrative function.
The PMO must champion delivery methods through leadership and work with senior leaders to design and implement PMO governance frameworks that help determine the “ways of working” and delivery models (also known as project operating models). PMOs lead the project insights development and publication, assist delivery with coordination and manage project workforce utilisation, both demand & supply. PMOs are accountable for sourcing, supplier contract management, and selecting the right project tools for the project.
What to look for in your PMO team?
PMOs must comprise highly talented, seasoned professionals who have earned their “stripes” through exposure to complex, multi-year projects. It is imperative that the PMO members have project delivery experience, understand methodologies like Waterfall, hybrid and Agile and are well versed in project data analytics, schedules & financial control and project delivery tools such as Clarity, Jira and PPM.
Agile coaches have come in high-use/high-value in recent years and have a significant role as part of the PMO. They help teams prioritise and manage their work allocation and scope backlogs. They assure consistency in their approach across all squads.
Some organisations have project directors, project managers and scrum masters being part of the PMO. In our opinion, that creates a conflict of interest. The PMO’s role is to keep project delivery professionals “honest” with total impartiality and unemotive objectivity in assessing project health. Notwithstanding that healthy collaboration between the PMO and project delivery is a mandatory ingredient for success.
The appointment of project coordinators to assist in the delivery of projects is sometimes frowned upon and, in many organisations, considered a non-essential role. Many projects look to control costs by reducing or eliminating these roles. In our experience, that is one of the most fundamental roles in a project’s success. Coordinators offer directors and project managers the necessary time bandwidth and reach to eliminate the “noise” and focus on priority items. The coordinators are confidantes and offer unparalleled advice on the “pulse” of the team’s motivation and morale. Essentially, they are an extension of the project manager as they have deep and meaningful intimacy with the project’s day-to-day operation.
Strategic PMO Framework
The leader of the PMO must have a seat at the executive table. They need to bring to light their educated opinion on project health, which is always based on objectivity resulting from data-driven insights. It is beneficial for project health diagnostics and reporting to be automated and as close to real-time as possible. It should be readily accessible to all team members and layers of management. Online, automated, and easily accessible project and PMO reporting offer transparency, one of the most fundamental pillars of a project’s success.
PMO Reporting Framework
Project schedule, financials, quality, scope, and business case benefits are key “success sliders” of any project; they should be proactively managed, tracked, and regularly reported. Equally essential success elements to a project are workforce planning (utilisation, supply & demand), project change control, risks, issues, decisions, and ultimately solution adoption track. These are all important to analyse, understand, communicate and discuss with ExCo and/or SteerCo to make the right trade-offs within project constraints of time, budget and risk appetite. The PMO is an essential addition to the project team to collate, analyse objectively, and publish insights on all of the above.
Choosing the proper framework for a project takes time and requires input from all teams within a project. It is a prudent investment of time and energy as early in the project as possible to set up your project for success by choosing the framework that works for your organisation and project.
Banking Technology Consulting
At Liberty, we have experience with small and large, complex and straightforward projects. We have used various PMO frameworks, and we see risk or success where no other can. Our project management consultants are delivery methodology & execution specialists. They have unparalleled industry experience, helping organisations choose and implement the proper framework that works for them within their constraints.
Liberty IT specialises in banking & finance technology consulting and financial software implementations across the entire financial services industry. With outcomes-based, ‘as a service” consulting or staff augmentation being part of our services offering, we ensure that we deliver the best results on time, within budget, and with the highest quality. Our PMO and delivery execution methods are based on the foundations of our fundamental principles of experience, quality, and ethics.
Choosing the proper framework for a project takes time and requires input from all teams within a project. At Liberty IT, we have experience with large and complex projects. We have used various PMO frameworks and offer PMO Governance because we see risk or success where no others can.
If your business needs help with a project or technology implementation challenge or help with a transformation problem you need to solve, Liberty has a team of project professionals ready to help.
Contact us at www.libertyit.com.au.
Telephone: +61 (02) 9238 8094