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 has become more interesting and controversial when concepts of activity-based working, self-serving teams, and obsolescence of the “command and control” style of delivery were introduced some 15 years ago.

Of course, the proliferation of Agile has fuelled the argument as to the relevance of centralised PMOs, and the functions that they should be performing, versus, those that could now be fulfilled by self-catering delivery teams. Suffice to say that to this day, we are still waiting to see the first successful technology implementation project (medium to large scale), that has been brought to satisfactory completion without the use of a centralised PMO.

PMO Frameworks tailor-made

PMO frameworks should be based on standard methodologies, but be 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 that is 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) seem to be the most dominant approaches used 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 method thought leadership, 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 of 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, schedule & 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 they have a significant role to play 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 their assessment of 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 motivation and morale. In essence, they are an extension of the project manager as they have deep and meaningful intimacy with the project’s day to day operation.

The Time cost and quality continuum are at the centre of all good PMO Frameworks.

Strategic PMO Framework

The leader of the PMO must have a seat at the executive table. He or She needs to bring to light their educated opinion on project health, which of course 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 for all team members and layers of management. Online, automated, and easily accessible project and PMO reporting offers transparency which is 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 ought to 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 tracking. These are all important to analyse, understand, communicate and discuss with ExCo and/or SteerCo in order 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 right 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 projects, complex projects 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 right 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 key principles of experience, quality, and ethics.

Choosing the right 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

Email: info@libertyit.com.au

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