EXPERT ADVICE

Common Processes: The Path to Better Project Management

Some companies have a “PMO of one,” which means that instead of setting up a sophisticated project management office, they assign one person the task of establishing and enforcing common project management processes. This person often has to deal with a broad spectrum of project work being performed by different teams with a range of maturity levels, which is no small task! Yet it can be necessary for a number of reasons, including the fact that establishing processes helps to move an organization toward maturity. The Project Management Institute (PMI) highlights the benefits of this:

    “Companies with greater maturity should expect to see tangible benefits that include better-performing project portfolios, efficiencies that come with better resource allocation, and increased process stability and repeatability.”

A company that is less mature is often reduced to damage control due to a lack of centralized resource allocation and project status data. Project managers are unable to prioritize projects or schedule them with accuracy, leading to lost opportunities and project failure. A recent study has confirmed the need for defined repeatable processes, finding that companies who use them enjoy a much higher project success rate than those who do not.

So how can the “PMO of one” bring teams and processes together to get everyone on the same page, speaking the same language, and doing things consistently? Here are some helpful tips for establishing common project processes throughout the organization, providing better performance and tangible results.

Why Establish Common Processes?

Each organization might have different reasons for wanting to unify its project management processes, including client pressure, a desire for competitive advantage, or part of the general evolution of the company. Understanding the reason behind the shift will give you direction as to how to approach it.

One thing the “PMO of one” should not do is establish processes for the sake of establishing processes. Rather, let the fundamental issues you’re trying to address drive your direction. You might find, for example, that changing your processes isn’t what you need at all. Many times providing increased transparency, visibility and collaboration around all of the projects across the organization is all you need.

Transparency, Visibility and Collaboration Are Key

Transparency, visibility and collaboration on projects helps to keep everyone informed about what is going on so project managers can address issues before they derail the project completely. Many experts recommend implementing a simple, easy-to-use system to interface between time tracking, resource management and project scheduling. This will allow your organization to retain processes that are currently in use while still benefiting from increased visibility to crucial data. Conversely, complicated PPM solutions usually take several years to implement, which is several years too many if you are working on projects today.

Software alone will not solve all of your problems, but the right system can provide one “pane of glass view” for all processes throughout the organization. Here are a few important requirements:

  • Complete visibility of resource allocation (including project work, non-project work and vacation time)
  • Real-time status information across all projects with warning indicators and alerts when necessary
  • Integration between work requests, schedules, resource management, project road map and prioritization
  • A system that provides these benefits will enable project managers to focus scarce resources on the projects that are most profitable and keep track of which projects are on time and which are not. Not only that, but they will be able to schedule projects with the assurance that the resources they are assigning to tasks will indeed be available to work on them.

    Leverage Existing Processes

    Some people believe that in order to improve an organization, they have to “rip and replace” all processes and tools that are currently in use and start fresh. This is not necessarily the case and can sometimes be a big mistake. You probably have processes in place that are working well, and you should leverage these to get you to the next level.

    For example, you might find that people throughout your organization feel comfortable using Microsoft Project and Microsoft Excel. Forcing everyone to stop using these tools and start using a different system could have very adverse effects. An alternative would be to look at how you can enhance and extend the tools, allowing people to keep the processes they are comfortable with while maximizing benefits and value.

    Communication also helps if you have employees who are resistant to change. They might be suspicious of your efforts to improve processes when they feel that the status quo is already “good enough.” (As Jim Collins wrote in his best-selling book, “Good is the enemy of great.”)

    The “PMO of one” must strive to instill trust in the team because their buy-in is crucial to achieving organizational goals.

    Technology, People and Processes

    Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for change. A strategy that worked for one company may not be a good fit for another, which is why it is important that you use research and communication to uncover your organization’s true needs. The “PMO of one” is the only one who will know what will and will not be adopted by the organization, how much time and money they are willing to invest, and subsequently, what the best strategy is. Also, do not rely solely on software to fix the problem. It is imperative to integrate your processes and people, and to manage them well. Your software solution will need to empower team members and facilitate their work.

    Contrary to popular belief, you can take small steps toward increased organizational maturity. A complete overhaul of your current processes is not always necessary and can sometimes be quite damaging to the organization. Rather, you should do your best to evaluate what works and what doesn’t, and implement a system that will give all project stakeholders transparency, visibility and communication. These small changes will not be too shocking to the employees and culture, yet will provide a way to learn from failures as opposed to repeating them.


    Bryan Peterson is the director of application consulting for Journyx. Contact Peterson at [email protected].

    April Boland is the Resource Manager for Journyx. Contact Boland at [email protected].

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