PM-Foundations – Understanding the Maturity of Your Project Office

Let me start by saying that this blog post does not dive into the depths of project or capability maturity models. I am focused in this discussion on how to build a project based organization that delivers in a consistent and effective manner across the project portfolio. I run across many clients that hire, contract, and develop a team of strong project managers, and still describe situations where they are achieving mixed results in terms of the success of their projects. Although people are certainly an important element of building a solid project office, it is not the only component required to provide tangible value to the overall organization. Establishing a mature project organization represents the process of assembling the right team, supporting the team with solid processes and tools, and most importantly creating a project based culture and competency that consistently meets or exceeds customer expectations.

Why is Maturity Important?

Maturity within the project organization represents an enabler to improve project delivery results. Below are several reasons that maturity helps increase the value that project organizations provide within your company.

  • Consistent Outcomes – First and foremost, maturity helps drive consistency within your project organization. Consistency represents a standard way of doing project work, and when implemented correctly also translates into improved project performance (e.g., time to market, quality of the product delivered, reduced costs and resources).
  • Scaling Up – Maturity represents a foundational element that allows project organizations to scale up the work that is performed and delivered. Scaling up means project organizations can take on more projects concurrently, as well as increase the overall size and complexity of projects.
  • Taking it to the Next Level – Lastly, maturity enables project organizations to more effectively drive continuous improvement. Mature project organizations are much better equipped to successfully implement significant process improvements and tool upgrades (e.g., Enterprise Project Management and Collaboration platforms).

6 Indications Your Project Office is Mature

In this discussion I am not providing you with a prescription or recipe to build maturity within your project office, but below are 6 essentials of a mature project organization. Understanding where your team is at in these 6 areas, as well as focusing on ways to perform more consistently and effectively in these areas, will definitely help improve the overall maturity of your project organization.

1. Project Organization – Forming the project team sounds pretty basic, but it is amazing how many project teams launch the project without performing stakeholder analysis, and defining the project organization. Important elements of the project organization include project sponsors, the core team, and understanding other key stakeholders. The RACI represents a flexible and effective tool to define roles and responsibilities within the project team. Do your project teams include the important elements listed above? Are roles on the project team well defined and understood?

2. WBS – The WBS defines the scope of the project and breaks the work down into components that can be estimated, scheduled, and easily monitored/controlled. Simply put, a WBS is a deliverable oriented hierarchy that defines the work of the project, and only the work of the project. The WBS is best discussed and defined using cross-functional facilitated sessions. Do project teams use a WBS to define and breakdown the scope of project? Does the WBS represent the entire scope of the project? How do teams gather the information required to create the WBS?

3. Resource Loaded Project Schedules – The project schedule utilizes the WBS to define the activities, sequence, durations, and resources required to complete the project work. What does a good project schedule look like? Here are a few questions to help test your schedule:

  • Are the deliverables and activities broken down to a level that can be estimated and tracked?
  • Has accountability / responsibility been established for deliverables and activities?
  • Can you easily follow the flow of the project work?
  • Do the milestones appear to be reasonable and achievable?
  • Does the resource usage link appropriately to the project budget?

4. Measuring Performance – This maturity indicator involves keeping your eye on the appropriate project performance measures to proactively identify potential problems, and engage the team to identify and implement corrective actions. Measuring project performance includes schedule, budget, and supplier performance. Earned value represents one of the more effective tools available to measure schedule and budget performance. Do project teams use consistent metrics and processes to measure and communicate project performance? Are these measures used to communicate project performance across the project portfolio?

5. Closing Projects – Project closure starts with effectively shutting down project activities, validating all project deliverables are complete and key product issues closed, and smoothly transitioning resources to new roles. The second aspect of this best practice area is preparing the project closure report (also referred to as the post-project assessment). Creating the project closure report includes gathering input from key stakeholders, and identifying improvement actions to be implemented either as part of the closeout process or for future projects. These improvement actions can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the processes and tools regularly practiced within the project office. Do project team validate that project deliverables are complete, and product issues are resolved before closing the project? Do project teams create a final project report? Do project closure reports include actions required to drive continuous improvement within the project office? Are continuous improvement actions regularly reviewed and implemented?

6. Processes & Tools – To be considered a mature project organization, you must establish and document the project management processes associated with what you consider to be the critical few best practice areas (e.g., schedule management, cost management, change management, issues and risk management, project closeout). In addition, mature project organizations will implement tools and templates to ensure that the best practices are performed in an efficient and consistent manner. The most important aspect of project management processes and tools is that when you examine project work closely within your organization, you find that these are the processes and tools that are utilized on a day-to-day basis by project teams to achieve positive project outcomes. Have the critical few best practice areas been identified within your project organization? Have the processes associated with these best practice areas been defined and documented? Are process documents, tools and templates readily available and consistently used by project teams?

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About Steve Hart
Practice Manager responsible for project leadership & delivery services for the Cardinal Solutions Group in the RTP area. I am a PMP with 25 years of project management and technical leadership roles, have developed an extensive practical knowledge that spans a wide variety of industries, and project delivery approaches. As a practicing PMP, I am a member of the North Carolina PMI chapter. I am an avid sports fan, particularly the Miami RedHawks, Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Browns, and most recently the NC State Wolfpack.

6 Responses to PM-Foundations – Understanding the Maturity of Your Project Office

  1. Pingback: PM-Foundations – Understanding the Maturity of Your Project Office | #PMChat

  2. linux vps says:

    That is very fascinating, You’re an overly professional blogger. I have joined your rss feed and sit up for in the hunt for extra of your wonderful post. Also, I’ve shared your website in my social networks|

  3. Mike says:

    Steve,

    Regarding the structure of a project/program office in sharepoint, do you recommend a flat design, with all projects, tasks etc living at the same site level, perhaps even in the same lists, doc libraries etc, or are subsites ok?

    I’m trying to set up a PMO in sharepoint, but don’t know the best way to structure the projects so I can

    a) easily roll up items to the program level, eg have a dashboard that pulls all project statuses, open items due this week, etc, and

    b) easily archive items upon project completion.

    Are subsites, each with their own project plan task lists, issues/risks lost, document library, etc a good way to organize a PMO site where aggregated portfolio reporting is desired?

    Thanks!

    • Steve Hart says:

      Your best answer is Project Online, but that requires an additional investment.

      My recommendation is a portfolio list of projects with links to project sites. The automated roll-up requires tools like project online or custom code in SharePoint.

      Steve

  4. GradyD says:

    Hello Steve,

    I sure miss your blog updates and articles!

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