If there is one thing the global COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns has taught business, it is that it must, and can adapt and change at a moment’s notice and operate with a remote workforce. But can the same be said for the Project Management Office (PMO) with traditional methods of project management?
This issue is still yet to be determined.
Certainly, the sudden worldwide shift to a remote workforce and distributed computing environments because of the global COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns has left business leaders in a quandary. On the one hand, many organizations large and small have managed to move to a mobilized operation with some nominal success. On the other hand, it has created a climate of uncertainty, specifically when it comes to project management. IT project staples such as evaluation, selection, and implementation have been altered, and cut short due to time and resource constraints, which can lead to a disastrous impact in the future.
The traditional approach would be to review all on-going projects and investments, evaluating the Return on Investment and viability to the business of each project. Further to this, teams may also consolidate complementary projects into manageable portfolios and assess viability from there.
These tried-and-true methodologies have delivered proven results for decades. But in a Netflix and instant gratification society, the desire to improve speed to market leaves these methodologies and approaches falling short of the mark. There are new standards being set by born-in-the-cloud leaders that make project areas such as start, and finish dates look like they were born in the stone-age. Business leaders and decision makers are demanding real-time insights into their organizations so they can adapt to any market changes or waves.
Therefore, the expectations of projects and project management must move along with the times. Historically project management was the darling of the IT department, but the undeniable success at a departmental level is opening opportunities for cross department, as well as vertical and horizontal implementations. The ultimate opportunity and goal would enable these organizations to obtain in-depth insights into all facets of the operation.
If Project Management is to pivot and change with the times, so will the levels of accountability and scrutiny. Managing a portfolio of projects will now require new sets of tools. Weekly update meetings may have been replaced with remote meetings, the productivity of which is questionable for many. New remote access capabilities combined with an increasingly flexible work schedule is pushing for minute-by-minute reporting on all projects, similar to the way that as-a-service solutions enabled customers to demand for state-of-the-art technology on a daily basis. This will, inevitably, increase the demands being made of the PMO and their staff; many of which have been reduced because of the pandemic. This will also need to be addressed as we move into the recovery phase of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
We see a need for immediate action to be taken by PMOs with the following 4 steps:
Identify and consolidate projects
The year 2020 will be known as the year businesses were forced to change all three pillars of project management – their people, their processes, and their technology. And, at times, the change had to be made at an unprecedented pace. This rapid response to the COVID-19 lockdowns has left many organizations without proper insights into their own business.
To gain adequate insights, the following phases must be followed:
- Identify all projects and their business case.
- Prioritize the projects based on their alignment to strategy and value to the business.
- Consolidate complimentary projects where possible.
This simplified process of identification, prioritization and consolidation will allow for a basic understanding of current projects at a specific point in time. While answering some questions this simplified snapshot does not provide insights into the overall impact to the organization and leaves many more questions than answers. In many cases significant vulnerabilities and concerns will be exposed. This exercise alone has the potential to be unsettling for many organizations, but with the insights provided executive teams will have a clear line-of-sight to not only core issues of the past, but also the many options to move forward with a proactive approach.
“Shift Left” Towards Business Agility
Business agility is an organization’s focus on creating a culture of innovation, flexibility, and speed. Its typical metrics of success are improvements to employee productivity, time to market, product quality, and employee engagement. Business agility means customer-centricity in all decisions and activities. Many organizations turn to business agility to increase the speed of change in the marketplace, where digital opportunities, customer loyalty, and macroeconomic trends move at a speed where traditional methods for running a business fail to keep pace.
Analysts often use the term “shifting-left” when discussing business agility. A shift is often interpreted in documents and articles as an implied permanent and sudden change for the entire organization. Business agility is a mindset, a way of leading, and an approach to running the organization as a cohesive and interdependent system. The basic ingredients are people, processes, and tools, with the recipe for each organization being unique.
True agility encompasses top to bottom alignment for the entire organization. While the concept of agility is highly desirable to many organizations the reality is that very few organizations can operate in a truly agile fashion. This does not take agility off the table, but it does mean adapting the taxonomy, expectations, and scope. For example, an adaptive approach would allow for an agile framework to be implemented in your creative or coding departments, but not in manufacturing and distribution. This adaptive portfolio approach allows for a hybrid approach with an agile framework in some departments and a more traditional approach in others. An approach like this truly unlocks the potential of the agility framework is understanding the framework itself. As a framework its designed to be more adaptive and progressive.
Optimize and Future Proof Current Software Investments
Whether your goals are to regain control and expand the PMO, shifting left towards a customer centric agile environment, increasing efficiencies, or controlling expenses the journey forward cannot begin without a deep understanding the past. As priority projects are identified, and, in many cases, non-traditional projects have been identified that carry critical business importance. These non-traditional projects can include everything from implementing in-store signage to remind customers to social distance themselves or ensuring employees have the proper at home workstations with computers, printers, desks, and chairs.
In many if not most cases, the number and scope of the projects discovered is alarming. Organizations are realizing that their PMO is understaffed because of layoffs and furloughs and spending valuable resources on ad-hoc and off-books projects. The next process is to optimize and build on the infrastructure, people and software investments already made. OnePlan has created a solution that helps organizations maximize these existing investments. OnePlan can integrate with and consolidate information being tracked in all the various Microsoft work management tools including: Planner, Project, Project for the web and Azure DevOps along with other popular tools. This approach enables organizations to leverage and extend their current tool investments.
Engage, Track and Analyze
Meeting the challenges of this time requires a versatile and scalable portfolio management solution. With OnePlan you can optimize your portfolio and resources enterprise wide providing a complete view into all work in one portfolio. The OnePlan solution meets this challenge by providing the following capabilities:
Visualize all work across your portfolio
Bring siloed information together to gain visibility into your complete portfolio including projects, products, and other work items. Bring teams together in a central location to collaborate on all your investments.
Control all of your investments
Prioritize the work that matters most and gain insights into both current and future work for prioritization and selection. Ensure your resources are focused on the right initiatives for the biggest return on your investments.
Capture Ideas and Improve Project Intake
Don’t miss out on the next big idea – innovation can come from anywhere. To foster innovation teams must be able to collect, vote and prioritize every new idea. In many cases, it’s consolidation of multiple ideas that generates winning products. Engage your teams and empower out of the box thinking to drive innovation across the Enterprise.
Manage the Portfolio
In order to accurately forecast your portfolio, you must consider all work across the organization and its alignment to strategic objectives. Prioritize the right work and ensure you have the resources and funding you need to execute on your strategy. If your demand exceeds your capacity, you’ll have the tools you need to make the best decisions for the business.
Track and Control Financial Information
Estimate, track, and forecast the project’s budget throughout your work’s lifecycle regardless of work type. Ensure your products are profitable and your PMO is preventing cost overruns. Track various cost types and categories for the flexibility you need to manage budgets and spend across teams, departments, and business units.
Provide a Flexible Project & Work Management platform
Work is everywhere and without centralization, teams simply can’t collaborate effectively. Whether your projects are managed via Agile, traditional or within a simple to do list, OnePlan consolidates work to harness the power of project management disciplines such as cost management, resource management and schedule management across all work for delivery excellence throughout the enterprise. Bring Gantt charts, Kanban Boards, and To Do Lists together in one solution for total work management.
Manage Resources Dynamically
Your resources are your most valuable asset. Optimize your portfolio, maximize allocation, and align skillsets to ensure your most valuable resources are working on the right work at the right time. Get visibility and insights into what your resources are working on and know what tradeoffs to make should new work be introduced.
Collaborate using common tools
The success of your deliverables relies on strong communication and visibility into your project assets. Share information with your stakeholders in a single location and ensure teams are progressing towards common goals. Real-time visibility into project performance keeps teams aligned and stakeholders in the know – allowing you to shift direction or remove barriers quickly when necessary.
Reporting and Analytics
Making decisions is nearly impossible without a complete view into all the work that is currently in play. It can also be quite risky as well. In today’s world, leaders must be able to shift quickly and with confidence to stay ahead of the competition or to catch a new market wave. OnePlan provides real-time visibility into every aspect of work so you can make proactive decisions that will protect your investments and help you deliver on time, on budget and within the quality standards your customers deserve. Create quick and timely reports and dashboards to gain insights into the data that means the most to you.
The transitions – and dare we say – pivots businesses have been forced to make are just the first steps in what will be a long journey to a post-pandemic recovery. The world saw vastly different responses to COVID-19 pandemic depending on the location, industry, and the size of organizations studied. Some countries took immediate action and locked things down, some waited to see how far things would go, and still others had no centralized plan of response. Our businesses had similar discrepancies with their responses to the pandemic and many were caught unprepared. Every CEO, CFO or Senior Manager needs to consider and adapt to the mistakes that may have been made in reaction to the events of 2020, and double down on the successes borne out of their responses. In this way they can build or re-build processes to ensure the impacts of additional closures are reduced.
While many organizations and business leaders feel they got a little lucky or dodged a bullet with their pandemic responses in 2020 they know they need to be proactive and prepare for 2021 and beyond. In order to move forward, we must evaluate our past and build from there. 2021 will be the year the PMO escapes the authoritarian clutches of the IT department and becomes the foundation for transformation for the entire organization.
That journey will involve four stages.
- Identify and Consolidate
- Shift Left towards Business Agility
- Optimize and Futureproof current investments
- Engage, Track and Analyze
Successful organizations will empower their organizations by unlocking insights and providing the means to make informed decisions at all levels.
OnePlan Solutions is a trusted global provider of digital transformation services and solutions, with expertise in portfolios of products, services, and projects. OnePlan is your “one-stop-shop” for business agility transformation in portfolio management with implementation services, education and training, customer support and advisory services. We strive to maximize your business outcomes and to create the shortest path to value.In 2019 and 2020,
OnePlan was awarded the Global Microsoft Project and Portfolio Management Partner of the Year award and finalist demonstrating breakthrough customer impact and solution innovation.