A few years ago, I was hired as a Project Management Office (PMO) consultant for a software products company. My assignment was to setup their PMO, implement best practices, and oversee projects for twelve months before handing over the setup to the client.

My assignment ended up lasting thirteen months. Some would say it’s an unlucky number, but, barring a few hiccups, it was lucky for me. The PMO streamlined the company’s operations and improved productivity among employees. The assignment was extended by one month only because the client was facing some difficulty in finding the right person for taking the handover from me.

Setting up a PMO is very challenging task. One cannot succeed without the support of a sponsoring organization. I, too, faced many challenges at the beginning of my assignment. There was an initial resistance in implementing new processes, but my client was very supportive.

Since then, I have assisted a few more organizations in setting up their PMO. Every assignment is different, but I learned many useful things along the way. I have written this article to share the best steps for implementing and managing project schedules in a PMO.

 

Implementing Best Practices for Managing Projects Schedule in a PMO

 

Step I – Implement a Project/Portfolio Management Software

A project management software is essential for managing the projects successfully. Nowadays, projects are very dynamic and things change very fast. Furthermore, resources are shared among many projects. It is very difficult to manage a project schedule without the help of a robust project management tool.

A PMO’s job starts with shortlisting a good tool, and then implementing it throughout the organization. You might consider using MS project, as it is useful for most projects whether they are big or small.

 

Step II – Create Processes and Guidelines

The PMO should prepare processes and guidelines for the following areas:

  1. Establish project goals and create project charters.
  2. Estimate project and activity duration.
  3. Create a new project schedule.
  4. Track a project schedule.
  5. Update a project schedule for approved changes.
  6. Set up/allow resource sharing across multiple projects.
  7. Present project schedule reports to senior management and customers.

 

Step III – Create Templates

A PMO should prepare templates that are useful for managing the project schedule. These could include templates for schedules, resource requisition, the project charter, customer and senior management reports, meeting agendas and minutes, and feedback forms. These templates should be shared with project managers and their usage should be enforced across the board.

 

Step IV – Hold Periodic Meetings

The PMO should hold regular periodic meetings with the project managers and senior management. Project team members can also be included from time to time. A protocol for such meetings and frequency should be established and implemented. The periodicity of the meetings can vary based on the organization’s requirements. The agenda of these meetings should be predefined, so as to make the meetings effective.

The PMO should ask project managers to present their respective project reports during these meetings. It should monitor the progress of the project and do periodic audits. Flags should be raised if a project is falling behind.

 

Step V – Take Periodic Feedback

The PMO should take periodic feedback of a project from the senior managers, customers, and sponsors, and then take appropriate actions (do the needful) based on the feedback gathered.

 

Step VII – Employ Project Coordinators

A PMO should employ project coordinators to support the project managers. Project coordinators perform regular tasks like data collection, report documentation, meeting preparation, meeting minutes, etc.

In most organizations, project managers do these things, but a project managers’ knowledge and skills can be better utilized for problem solving, alternative analysis, and stakeholder management. Such time consuming tasks as listed above are best left to less skilled, support employees.

 

Step VII – Train Project Participants

The PMO should train project managers and team members on all aspects of managing the project schedule. The training should include process training, technical training, software training, and any other type of industry or organization specific training that is helpful for managing project schedules better.

 

Conclusion

A PMO is a coordinating and supporting body for managing projects successfully. It has to guide, mentor, and support project managers and other project participants, so that work and projects are executed smoothly.

A PMO is a governing body, also. It should create project management processes, monitor the health of projects, and make necessary changes in project personnel to ensure that the projects stay on track.

Do you have a PMO in your organization? Do you think PMOs are useful or is it just a waste of time? What is its role and how does it support your project managers? Who are the individuals who make up your organizations’ PMO?

Here’s another article that shares some unique insights on about managing schedules within a PMO. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.