What Do Executives Want From a PMO?

A famous West Coast steakhouse serves remarkable food. Each steak is carefully placed on a 600 degree plate along with a small pat of butter. As the servers carry plates to the tables, the patrons hear the telltale sizzle and look up to see a juicy steak go by. They sell a ton of steak. They sell the sizzle.

So, what did the steakhouse discover that their competition didn’t? Simple — how to not be boring. You can’t be a leader by selling steak like everyone else. You have to be different.

PMOs are no different. Show an executive some sizzle and they’ll pay attention.

Work plans, issue logs, and status reports bore executives. They have no sizzle and they certainly don’t sell any steak.

What do executives want? They want to know that their projects are on-time and on-budget. They want to know how much projects are really going to cost. They want to know that scope, issues, and risk are aggressively managed. They want advance warning before things go sideways. They want it done cheap and they want it done right.

Here’s The Sizzle

Demonstrate a PMO’s ability to deliver metrics that matter. Provide heat maps that pinpoint future resource constraints by skill set. Create Earned Value metrics that show the program’s schedule and financial performance six months in the future.

Most PMOs are over-engineered and burdened with bureaucracy. Forms, tools, processes, and methodologies are important, but are only a means to an end. PMOs are notorious for getting bogged down with paperwork while issues accumulate that cause projects to slip.

How can you inject sizzle into your PMO?

So what do executives want? They want to know that their projects will be on time. They want to know what their projects will really cost. They want to know that they have adequate resources to get projects done and advance warning before things go sideways.

Since schedule and budget performance are closely tied with having adequate resources, let’s add some sizzle there first.

An effective PMO Director is part conjurer, part prognosticator, part soothsayer and part escape artist. The first three are key in predicting future resource constraints and skill shortages. A case in point:

A major insurance company recently implemented a PMO to help manage a large, multi-year system implementation project. The company utilized a shared service environment and experienced significant challenges with resource availability.

To solve the problem, the PMO implemented capacity-adjusted resource heat maps. These heat maps provide a visual representation of the resource challenges facing the program over the next nine months. The heat maps pinpoint those areas where demand exceeds capacity.

Project executives, armed with early warning of resource contention issues, address the challenges in time to avoid schedule delays and budget overruns. Best of all, this major piece of sizzle was cheap to produce. It was all done with MS Excel based on data in MS Project Server 2010.

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