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Client Lessons Corner: How A PMO Turnaround Created A New Feature

by Mark McCormick, on Jul 15, 2015 1:42:54 PM

For more than 20 years, the Standish Group publishes a survey of failure rates for projects for a variety of industries and project types. It is called the Chaos Report. Though the results vary slightly year to year, In general, their results state that approximately 39% of projects are considered failures and 66% are considered challenged (definition being that it does not meet one of the 3 criteria of on time, on budget, and meeting the requirements).

In my 20+ years of consulting, I've had the privilege to work with many forward-thinking CIO's.  One in particular addressed this issue head on.  Less than two years after a reorganization, this CIO, was handed a PMO that had results that mirrored the results of the Standish Group's Chaos Report. Before their ownership, most projects were either failing or late. Across the organization, people did their best to avoid engaging the PMO.

In less than one year's time, the PMO now delivers projects at an astonishing 90% success rate. This CIO was kind enough to give us her four principles that guided the PMO turnaround.

"Work on the Right Stuff". The PMO needs good investment decisions to make a difference. The Project Intake Process ensures the enterprise, department, or team is selecting projects in line with business strategy. The CIO and her counterpart, the VP of Strategy, have developed pragmatic, easy-to-understand, and objective criteria to evaluate and approve project investments. Good projects are quickly approved; questionable investment requests are just as quickly denied. 

"Project execution is a process, not an art".  In most project environments, many of the participants have full time jobs in operational areas of the company. Every time they work on a project team, the supporting infrastructure should be the same regardless of which project managers or executive sponsors are leading the project.

"Fail fast: Publish broadly and transparently the status of every project in the portfolio." Invariably things don't go as expected. The earlier we discover that the project is not likely to deliver the business results expected, the less costly it is to change course in the project. A continuous real-time project health scorecard is maintained for every interested constituent in the organization so that issues and resolutions are identified as early as possible.

"Deploy and use the tools we own to support the processes." As a Microsoft-centric IT shop, the CIO's team built the project site template used on every project from a standard SharePoint team site template. They also owned WorkFit for capability performance assessments and managing the Strategy to Execution Process. Since WorkFit has a built-in project health scorecard they created an end to end project intake to execution status reporting without having to build a single component.

What new WorkFit feature came out of his turnaround? Although the Capability to Project view gave the executives the critical Capability to Project Gantt, it was a manual process to keep the individual health status of each project in sync with the latest updates. Since the executives preferred the WorkFit user experience, the CIO asked if we could extract and sync the Enterprise Project Portfolio Health Scorecard in WorkFit on demand. It made perfect sense. Our development team took the challenge one step further. Instead of building a single custom interface to sync the data for this client, they built a configurable SharePoint Project site API that enables every WorkFit customer to retrieve and publish project execution data stored in SharePoint into WorkFit to give real-time updates on the projects that are impacting Enterprise Fitness.

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What were some of the other keys to success?

"TEAM Buy In." The CIO engaged the PMO team in a weekly design session for the end to end processes. The result: a team bought in and jointly invested in a successful end to end project delivery experience project sponsors and participants.

"Make it easy for the non-PMO staff to be effective project participants." Consistency in tools and process for the PMO members and non-PMO staff working on projects increases the project velocity. Once a person participates on one project, they are now an expert in the project approach because the same execution pattern is followed on every project.  

 

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