Listen to the latest episode of Bramasol’s Insights to Action Podcast Series, in this episode we talk about PMO’s disciplines to improve project management for clients.

Also, below is a transcript of the podcast episode:

Jim Hunt: This is Jim hunt for Bramasol’s Insight to Action podcast series. Today we’re very pleased to have Linda Valentine who is project manager at Bramasol. She has over 20 years of experience with SAP and ERP program management over 14 years of program project management across a variety of different organizational structures and industries. And she’s certified PMP. And today we’re going to talk about project management, PMO structure and how Bramasol uses it and how it applies to consultant situation. So thank you very much, Linda good to have you join us today.

Linda Valentine: Well it’s nice to be here.

Jim Hunt: Why don’t we start off with your definition of PMO and what are the key elements and a little bit of background on PMO.

Linda Valentine: So PMO has been around in one form or another for as long as I can remember. Consulting organizations had only started really adopting PMOs, which is project management offices probably about 15 years ago as a structure from within in their consulting organizations. And their really part governance and part support and support are in structurally part client support and part project managers support. Those are the key elements.

Jim Hunt: From a consulting company’s standpoint, why would you adopt PMO as your structure? And then, what does it accrue for your clients? What are the benefits for the clients?

Linda Valentine: There’s several benefits from a client perspective. One is a consistency of delivery. Once you have a PMO in place, the PMO takes responsibility for templates, tools, delivery, how we go to market with those things. So, no matter what you’re delivering, it is a standard governance delivery. So, budgets are delivered the same way. The structure of plans are delivered the same way. The tools that we use are delivered same way. So if I’m your project manager, I speak the same language as a project manager on another project. And we can interact with each other. We can share the same tools at the quality gate. We have the same expectation. It reduces risk on projects.

Jim Hunt: So it really gives you that standardized common baseline of core communication. Especially it sounds like in a multi-company range where like consulting typically is, it really gives you that language and basis to talk to one another.

Linda Valentine: Another thing it’s also, it’s at the very start up of a project where frequently, we’re taking anywhere from three weeks to five to six weeks to actually get a project kicked off to write the schedules. And WBS is in all of the plans. We can now reduce that by two to three weeks because most of that work is done before us and now we’re customizing instead of writing from scratch.

Jim Hunt: So does the client have to have PMO in place or are you able to bring them along as you’ve set up the project?

Linda Valentine: They can have a PMO in place in which point were merging and potentially helping with some of what we have. Or they can have nothing in place, in which case we’re bringing the whole tool set to them. So we have the ability to work in either environment.

Jim Hunt: So I’ve heard a lot about communication for PMO. Can you maybe elaborate on how it helps improve communications and what some of the disciplines do to, you know, to drive issues to the forefront so that there are essentially no surprises during the process.

Linda Valentine: Well we can’t eliminate all surprises. We can reduce the prices. And I think that’s one of the benefits that that’s probably most highly sought after. Part of it is the tools that we use to enforce communication. And that’s a, it’s, you know, kind of scary thought. But if you have tools and plans in place saying we’re going to communicate in the following manner to the following groups of people. And some of those are internal people and some of those are our clients. And it sets in in place that schedule and the tools that you use to communicate whether those are sting this reports or standardized, logs such as a raid log and raid stands for risks, actions, issues and decisions. And those are very public forms of communication. So everybody, there are no secrets anymore. Everybody knows what the processes are and what the outcomes are and you’re on a regular schedule.

Jim Hunt: So it really lays out the how, the who, the what in the kind of communication in a structured fashion so that ideally things don’t fall through the cracks. Correct.

Linda Valentine: So, you’re eliminating risk and your eliminating potential, potentially you’re eliminating escalations as well.

Jim Hunt: People being, what they are. I assume that some resistance, often times when you’re putting in that structure, how do you overcome that and is that really a big issue or not?

Linda Valentine: It can be and we don’t have to assume we know people are what you know, people resist change. There is this change in all manners of way the best way that you ever come in to show the value. Some of it is small steps and some of it is just rolling, rolling the processes into the. Enrolling those processes, enrolling them over and over again. It’s no different in a consulting organization than it is an industry. I’ve seen PMOs stood up in very small companies and it’s pretty simple. You’ve got 20 people to contend with. I’ve also been part of standing at the PMO at the department of defense, but that was easy. You know, why it was easy.?

Jim Hunt: Why?

Linda Valentine: I have, I had three star general who said.

Jim Hunt: It’s kind of good to have the power behind you and definitely bring consulting to that if Bramasol has gone to the, the effort and the investment to train and inculcate all of your consulting teams with the PMO disciplines and concept, then they become evangelists and probably in some cases, trainers for the clients to help bring them along and help them see the benefits.

Linda Valentine: Yeah, absolutely. It’s, a conversion. It is. It’s takes some successes to actually make that full conversion, but, it happens and that product in that process becomes part of our bloodstream.

Jim Hunt: Yeah. And tangible payoffs are always a good way to choose for adoption. So can you maybe define some of the, you’ve set up net rates and what the tangible information and how you monitor reports and adjust course throughout the process?

Linda Valentine: Sure. So, we’ve got two things in place right now that we’re really manage that process and part of our conversion to PMO was actually looking at the whole SharePoint site and managing that update and upgrade to that. So KPIs was a big one. And what do we want from KPIs? We’re looking at quarter over quarter and looking at projects. So it’s budget, performance, resource management, performance and quality risk management, performance, quarter over quarter. Those are big ones. But the other one is client engagement. Did we predict them, forecast their budgets correctly last quarter versus this quarter within X? because you can never predict absolutely. Management is the same.

Jim Hunt: Okay. And you mentioned using SharePoint. When you’re sharing with the client and communicating information within the PO, PMO, is there any software investment or new tools that the client has to make or are you able to provide the structure for managing all of the PMO activities?

Linda Valentine: So SharePoint today is an internal tool that improves our visibility to our clients and it includes, quality dates calendars so that our project managers are aware when their quality dates are due and when we’re going to take them up as well as lessons learned statistics and a number of other products that we use internally and all of the templates and tools and projects from out there. It is a future goal to be able to also allow our clients some of those tools on SharePoint.

Jim Hunt: Okay. Sounds good. What are some of the ongoing organizational benefits that result from using PMO to manage projects and programs?

Linda Valentine: So there are number of them. And this gets back to the very first question that we talked about. It’s supposed to governance and the support organization. So from governance, we’ve got a much tighter vision of our project. We see them from start to finish in a very clear phase by phase, both from a what are they doing status and statistics. Part of that is through the quality of, through the insertion of quality dates of each of their phases and milestones, which reduces escalation significantly. The other thing that they get is support. So our project managers now have a roadmap for their careers. Yeah. One of the questions we always have to ask ourselves is, is this the career I want, especially in the ERP? And I’ve been doing this a very long time, more than 20 years. So many of our project managers get thrown at project management because they are a senior functional consultant who has been doing this a long time and they get Tean lead designation and then suddenly they’re thrown at project management because they’re available. It’s not really what they want to do.

Jim Hunt: And they may not have the skills of baseless for it, which makes it less attractive if they don’t know the landscape

Linda Valentine: Correct. And suddenly they’ve gone from being really successful at what they were doing. Maybe they’re a great team lead and a great functional resource.

Jim Hunt: Right. And this can give them the tools to go to that next level of that being an excellent manager and it can help them decide whether it’s the career path they want to continue on, but it, it takes away the unknowns. It gives them a basis for making that decision.

Linda Valentine: Correct. It also gives our project managers who want to be project managers the roadmap for how to get certified in agile, how to become scrum masters, how to become PMI certified and what those roadmaps look like because there’s more than one PMP. Yeah, there is, there’s program management, there’s project management, there’s a whole bunch of other ones.

Jim Hunt: We’ve got a couple of minutes left. Would you mind expanding on some of those options? you mentioned agile, I’ve heard of it. Can you give us a couple of sentences on what the agile approaches entails?

Linda Valentine: Well, agile is another methodology? Right? There are so many methodologies out there, but agile is the latest and greatest methodology and many of our clients want to be agile versus waterfall and, and there’s benefits to agile. It is a more rapid process for developing solutions. It does way with a lot of the as-if analysis and get you right into development, um, there. So there are benefits. But as, as a consulting organization, we have to be really aware of what our clients look like, what their landscape looks like and we have to be able to guide clients is as to whether they are the right, they are a good fit. Sometimes you have to have a hybrid. Sometimes you have to include some waterfall in some agile in push those two together where it makes sense. Having PMPs and agile certified project managers is a really good fit for you Bramasol’s environment.

Jim Hunt: Right! It gives and allows you to offer that breadth of capabilities and then tailor the entities. Any specific client situation. Yeah, absolutely. This has been an excellent discussion. Thank you for taking the time. I know it’ll be of use to our listeners and look forward to maybe doing a podcast in the future and coming back and talking about some of the specific implementations.

Linda Valentine: I am happy to do it. Thank you for asking.

Jim Hunt: Thank you again.

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