Driving Quick Wins for your PMO

Too often, Program Management Office (PMO) leaders create future-state visions and roadmaps without an MVP (minimum viable product).  They are so focused on Project Portfolio Management (PPM) capabilities they hope to attain in months or years that they lose sight of near-term opportunities to bring immediate value. 

These opportunities are considered Quick Wins and can often be realized with relatively minimal effort.  This does not mean there is no value for a roadmap.  A roadmap is critical to driving the future direction for PPM capability maturity within your organization.  But by looking across your PPM capability stack you should consider short-term, mid-term, and long-term time horizons. 

So, what are some of the benefits of implementing Quick Wins?  Here are some examples: 

  • Increased schedule predictability and visibility into possible delays 
  • Tighter control of scope and improved expectations management with customers 
  • Improved project financial reporting for increased burn rate, forecast transparency, and spend optimization 
  • Increased consistency of delivery and trust-building with customers 
  • Better awareness of resource needs and improved runway for staffing decisions
  • Centralized decision-making & communication of schedule, cost, and scope changes, along with rationale and approval for resource onboarding/off-boarding 
  • Accelerated risk mitigation to minimize firefighting numerous issues later in the project 
  • Higher level of customer stakeholder engagement & alignment, and improved business readiness through early implementation of formal OCM practices 
  • Reduction and simplification of project administration with shift of PM responsibility to proactive planning, course plotting & recalibration, and project leadership 

A simplistic approach that includes dynamic workshops to evaluate PPM pain points, challenges, and opportunities along with the Art of the Possible can help determine what the Quick Wins are compared to capabilities that should be added to the roadmap for future development. 

Let us look at an example.  We will focus on Scheduling, a fundamental PPM capability.  Suppose during a dynamic workshop the following challenges, pain points, and opportunities are uncovered: 

  • The only complete end-to-end project timelines that exist are in the high-level business plan  
  • Schedules are not resource-loaded 
  • Tasks in schedule are extremely high level (some activities are 3-4 weeks long, making it challenging to measure progress)  
  • Detail is being managed in separate tracking tools  
  • No clear ownership between work stream leads and program managers 
  • Status meetings are via email or ad hoc calls 
  • No clear process for schedule forecasting, variance analysis, or “path to green” tactics 
  • Not all schedule delays and changes are centralized with the program manager 

Now, through further discussions about the Art of the Possible, the following suggestions are made for improvement: 

  • Develop end-to-end schedules across all program phases using consistent industry-standard tools   
  • Schedules may be rolling plans, with high-level activities and key milestones for work that still require detail definition 
  • Decompose high-level tasks in into smaller actionable activities (less than 10 days in duration) 
  • Conduct dependency analysis and develop critical path 
  • Baseline schedules and employ performance indicators to monitor variance 
  • Flag key milestones and activities to be reported and setup quick view for convenient status updates 
  • Track schedule using actual and forecast completion dates (rather than % complete) 
  • Centralize schedule decisions and communication with the program manager 

While the above improvement suggestions could be the right future-state vision, some of these could take considerable time to fully adopt.  Therefore, putting a near-term lens on these capabilities should help implement immediate value.  Here are some Quick Win examples: 

  • Adopt a consistent scheduling tool and roll out just-in-time training 
  • Apply consistent schedule templates and KPIs to begin measuring apples-to-apples 
  • Provide a schedule coach and evaluate schedules for missing, incomplete, or erroneous schedule logic (e.g., missing dependencies, unnecessary constraints, etc.) 
  • Introduce schedule buffer and baseline projects 

Improvements that are expected to take longer than your near-term time horizon (usually 6-12 weeks) should be added to your PPM capability roadmap.  Quick Wins should be planned and worked on immediately with the MVP approach.  In other words, seek progress not perfection.  You can build on progress and quickly develop needed momentum. 

Contact us at [email protected] to learn more. 

About The Author 

Tony Castronovo, Executive Vice President at EPMA, brings 25 years of Management Consulting, Project Portfolio Management, and Agile Transformation experience to clients he serves.  His focus for over two decades has been to help organizations drive value from strategy to execution by leveraging leading practices in PPM capabilities and practical approaches for rapid yet effective implementation.