Connecting the dots for better decisions: standing up a project management framework that drives value and success

When organisations are seeking the best path to success, navigating complexity in their internal management and operations and external supply chain and markets can’t be avoided. However, as the change of speed and increases in customer expectations and market competition multiply the challenges boards and C-suite are dealing with, quality and speed of decision-making becomes even more critical.

According to recent research from McKinsey companies that making good decisions and execute on them quickly are more likely to be strong performers. Their survey of 1200+ managers and C-Suite leaders, also suggests that more time spent on decision-making doesn’t correlate with the quality of the decision or outcome. On average, respondents spend 37% of their time making decisions, and more than half of this time was thought to be spent ineffectively. In fact, analysis of the research goes on to say that organisations making quick decisions are twice as likely to make high-quality decisions, compared with the slow decision makers.

Peter Donaldson, Enterprise Project Management Office (ePMO) Manager

The PPM: Bringing better project data to the table

Technology has long been welcomed as a tool with remarkable potential to support better, faster decisions. Reliable data and reporting – in the form of budgets, forecasts, KPIs and more – have always been an essential input for leaders to make decisions on strategic, business and project priorities and resource allocation. However, with advances in project management platform technology (PPM), critical metrics of project scope and deliverables, milestones and costs can be more accessible, timely and reliable.

The value of these inputs for decision-making in projects cannot be overstated. They can steer all projects towards greater benefits-realisation for the business, whether they’re in progress or still up for consideration. With access to real-time dashboards instead of Gantt charts and spreadsheets, leaders can have a clearer view of how projects are tracking and make better decisions on sharing and scheduling resources across a project portfolio.

The ePMO: driving value from project intel

As with all technologies, a PPM requires configuration for an organisation’s particular needs. This is where an enterprise project management office (ePMO) can perform one of its critical roles in realising greater value from project intel. The ePMO acts as owner of the PPM solution, overseeing its design and structure to fit the needs of decision-makers across the business involved in onboarding and delivering projects. When a PPM can present the right types of data and reporting in a format that matches these stakeholder needs, they can be far more efficient and successful in assessing the potential value and impact of projects and make faster and better decisions as a result.

A secondary function of the ePMO that can, at first, seem more directive, is in improving and refining the frameworks decision-makers use to guide the take on and delivery of projects. This role can sometimes be misunderstood as the ePMO actually making decisions to commence or continue projects but this is definitely not the case. It’s their job to develop decision-making principles and practices to connect the three inputs that can drive long-term success: project data, the expected or actual benefits from projects and strategic objectives for the organisation.

By giving decision-makers accurate information and oversight of these inputs and their impacts, a PPM and ePMO framework can support one of three ‘winning’ decision-making practices identified by the McKinsey research – making decisions that align with corporate strategy and allocating resources to high-value projects.

Three steps for onboarding an effective ePMO

An ePMO is instrumental in laying the foundations for this practice through information and framework design. Collecting and delivering the right data and embedding the processes and behaviours to support this practice takes time, expertise and commitment from the top. In our client engagements here at Hummingbird we’ve identified three conditions that are critical for onboarding an ePMO that’s effective in performing it’s many roles in driving strategic alignment and return on investment across all projects.

Step 1: Balance best practice with pragmatism

Guiding organisations towards best-practice and greater maturity in their project technology, skills and frameworks should be part of the remit for an ePMO. For their efforts to be successful, both in winning over stakeholders and delivering value through cost savings and other business benefits, an ePMO needs to be scaled to the organisation’s current state. Building best practice can do more harm than good for an organisation that’s not ready for it. If an ePMO is too large and complex at the outset, it can quickly become an overhead and a barrier rather than the foundation that brings visibility to leaders and efficiency to project teams.

An evaluation of where and how an ePMO can deliver the greatest impact on strategic goals and uplift in value is a good starting point for developing an ePMO service solution that fits the current needs of an organisation. Over time, this solution can move towards best-practice by assessing and refining standards and practices for project governance and execution. Taking this staged approach to improving discipline, consistency and transparency across project management offices (PMOs) and teams is far more likely to meet with acceptance and have a positive impact on project and organisational outcomes.

Step 2:  Secure C-suite sponsorship 

With the information, efficiency and value an ePMO can deliver in supporting good decisions, it promises project visibility and reporting that C-Suite leaders have long sought. In an organisation with multiple PMOs sitting across a portfolio, consistent project management and reporting practice can be elusive. Providing a single, trusted source of project reporting and governance can bring executive leaders the potential for greater rigour and speed in guiding action that delivers both strategic goals and financial return. This is just what it takes for organisations to succeed in times of rapid change, high customer expectations and intense competition.

For the ePMO to be successful in delivering project reporting that’s consistent and reliable executive sponsorship makes all the difference. Project teams, PMOs and the ePMO itself, need to be held accountable for adopting the processes and providing the information that’s required for high-quality governance and reporting. By sending a clear message from leaders that the outputs and impact of an ePMO are valued in decision-making, it creates this greater sense of accountability within an organisation’s project team and culture.

Step 3:  Foster collaboration

Although leaders have an important role to play in helping an ePMO gain traction, a focus on practices and skills that support effective collaboration is also vital for an effective ePMO. In their work across all functions and levels within the business – whether C-suite, business units or project teams – an ePMO must foster collaboration to properly understand the information requirements of all stakeholders. By establishing both a rapport and workflow with these stakeholders, the ePMO can find ways to keep refining and improving information quality and relevance to better support desired project outcomes and benefits to the organisation.

The value in a mindset and practice that’s focussed on collaboration can also help an organisation reap the benefits of the growing global ePMO community. Being active in ePMO forums and networks, organisations can gain insights on how their peers are driving more value from projects and select the best-practice methods that suit their own organisational and project needs.