Did you ever wonder what your project managers (PMs) do all day long? In one of my other articles here you can read a survey about this, and how project managers are “misused” for “work “foreign for the species”. In addition to that project managers often can only do their job “at the side” on top of hands-on work in the project. Today I’d like to talk about a third kind of project manager’s time misuse, those jobs that could be done much cheaper and more efficiently by others – in a Project Management Office.
Project managers accomplish valuable work
Rewind: Well educated project managers are well paid (or should be). In return they stem a lot of responsibility, keep oversight for their entire team, and ensure that nothing important gets forgotten in the project, and that it becomes a success. This is, taken by itself, a very sophisticated job.
There were some project managers of this kind in the company I’d like to tell about here, also many projects, and thus a lot of work. In an earlier initiative we had already defined common standards for a structured project approach along with appropriate tools and templates. The base for operational excellence in the daily project work was set and meanwhile showed the desired results. Only the project manager’s’ workload hadn’t decreased, and while the projects went tangibly smoother the project manager work day still had 10 and more hours.
As not expected differently the analysis showed that methodic procedures are joined by some routines which would not occur without. Many of these were cyclic, and most of them were to be applied in each of the projects. Though they all belonged to project management the project manager’s time was much too precious and expensive for this, respectively his time would have been used much more efficient at other tasks.
Release of routines increases project managers‘ efficiency
So I received the task to implement a project office for the company which was to centrally pool the repeating routine tasks and do the project managers‘ groundwork. That comprised e.g. organization of travel and accommodation for project team members, booking of rooms and phone conferences, collection and processing of time and work reports as well as updating planning and controlling tools.
Young project people were recruited to start their career path in project management who attended my courses in Project Management basics and in the company’s standard tools. Some of them continued to follow that path later with a IPMA Level D or PMI CAPM certification.
The project managers were released significantly that way; they had more time for planning and analytics thus achieving another push to project quality and efficiency.
Notabene: To implement a performing Project (Management) Office it takes a very experienced project manager who knows what counts. This is surely not a task for a young project manager to earn his spurs !
The Project Management Office (PMO) takes over management responsibilities
When implementing the new career path also a new organizational unit was created, a staff unit outside the traditional, functional line that primarily had to focus on project management. It would have been a logical consequence to allocate the project managers there also with disciplinary competences to consolidate education and promotion in this career path. But my client was not (yet) ready to go that far.
Nevertheless it got „higher“ responsibilities assigned during the second step of my commission: Maintenance and quality assurance of the Project Management standards, execution of the Change Control management and project controlling as well as follow up and processing of risk and contingency management.
The Project Office blossomed out step by step to a Project Management Office (PMO) which dispatched Project Managemnt knowhow fail-safe on multiple shoulders, and which could be used by the project managers efficiency boosting as a shared service. That turned out to be very beneficial when the company was granted two big programs and had the necessary infrastructure already in place with its Project Management Office.
Continuously develop corporate project management
How will this go on now? Well, my contribution already left that much know-how in the company and the Project Management Office that the organization meanwhile is able to identify and initiate necessary adaptations and enhancements by itself. I am currently called to assist only selectively for audits or trainings.
And that is well appreciated because Operational Excellence and internal project management competence was the goal – that was achieved. Now the “expensive” project manager resources can do their high-value jobs very effectively and efficiently, and the company benefits most of this…