Establishing a Project Management Office (PMO) Part 2 – Business Objectives

If you have been following this blog you will recognize a common theme in almost everything you want to do: Know your outcomes (aka “Business Objectives”). Before establishing a PMO, you need to understand the PMO Sponsor’s vision of what problems they are trying to solve and/or what opportunities they wish to exploit.

Here are some possible problems your business may face that can be mitigated by having a PMO. You may have one or more of these to solve:

  • We aren’t maximizing our Return On Investment (ROI) from our portfolio of projects.
  • Our project mix is not aligned with our long and short term business goals
  • We don’t have control of our project request process
  • We have key resources frequently overloaded causing project bottlenecks and delays
  • Our projects are usually late
  • Our projects are usually over budget
  • We under-deliver on the agreed upon scope
  • Our projects often have the scope expanded without knowledge or approval
  • Our project quality is frequently lacking
  • We take on too much risk
  • We don’t take on enough risk

Depending on the problems you wish to solve, here is just a sample of the measurable business outcomes you can obtain my investing in a PMO:

  • Regular financial analysis reviews showing the ROI on the current active project portfolio and the ROI on alternative combinations of projects
  • No resource bottlenecks; Resources obtained and deployed in the most effective manner
  • Deliver projects on or under the approved schedule and budget
  • Deliver on the approved scope
  • Control how much risk we are taking on (possibly by regular review of the risk/reward matrix of the current portfolio of projects)

In the next post I will present some possible Project Objectives for the establishment of a PMO.

Advertisements

Establishing a Project Management Office (PMO) Part 1 – Overview

If your organization is embarking on creating a PMO, congratulations! You will typically find one in the best run companies. If you are not sure how to go about it, I will offer some guidance and suggestions in the upcoming series of posts.

Creating a PMO is a goal. Presumably, you want to have it done by a target date. The combination of a goal and a target date means you have a project! You should treat the establishment of a PMO as a project and use formal project management techniques to do so.

Here are the topics I will address in this series:

  • Part 2 – The Business Objectives
  • Part 3 – The Project Objectives
  • Part 4 – The Stakeholders
  • Part 5 – The Scope
  • Part 6 – The Timeline and the Budget
  • Part 7 – Risks, Constraints, Dependencies
  • Part 8 – Summary

Something as business critical as creating a PMO should never be done via undocumented, ad hoc conversations. Following the guidelines I provide in the upcoming posts will give you a much greater chance of success.

Studying for the PMP Exam – Part 2 of 2

In part 1 of this 2 part series, I gave you some good reasons why you should get your Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI). In this part, I will share the methods I used to prepare for the exam.

There are many excellent exam prep courses available but they are usually very expensive (over $1,000) and in my opinion are not necessary. If you are comfortable with self-study, you can prepare for this exam for a lot less money.

Here is what I did:

  • Purchased a self-study book that had excellent reviews
  • Took as many free practice exams as possible

The book I used and the one I recommend is “The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try” by Andy Crowe. The author does an excellent job leading you through everything you need to know, with practice exams at the end of each chapter. The most important thing this book does, though, is change the way you think about project management to be in alignment with how the PMI wants you to think about project management. If you go into the exam trying to pass just based on your project management experience, in the words of Andy Crowe, “The exam will chew you up and spit you out.”

Here is a link to the book on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/PMP-Exam-Pass-First-Fifth/dp/098276085X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454940927&sr=1-1&keywords=how+to+pass+the+pmp+on+the+first+try

I personally went through the book three times to make sure I thoroughly understood the material. You will have to decide for yourself how many times you will need.

The other thing you need to do is practice! There are many free PMP practice exams available on the internet. Just use Google to find them. A general principle in learning anything is to “try, fail, correct, try again”. This is the best way to master any skill or subject. The practice exams will reveal your areas of weakness, where you need to focus your study time. Take as many of these as your schedule allows. I even found one that had a full 200 question, four hour timed exam. That was a very valuable exercise. The practice tests in the Crowe book tend to be a bit easier than the real exam so you need to seek out difficult practice questions.

Be prepared to put in many hours preparing for the exam. It is not a slam dunk and you need to be well prepared. I studied over the course of six weeks, about 1-2 hours per day. If you fail the exam there are no refunds and you will have to pay to take it again so it is in your best interests to pass on the first attempt.

Good luck to all of you preparing to take the exam!

Studying for the PMP Exam – Part 1 of 2

If you are planning either a career in project management or having project management as a critical part of your job function, you should absolutely get your Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI). There are two primary reasons for doing this:

  1. It will greatly enhance your job opportunities and career advancement prospects. The PMP certification is a validation of your knowledge and experience, and shows a commitment to ongoing education in the discipline. Many organizations use the PMP certification as a filter to select qualified candidates to interview. Without the PMP, in many cases you will not even be able to get a phone screen interview.
  2. It will make you a better Project Manager! In my personal experience, just studying for the PMP exam will improve your abilities as a Project Manager. How? It will introduce you to processes, tools and techniques you will likely have never used as a “seat of the pants” Project Manager. You will use this additional knowledge in your future projects and see how they greatly improve the quality of your outcomes.

You cannot go into the PMP exam hoping to pass it just based on your project management real-world experience. The PMI wants you to know and understand best practices, and also wants you to approach project management using their paradigm. You cannot pass without knowing these things.

In Part 2 of this post, I will share with you the methods I used to study for and pass the exam on the first attempt. It didn’t cost anywhere near the $1200 or so some companies charge for PMP prep classes. I hope you find it useful and informative.

The Five Steps to Successful Project Management

There are no “secrets” to project management success. It’s a combination of education in PM best practices (the Project Management Body of Knowledge, or PMBOK), communication skills, and staying confident, focused and cool under fire. Most successful Project Managers follow these five steps:

Step 1: Know Your Outcomes

In the Project Charter topic, I mentioned the first and most important step in your project is to properly define the business and project outcomes. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know you have arrived? This is as true for personal projects and goals as it is for business projects.

Step 2: Have a Plan and Take Action

You can speak passionately about your desired outcomes but unless you do something about it they are as worthless as having no outcomes at all. Taking action starts with good planning and the topics on the “Project Management Plan” and the “Project Plan” are excellent places to start. Once you have a plan, you can begin execution.

Step 3: Collect Relevant Information Regarding Progress

It is a rare project that goes exactly according to plan. You need to regularly evaluate whether your outcomes are still achievable and the level of progress towards achieving those outcomes. Having this information leads to the next step …

Step 4: Be Flexible and Change Plans as needed

If your project is not proceeding according to the plan, be prepared to change the plan and do whatever it takes to achieve your desired outcomes. This could mean some combination of the following: changing the order of activities, reassigning resources, changing the scope, crashing the schedule, etc.

The Marines have a motto: “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome”. This is also a good motto for Project Managers.

Step 5: Look and Feel Confident

Your project team will take its cue from you. If you are expressing doubts, look worried and anxious, or show uncertainty, your team will start to feel the same. Using PM best practices and following Steps 1 thru 4 in this post will allow you to proceed with confidence.

 

 

What is a Project?

Project_Management_Knowledge_Areas

Many in the working world, who are not Project Managers by trade, manage projects. In many cases, they do not recognize they are managing a project and treat it as just another task assignment without applying project management disciplines. This can be very stressful as projects can descend into chaos without proper management.

If you are given a goal and it has a due date you now have a project. It can range from the trivial (“let’s go out to lunch Friday”) to the very complex (“we need a new payroll system”). There is a tipping point where you need to start applying project management discipline, with the depth varying with the complexity.

If you are the person responsible for meeting the goal and the date, then congratulations, you’re the Project Manager, whether that is your formal title or not. Recognizing that is your role is the first step to improving your chances of success. There are many more ways to fail than to succeed. By applying fundamentals, you eliminate ways to fail.

In future blog posts I will introduce you to fundamentals that will help you succeed in your job and your life.

Decision Making Process Part 6 – Summary

In the preceding series of posts, I presented a process I use for making key decisions. Now I will present a brief summary of those posts.

  • We struggle with some decisions because…
    • There are too many choices
    • The apparent choices are all bad
    • The apparent choices seem all equally good
    • Loss Aversion – we fear risking something we have for something we want
    • Fear of being wrong
    • Fear of being criticized
  • Poor decision making process results in…
    • Regret
    • Unintended consequences
  • Good decision making process will…
    • Eliminate decision paralysis
    • Reduce stress
    • Keep you moving forward
    • Eliminate regret
    • Look at decisions as a “portfolio” instead of isolated events
  • The process in 8 steps…
    • Begin with the end in mind – know your desired outcomes and how you will measure success
    • Analyze your alternatives – there may be more than you think!
    • Identify and mitigate risks
    • Distance yourself from short-term emotion
    • Create contingency plans
    • Make the decision
    • Evaluate the outcomes
    • Evaluate the process

Try using the process on your next key decision. Tweak it as needed for your specific circumstances. Leave some comments on this post as to what worked and what didn’t.