If setting up a project management office (PMO) alone was enough to guarantee project success across the board, every company would have one, no matter how small.

Yet creating an effective PMO is often a challenging project in its own right. And one where many companies fall short.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t expect to transform your company.

In some cases, the PMO contributes to projects in a trivial way but can’t quite get off the ground and never reaches your lofty goals. Worst case, it’s a time, energy, and money suck for your company.

But you don’t need to go blindly into unexplored territory.

In this article, we’ll share 6 PMO best practices, case study insights, and our very own best tips to help you set up and manage your PMO effectively.

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6 PMO best practices in 2021 no company should overlook

Let’s take a closer look at 6 best practices that will take your PMO to the next level in 2021 and beyond.

But first:

What makes a good PMO?

The key to establishing a successful PMO for your business is to have a thorough understanding of your needs and priorities before you start hiring.

It’s crucial because the roles of your PMO should match the shortcomings elsewhere in your company.

For example, if employee engagement and collaboration is a widespread issue, fixing it should be your priority. The right PMO services will have a much larger impact than overseeing a single project.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) recommends using the “PMO value ring” as a guideline — don’t worry, it’s diamond-free. It highlights an 8-step process starting with defining your PMO services and objectives. It also emphasizes adapting and adjusting after you’ve established your PMO.

PMO value ring

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You don’t need to apply this PMO framework but you should learn from its principles.

Now let’s get into the best practices for 2021:

1. Set clear guidelines for scope, risk, and change management

According to research by Axelos, 3 of the 5 top issues with project portfolio management (PPM) are directly related to poor scope setting and change management.

Poor communication impact on projects survey results

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Your PMO should develop processes to make the estimating scope, timelines, and budgets more realistic. You could even set up a dedicated team or council to review everything.

Anticipating and accounting for risks in your planning is a big part of this. With predicted risks and contingency plans in place, change management is also a lot easier.

Thorough research is a prerequisite for making the right calls. Whether to start a project, what to prioritize, the list goes on.

Project management is full of big decisions where assumptions are fatal.

2. Close the gap between stakeholders and project teams

Companies where senior management works closely with project managers are more successful than those who don’t, according to a study by Axelos.

Senior management and PPM success

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External stakeholders also have a significant impact on project success. So any PMO worth its salt should focus on improving stakeholder engagement across the board.

PPM professionals interviewed by Wellingtone highlighted stakeholder engagement as the highest-value PPM process while also being easy to implement.

PPM process value and difficulty

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So make it a priority. Even though the project sponsor is ultimately accountable for the project, create processes for keeping all stakeholders involved and up-to-date.

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3. Standardize project management processes and KPIs

Identifying and standardizing the best management approach for projects is crucial. It’s a great way to add value to your company.

What are PMO standards?

A PMO will often work to standardize the project management methodology, PMO KPIs, and even software tools and collaboration protocols in a company.

The point is to create a set of repeatable processes and documents that any smaller project team can rely on to do better work.

4. Focus on team and employee engagement in an increasingly remote workforce

According to a 2020 study by Gallup, companies with high employee engagement gain a lot of benefits.

  • They earn 18% more revenue
  • They’re 14% more productive
  • They retain 43% more talent

And that’s only the highlight reel. Reduced absenteeism, higher quality work, the list goes on. Employee engagement is a potential goldmine, not a cost center.

But as workers transition to working remotely, you may find this a lot more challenging. And in 2020, up to 42% of the entire US workforce worked from home.

So it’s not like you can 100% rely on in-person workshops or team-building sessions.

Your secret weapon here, according to another study by Gallup, is to check in with your remote workers more frequently. Ideally, a couple of times per week.

Frequency of feedback and engagement graph

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It doesn’t have to be an official project manager. For smaller teams, the team lead could check in with other team members instead.

Schedule weekly — or even daily — virtual standup meetings to keep everyone on track. You can also include scheduled casual gatherings like a weekly coffee hour.

5. Lay the foundation for cross-functional collaboration

In many ways, the cross-functional team is a founding principle of project management. By borrowing resources from various departments, you can finish projects faster.

You also save significant sums by avoiding outsourcing tasks other teams can handle. So every organization’s PMO should prioritize cross-functional collaboration.

And the research backs us up.

According to a recent Deloitte survey, 74% of employees switching to a cross-functional team experienced a performance improvement.

Cross-functional teams boost performance survey results

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6. Own your company’s strategic initiatives

Your PMO should be a bastion for — and help you realize — your company’s strategic objectives.

For example, McDonald’s wanted to double down on technology, so it established a “global technology PMO” to help them achieve this objective in many of its locations worldwide.

The results? Mobile order and pay system implemented successfully in 22,000+ restaurants, and self-order kiosks in another 17,000 locations.

A PMO can help refocus your entire organization on a single crucial strategic goal. But only if you do it right.

Many PMOs come up short because they’re missing a vital ingredient.

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The missing link: project management portfolio software

According to the latest research by Wellingtone, 54% of companies feel they don’t have adequate tools to collaborate on multiple projects at once.

PPM software tool usage survey results

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For a PMO, having the right software is especially important. It can transform how your company handles projects. You can:

  • Spend less time on reporting and more time on making crucial decisions
  • Get a live view of what’s actually happening with all projects
  • Facilitate communication throughout the company

And those are only surface-level benefits. Senior leaders with more time and better access to data and staff make better decisions.

Better structured communication and project files reduce the risk of manual errors and duplicate labor.

Lay the foundation for an effective PMO with monday.com

With a Work OS like monday.com, you can build the project management platform you need without having to write a single line of code.

Robust integrations with apps like CRMs, highly customizable templates, and smart automations make it easy to create the perfect support system for your project teams.

Get a birds-eye overview of all your projects

The projects overview template is a great starting point. You can outline the natural stages of projects in your company.

Color-coded statuses show not only the current project stage but also how it’s going. That makes the manager’s job a lot easier.

Projects overview board in monday.com

And automations make it easy to keep the data in these high-level boards accurate and up-to-date.

Automate to eliminate menial tasks and improve data access

monday.com’s automations can help you cut down manual data entry and improve access to real-time information.

You can, for example, connect a board with individual team boards. Any changes will be updated in real-time.

Projects overview board in monday.com

You can also set up notifications for when things change so that the right person always notices. For example, you can notify a senior developer who can troubleshoot issues with code.

Every time someone’s stuck on a specific task, changing the status to stuck is enough. No message or email required.

Integrate with your other apps and tools to remove silos between teams

Silos can block collaboration and ruin your project performance. Improving access to data from other teams by integrating with their tools is a good first step.

monday.com integrations

monday.com offers native integration with over 288+ apps like CRMs, helpdesks, marketing platforms, and more.

Sync monday.com items with cards, requests, or messages from other platforms. That way, you can keep all the data in the same place.

Standardize processes with customized templates and workflows

An easy shortcut to standardizing project management processes is with custom templates and workflows.

monday.com lets you easily save any custom board as a template. That makes it easy for other teams to reuse it and adopt new practices.

monday.com save template

Establishing a PMO is only the beginning

Trying to establish a PMO from scratch can — ironically — become a tough project for any company.

But starting a PMO alone isn’t going to change anything. The implementation matters. So focus on engagement, collaboration, and working closely with all stakeholders.

And to get a head start, lay the foundation for better collaboration with company-wide project portfolio management software.

Use our projects overview template to better manage a portfolio of projects for different clients or internal purposes.

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