manwithtoomanyprojects-medShepherdwise believes that all companies would greatly benefit from developing effective business-driven project capabilities – and for many companies with growing pains, building these capabilities via a Project Management Office (PMO) makes sense.

Today, most large companies have a PMO – an enterprise PMO and/or area specific PMOs such as for IT.  Though not all PMOs are created equal (a topic of a future post), most companies see their PMOs as indispensable for handling the large volume of projects generated by the company.

So what about the many small to mid-sized companies that don’t yet have a PMO?  Do they need one, and if so, WHEN?  How would an executive team know it is worth the time and effort?

Consider the following eight signs that it might be time to consider implementing a PMO.  Most growing small to mid-sized companies will exhibit some of these signs, but if your company exhibits five or more, you will likely find significant value in a PMO.

ONE – Overloaded, “Inefficient” Staff

Do you hear staff routinely complaining of too many projects on their plates?  Do they struggle to do their operational work and project work too?  Is routine maintenance getting behind because there is too much project work to do?   Are your staff confused about their true priorities?  Do they feel like they can’t succeed?

TWO – End Arounds

Do you have project policies in place, which leadership routinely circumvents to get their “priority” projects done?  Do your staff regularly complain of projects getting added unexpectedly?  Does the “he who screams loudest” approach to prioritization govern which projects are tackled?  Is it nearly impossible for leadership to know what projects are being actively implemented at any given time?

THREE – Late is the Norm

Are people in your company surprised when a project finishes on time?  Or worse, no one knows how to gauge on time versus late – projects just happen?  Do milestones and deadlines mean little – not because you don’t want them – but because too little is known or too much changes in your projects?  Does leadership believe that most delays could be avoided, and yet project staff believe they are doing the best they can?

FOUR – Rise of Heroes

Do you have heroic staff who routinely come through in a pinch to push projects across the finish line?  Do you have key salaried staff that routinely work 50-80 hours a week to complete their operational AND project work?  Are your heroes MORE focused on getting you out of messes rather than advancing your company forward?  Are your heroes burning out?

FIVE – Behind on “Important”

Do you have a growing backlog of important projects?  Do the urgent projects continue to dominate?  Do the direct revenue generating projects (like client implementations) overshadow efforts to stay creative and innovative?  Or are most of your “innovative” solutions now being created on the fly?  Is the risk to your infrastructure climbing due to delays in upgrading capacity, performance and interoperability?

SIX – Unable to Scale

Are your staff asking for more project resources and/or less project work, but you have no measurable way to know whether they are overloaded, inefficient, unskilled,  lazy or all of the above?  Do you question the value of adding project-oriented FTEs or contractors since you have no confidence that they can be effectively integrated and utilized?

SEVEN – Failed Change Efforts

Have you tried to make process changes to improve project capabilities, only to see them fizzle or at best have only minimal value?   Do staff or committees tasked with developing and implementing changes complain about lack of support, knowledge or resources?  Does the thought of ADDING a PMO seem ludicrous since even small changes toward adding structure are failing?

EIGHT – Active-Approved Muddle

Do you struggle to know the status of your entire portfolio of projects, though for any given project you can easily get a status?  Do you have a list of projects that is more of a catch all of what you know about rather than a comprehensive and distinct picture of requested, approved, scheduled and active projects?  Is it unclear to you what projects are being actively pursued versus merely sitting on a list to be done?

Note that I didn’t make “the number/volume of projects” as a criteria.  Each company’s capacity varies based on the nature of the projects, the level of staffing and resources available, and the operational impact of projects.

Since every company accomplishes projects, the issue is not that you need to add a capability you don’t have, but you may need to upgrade, improve, and/or expand your capabilities to be commensurate with the volume and complexity of your projects.  Growth always demands change.  The eight signs merely point to that need.

Note too that we hate bureaucracy as much as you do!  Some failed process changes are due to having too much or adding unnecessary bureaucracy.  Adding a stream-lined and adapatable PMO that focuses on business goals MAY ACTUALLY REDUCE bureaucracy.  And where it adds bureaucracy, it will be replacing chaos and will add only the minimum to optimize project capabilities.  A good PMO will self-limit the bureaucracy.

If your company is showing signs of needing to improve its project capabilities, let’s talk.  Whether you need a full-blown PMO or merely some well-placed adjustments to your current capabilities, Shepherdwise can help you help your company deal with its growing pains.