Throughout this three-part blog series, we’ve explored how IT teams can fight back against the cost center label through a flexible approach to projects and collaboration with the organization’s business units. For this final part of the series, we’ll look into some ideas teams can use immediately, especially those looking to establish maturity with IT projects.
Beyond the macro undertows we’ve discussed in prior articles (e.g., hybrid friction, the economic situation), another change has occurred: We have seen a movement from project management tooling toward work management tooling. With any change like this comes the opportunity to reflect on and adjust how we’ve done work in the past and identify opportunities for new approaches. In this article, we’ll tackle this very topic from the perspective of IT PMO and how it can shape work both inside and outside of the IT department.
Let’s take it from the top: The IT PMO
As established with our overview of the IT PMO, some of the key elements of the PMO include governance, intake, allocation, collaboration, and reporting. Each of these on its own can present organizations with a significant investment, often resulting in a non-existent or shoestring attempt at an IT PMO. Historically, the IT PMO capabilities have been provided by one-off, purpose-built, or custom solutions (spreadsheets, anyone?). The challenge with purpose-built or custom solutions is that they open the door for gaps in our coverage. This creates an opportunity for Dark Matter to take control of IT teams and their work, as we discussed in the second blog of the series.
With all of this change, can we still look at the PMO in the same light? Are there opportunities to build a mature PMO without gaps in the work within the IT department? Can we handle top-down or bottom-up planning while still having hooks into collaboration? These goals for the PMO don’t need to be a monumental task. In fact, options exist today to approach the PMO with a fresh perspective while still honoring the core requirements like governance, intake/allocation, reporting, etc.
Simply put, the PMO of 2022 and beyond can no longer look like the PMO of the past, and new considerations are paramount. Below are some core principles for the PMO to entertain:
- Embrace that not all t-shirt sizes are the same: Few things in life are black or white, and IT project frameworks are the same. Despite Agile’s stronghold, Waterfall is still very relevant, and there are many use cases within the IT department’s scope that call for a hybrid or Waterfall approach (infrastructure, for example). In some situations, a hybrid approach makes more sense, where work begins with a Waterfall approach and then shifts to Agile later. All too often, IT PMOs can pick an approach (i.e., “Agile only”) and prescribe all projects with a specific framework or standard. This can make things easier for the PMO, but does it really make things better for the IT PMO’s customers? Rather than making fundamental edicts, focus on pathways that enable the most efficient approach toward value creation.
- Stop forcing work into the shadows: The IT PMO, often because of tooling, will draw a boundary line where formal oversight ends. These lines are often driven by some metric, like cost, hours, etc. The problem is the work on the other side of the equation (ticketing, operations) also draws lines. This leaves that dark spot in the middle for work that employees think needs to be done but lacks oversight and alignment. Why can’t your PMO’s boundaries expand to keep this work out of the shadows? Is it a matter of time? Legacy procedures? Bureaucracy? Tooling challenges? No matter the reason, it’s important for the IT PMO of 2022 and beyond to take a flexible approach to enlighten all work by aligning against strategic goals and objectives.
- Foster an understanding of your product: Miron Mizrahi and I will be presenting a session at Wrike’s Collaborate conference on how your work is never done, which encourages us to think about our work more in the vein of product management vs. project management. In this mindset, what is your PMO’s product, and is it something your “customers” (IT projects) would buy if you weren’t the only option? Is your product to approve and facilitate projects that merely deliver within time, budget, and scope, or is your product to supercharge projects that allow faster innovation and value delivery to your customers? The IT PMO is often stood up with legacy thought, tooling, and approaches, which leads to an approach the “customers” only use because they have to. Even worse, a heavy focus on time, budget, and scope can deliver something that is no longer relevant.
- Information is king, but you have to keep up with it: We all know that things are moving faster than ever, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to focus on the right data. This is especially true when data is segmented across many purpose-built tools, as discussed in part one of the blog series. The IT PMO is the catalyst within the organization to get all parties and departments working together in unison, allowing for triggers and actions to be established against the immense data and confounding variables. But it must expand boundaries to work beyond the classical understanding of project management because project management has shifted toward collaborative work management. To keep up with the data, consider the following options:
- The IT PMO examining itself through feedback loops with continuous improvement creates value pathways for improvements to the PMO based on new information.
- The IT PMO embracing a work management mindset supplies visibility into all work with connective tissue between all work and all information.
- The IT PMO engaging internally (IT department) and externally (other departments or the ePMO) is paramount for information driving value.
Some of these ideas are simple and easy to implement, while others might take some time. The important point is we must begin to understand that project management as we know it has become something bigger, deeper, and more powerful: collaborative work management. By understanding this and taking steps toward an IT PMO of the future, we create mechanisms in which IT and other departments have connective tissue and work from familiar and compatible playbooks.
Translating thought into reality — Wrike’s IT PMO template
Internally, we have created and released a new IT PMO template that establishes a structure with the ability to leverage all of the core principles above. It includes tools such as IT PMO reports and dashboards, project reports, and calendars to help keep your projects and work organized. It also considers all aspects of the PMO portfolio, from project intake with our request forms to project execution with sample Agile, hybrid, and Waterfall projects to get you started. Some specific examples within this template include:
- Project intake: Wrike’s request forms provide a powerful approach for project intake within the organization. Projects can be submitted with a business case so that the work can be evaluated for alignment with an organization’s strategic direction. Projects can be reviewed and prioritized to ensure the highest priority projects are being executed. To keep work out of the shadows, cross-tagging is an amazing option to effortlessly align all work against strategic goals. This ensures leadership and individual contributors both have visibility into and alignment with the work being executed.
- Execution: As discussed, not all t-shirt sizes are the same. Agile, Waterfall, or hybrid projects can be easily enabled from this template. We’ve included a few pre-built project samples to get you started. The Waterfall sample includes all the steps required to execute project stages, from requirements to implementation. The Agile sample includes all elements required by Agile teams, including backlogs, sprints, stories, and common metrics like story points. These project templates reduce the learning curve and supply governance and standardization to all projects executed within the PMO’s purview.
- Visibility: The IT PMO template includes a variety of dashboards and reports to provide insight into the IT department’s projects. The IT PMO Dashboard and Project Calendar enable the PMO team to keep a pulse on active projects within their purview. The Project Manager Dashboard and Project Report both provide similar capabilities for project managers to monitor their work. After all, information is king. These tools can be created effortlessly to provide quick and easy insight into this information and supply visibility into all work across all levels of the organization.
How to get started with the IT PMO template
Fully integrated within the Wrike platform, this template provides true collaboration with all work and all information. It is also ready and available to be used today! The template can be installed for any team throughout your organization. Within the template, you can find a how-to guide, a video walkthrough of the template, and sample components to inspire usage ideas. Access the template via the template gallery in your Wrike Space to begin realizing this value immediately.
Bringing it all together: Translate 2022 reality to 2023 value
This concludes my three-part deep dive into the state of IT in 2022. In part one, we took a look at the industry from the CIO’s perspective and presented some ideas that IT teams could leverage to foster transparency. Within part two, we drilled further into the need for IT teams to drive collaboration with the business departments and offered suggestions for teams to incorporate into their existing processes. Finally, in part three, we discussed strategies for the IT PMO to consider to keep work out of the shadows, with some ideas for approaching things differently.
As we work through Q4 and approach 2023, one thing we can say for certain is that the same goals and objectives will likely be on our CIO’s radar for 2023 as in past years. This list includes things like improving operational efficiency, enhancing customer experience, and generating greater employee productivity. Now is the perfect time to place some stakes in the ground and begin working through adjusted approaches in 2023 to make the IT department a true value center capable of better and faster innovation.
What’s next? I look forward to engaging and discussing these ideas and others at Collaborate — Wrike’s annual work management conference, taking place October 25-27, 2022. See you there!