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APQC Best Practices Study on Effective Project Management Offices Shows That “You Get What You Measure”

APQC, the world’s leading proponent of knowledge management, benchmarking, and best practices business research, has released the results of a new study—Effective Project Management Offices—which uncovers trends among a select group of best-practice project management offices (PMO). The best-practice organizations highlighted in the study focus on providing structure, guidance, and oversight to achieve the maximum value from diverse portfolios of projects. They balance strategic needs, aligning development and improvement activities to the business goals and objectives of their organizations, with an emphasis on providing the hands-on skills, tools, and assistance which empower those leading individual projects.

“The APQC research team found several patterns, insights, and findings from the best-practice organizations including strategies, practices, technologies, and metrics,” said Jeff Varney, senior adviser and business excellence practice lead for APQC. “From measuring and reporting on project status monthly to using straightforward and dynamic dashboards to display project performance, the findings differentiate best-practice organizations from others in the study, and may provide solutions to challenges many organizations face.”

The best-practice organizations examined in detail in the study include: Dell Services, DTE Energy Co., IBM, United Illuminating Company, and a multi-billion-dollar beverage manufacturer.

Effective Project Management Offices details 14 best practices demonstrated by the study participants, but four in particular stood out:

  • Best-practice PMOs actively contribute to enterprise strategic planning – In order to establish the importance PMOs are given within the enterprise, most best-practice organizations have either a formal or informal business case to establish its prominence. In addition, a key enabler to PMO’s contributions to strategy creation is executive support; most best-practice PMO’s in the report were established by and report to either C-level management or just one level below. For example, senior leadership at DTE Energy chartered its PMO, called major enterprise projects, as part of an effort to transform itself into one of the best-operated energy companies in the U.S.
  • Best-practice organizations take a strategic and integrated approach to resource forecasting and loading – Resource loading, which is planning for and allocating a portion of an employee’s time to a project to ensure appropriate staffing, is utilized by The United Illuminating Company to help create a formalized planning process around project resources to ensure the right employees are staffed on the right projects. A project manager may work on five to seven projects at a time, all at different stages.
  • Best-practice organizations make large investments in training project managers – All of the best-practice organizations in the report provide training that includes soft-skills training; coaching and one-on-one mentoring from senior project managers; and providing all employees with project management-specific content. For example, Dell Services, which views project management as both an art and a science, trains its employees in both components. Dell’s PMO has a project management competency model that lists required technical, functional, and leadership skills/knowledge for each job role.
  • Best-practice organizations use automation and centralization for PMO technologies – The majority of the featured best-practice organizations in APQC’s study purchased project planning/scheduling and tracking/reporting software programs to facilitate project management. Others also developed internally automated tools for risk management and knowledge repository. For example, IBM developed a work center as its platform of choice for project program management. The work center provides project managers a wealth of functionality including requirements management; proposal management; resource management; exception management; and defect tracking.

Detailed descriptions of the practices, supported by case studies from the best-practice organizations, may be found in the full research report published by APQC.

About APQC

APQC is a member-based nonprofit and one of the world’s leading proponents of knowledge management, benchmarking, and best practices business research. Working with more than 750 organizations worldwide in all industries, APQC provides organizations with the information they need to work smarter, faster, and with confidence. Visit www.apqc.org or call +1.713.681.4020 and learn how to Make Best Practices Your PracticesSM.

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