There’s been a lot of talk lately about how agile business processes are causing different aspects of project management to shift away from the typical command-and-control approach. Instead of just certified PMs, workers of all types are suddenly finding themselves in and out of the driver’s seat as projects shift and change. And while that’s all well and good (and super exciting), it’s important to note that this adjustment doesn’t lessen the need for upper management. In fact, it hones the project management office (PMO) by filtering out smaller tasks and allowing official PMs to focus their experienced attention on the parts of the job that need it most.

In a recent study from APQC, a leader in knowledge management and bench marking, some of the biggest names in the game–Dell, IBM, and the United Illuminating Company included–revealed how their PMOs are functioning today.

“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,” said Jeff Varney, senior adviser and business excellence practice lead for APQC.

The report contains 14 best practices in total, but here are four that stood out in particular:

1. Regularly Contribute to the Game Plan

It’s crucial to have a PMO in strategic planning meetings rather than have a director or executive brief them after the fact. On top of increasing awareness, their inclusion can result in more effective planning since PMOs generally have a better idea of team bandwidth and can offer a realistic timeline for project completion. Another key enabler is executive support; most of the PMOs in the APQC report were established by and reported to either C-level management or just one level below.

2. Strategically Forecast Resources and Loading

The United Illuminating Company utilizes a formalized approach to planning for and allocating an employee’s time on each project to make sure they are appropriately staffed. This way, a PM can work on several different projects at a time no matter what stage they’re in.

3. Train, Train, Train

Every organization in the study provided PM training, including lessons on soft skills, coaching and one-on-one mentoring from senior management. Dell Services, for example, views project management as both an art and a science, and trains its employees in both components.

4. Automation and Centralization

Most of the organizations featured in the study purchased project planning/scheduling and tracking/reporting tools, while others developed internally automated tools for risk management and knowledge repository. IBM’s platform of choice for project management is its own work center, which provides PMs with features such as proposal management, resource management and defect tracking.

Want to hear more? Grab the entire report from APQC here.

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