Case studies

Here are some examples of business problems that Clients have asked us to help them with, and the approaches we have used to tackle them.

Financial Management (Portfolio Office)

  • We were brought into a PMO that in straitened times was experiencing an unprecedented focus on project finances and an immutable annual budget. We were tasked with ensuring that the project portfolio could be delivered within this budget.
  • We analysed the information that was available, created and communicated a standard approach to cost recording and forecasting using defined cost categories reconciled with the general.
  • First we implemented a tactical solution (spreadsheet pivot tables based on portfolio data) showing portfolio annual budget together with actuals to date and a forecast for the whole year (broken down by strategic focus and programme) and the forecast variance against budget, together with some trend analysis and various cost category breakdowns (e.g. Internal Labour / Staff Augmentation / Consultancy).
  • Based on the learning from this tactical solution, we commissioned and managed the development of a strategic reporting solution in SAP Business Objects.
  • As a result, the EMEA regional portfolio board now has a concise overview of portfolio finances and progress against financial year budget. The solution was viewed as organisational best practice and rolled out across the rest of the globe.

Governance (Portfolio Office)

  • We were brought into a new PMO, in which client onboarding projects would often either overspend in order to meet unrealistically tight timescales or miss the due date, with overspend being authorised only by the project sponsor (in Sales), and the consequent draw on resources negatively affecting other projects. We were tasked with turning this situation around.
  • We put in place a Change Control mechanism, with the level of change authorisation dependent on the size of the change (in terms of costs, time, and business value), including cumulative as well as incremental measures to prevent large changes being disguised as a series of small changes.
  • We developed monitoring approach to detect situations where change requests were indicated, devised templates to support PMs in requesting changes and determining the approval level required, and monitored numbers of approved and rejected changes (to identify “noisy” projects).
  • As a result, changes were reviewed and approved at an appropriate level, at the highest level including a full review of the impact on the rest of the portfolio. In the space of a year this (along with other initiatives) the Client project portfolio moved from a situation in which all Client onboarding projects missed either time or budget constraints (and around 15% missed both!) to a situation where just 20% of Client projects missed agreed time or budget constraints, and none missed both.

Methodology Development (Enterprise PMO Function)

  • We were tasked with reviewing Project Management methodology, a comprehensive (125 pages, 30 templates) rulebook that was generally either ignored by Project Managers (increasing risk) or blindly implemented in full (impeding delivery).
  • We analysed the methodology to identify the key control points and templates. We ensured Project and Programme Managers’ buy-in by engaging them in development and testing templates.
  • We moved to a framework or toolkit approach comprising a mandatory core with optional additions, depending on size, risk, complexity, etc., with Project Managers required to explain why any optional PM artefact was not being used and to take accountability for that decision.
  • We conducted post-implementation reviews, implementing web surveys to collect stakeholder impressions and facilitating discussion sessions to explore viewpoints.
  • We interpreted the results, making recommendations for remedial action, writing reports to stakeholders, and integrated lessons learned into the PM framework.
  • The new approach gave increased flexibility to Project Managers whilst ensuring their accountability.

Portfolio Integration (Enterprise PMO function)

  • We came to a PMO in which status was reported in various formats, with consolidation based on copying and pasting of information into lengthy reports, and projects were being approved with no view of the organisation’s capacity to implement them.
  • We developed and implemented integrated Project Status Workbook, combining RAG Status reports, Risk, Issue, Dependency and Change Registers into a single recording and reporting document for each project, with a stakeholder dashboard.
  • We developed and implemented a consolidating MS-Excel spreadsheet, using VBA macros to provide management information to the Portfolio Board (e.g. % of Projects Red/Amber/Green; % of projects Delivered on Time/to Budget; Portfolio focus on Run/Grow the Business, etc.), charting trends to provide insight into project management effectiveness.
  • We introduced Demand Management to the Project Portfolio Board, using MS-Excel to compare resource demand (from active and proposed projects) with planned supply to enable the Portfolio Board (C-Level executives) to assess the viability of the planned project portfolio within prevailing (tight!) resource constraints.
  • As a result, the Programme Board were given a concise, consistent and informative view of Portfolio Status, and were able to consider project proposals against the context of the organisation’s capacity to implement them.

Project and Programme Support (Programme Office)

  • We were brought into Programme PMO to provide effective and efficient support services to the programme in these areas:
    • Documents and Templates: Quality reviewed Project Definition Documents; Overhauled Programme Induction pack;
    • RAIDs and Reporting: Managed regular review of Risks, and monitored issue resolutions; Reviewed and challenged Status Report content, resolved inconsistencies in project reporting and conflicts with PM framework; Prepared packs for stakeholder meetings (C-Level executives), documented the meetings and compiled status reports.
    • Planning: Created Programme Milestone Plan and monitored progress against it; Prepared filtered views for stakeholders; Prepared MS-Project “what-if” plans to evaluate impact of proposed changes; Optimised plans by levelling resources;
    • Project Management Information System (PMIS): Developed and maintained PMIS in MS-SharePoint, creating User Guides for both Users and Administrators; Carried out all SharePoint administration, including setting up secure areas.
  • By providing an appropriate level of support, Project and Programme Managers were able get on with leading their projects and programmes, safe in the knowledge that someone was “watching their back”.

Planning (Programme Office)

  • We were brought into a programme which had only rudimentary programme spreadsheet-based plans, and which was therefore unable to forecast how delays in one project would affect others, or to assess change requests. There was a need from senior stakeholders for a programme “road map” to assess overall progress towards regulatory deadlines, and some robust forecasts for the annual budgeting cycle.
  • We worked with individual PMs to standardise elements of their plans (e.g. use of custom fields) for easier integration into a programme plan. Converted process flow diagrams prepared by Business Analysts into fully resourced MS-Project plans linked with dependencies. From this plan, prepared resource and financial plans for budgeting, custom filtered views (missed milestones, items due to start or finish in the next four weeks) for progress tracking, and highly summarised “road maps” for senior stakeholders.
  • We used the task lists and the outputs of brainstorming sessions with workstream leads to create workstream plans (using a standardised approach for easier integration) and translated process flow diagrams prepared by Business Analysts into MS-Project plans, cross-linking these with dependences into an integrated and resourced programme plan. From this plan, prepared resource and financial plans for budgeting, custom filtered views (missed milestones, items due to start or finish in the next four weeks) for progress tracking, and highly summarised “road maps” for senior stakeholders.
  • We kept the plans updated with progress and approved Change Requests, regularly reviewed forecasts against the plan baseline to identify potential slippage, and prepared “what-if” plans showing the impact of proposed changes. The plan moved from being a list of dates and a picture on the wall to a dynamic tool to manage delivery.
  • As a result the Programme Board had a good overview of progress, and was able to assess the effect of Change Requests on the critical path before deciding whether to approve them.

Project Information Management (Programme Office)

  • We were brought into a Programme PMO with an erratically-used Project Management Information System (PMIS) in MS-SharePoint. Multiple document versions existed in various places. There was a clear need for more consistent PMIS usage.
  • We examined the types of information in the PMIS, and devised a standardised organisation structure to simplify navigation.
  • We created guides for both Users and Administrators (with summary booklets), training users in the use of SharePoint’s version control system and encouraging the use of document metadata over folders to organise information more flexibly.
  • We carried out all SharePoint administration; setting up access-controlled document libraries and user groups for sensitive documents.
  • Users became more confident with SharePoint, more aware of its features and how to overcome shortcomings. As a result, more programme information could be found in one place, with access to previous versions and a clear audit trail.

The Pragmatic PMO approach is to ensure there is just enough process and documentation in place to make sure things are being done robustly and justifiably, but not so much that it interferes with Getting Things Done.