5 Secret Killers of Your IT PMO: Part 3

by Marcus Varner
, 9 min read

In a recent webinar, project management experts Naomi Caietti, director and managing editor at Naomi Caietti Consulting, and Nick Scholz, solutions marketing manager at Workfront, shared five secret IT PMO killers and tips for overcoming them. What follows is the third in a three-part recap of the webinar. You can see part one here and part two here. If you want to watch the entire webinar on demand, click here.


Nick Scholz: Now, requests from everywhere.

This picture really spoke to me because I’ve been in many organizations where it felt like the water was not just up to my chin; this was completely over my head, totally overwhelmed. And that’s the request from everywhere, especially for PMO organizations.

You guys are seeing all kinds of requests because you are an effective organization, because of the talents and skills that you have. That means you can quickly become overwhelmed until it’s simply too much to handle.


See our SlideShare "Project Management 101: Project Request Intake" for tips on refining your request processes.


So, the kind of questions you should ask are things like, "How do work requests come to your department or team today?" You probably know the answer, and speaking statistically the answer is probably a sticky note, an email, or a hallway conversation.

"How are work requests prioritized?" Most organizations are prioritizing by the asker. If the person is important, then that means that it’s an important request because it’s just too difficult to try and do it any other way, without any sort of visibility.

"What common interruptions do you see in your day?" And, "How do you prioritize those big things, those fire drills that are constantly interrupting the day?" The average IT organization is spending between 45 and 55 percent of their time on unplanned or urgent activities.

These are the fire drills that we’re talking about. One in three enterprise workers attribute their work failure to a lack of clear processes and priorities. Without prioritization of what’s coming in, all you have to go on is what the requester has said.

And you want to know what every requester has in common? Their request is the most important thing that could have possibly come across your desk in the past two weeks.

So without a way to really objectively prioritize, these requests are going to continue to overwhelm.

Twenty-eight percent of the average office worker’s day is spent dealing with unnecessary interruptions—things that could be managed but you have to have the right processes, team, structures in place to be able to deal with it.

Now, you guys know the drill. Here is another poll. We’ll give you a little bit more time this time.

I just want to see what your guess is: "How much do ad hoc requests, these unnecessary interruptions or hallway conversations, cost a PMO team of 30?"

Do you have a guess, Naomi, while they’re filling in their answers?

Naomi Caietti: Yes, I just went ahead and put 1.4 but I actually don’t have an idea at all, but I’m sure the number is high.

Nick Scholz: That’s a pretty safe guess. Any particular reason you’re going with 1.4, or is it just going with your gut?

Naomi Caietti: Just going with my gut.

Nick Scholz: Sometimes that’s the best way to go. Okay, we’ll give them another 10 or 15 seconds. It’s too bad we can’t give them more than one answer, because it probably does cost their dignity as well, but we’ll see. 

Okay, I’m going to head on over to the next slide. Okay, yes, we’ve got a pretty good spread across the board.

And actually, the correct answer is $1.8 million every year. I’m surprised we don’t have their dignity, but we had a lot of people who had a pretty good feeling.

My guess is most people went with their gut or with an example from their organization. But our 26.5 percent, you guys nailed it. Our $1.4 million, the 35 percent, you were pretty darn close. It’s a huge cost. Let’s dig into it.

Okay, your ad hoc work, this one, just so that you know the methodology here, it’s a teeny bit different. This is based on the average IT team spending 45 to 50 percent, and that’s 18 hours of their time per week, on unplanned, urgent activities.

It is still based on the 30-person team with the blended rate. But when you come down to it, that is $1,814,000 on ad hoc activities.

These are the kinds of things that may be activities that needed to get done at a certain point, but they didn’t necessarily need to get done at that moment. So there’s wasted time built in on things that may have actually been a higher priority. It’s a lot of money.

Now, Naomi spoke to the idea of mixed methodologies.

This is a world where you have to be able to give people a way to work that they want to work in. We have all kinds of methodologies, from your dependencies of Waterfall to the agility of Agile, but there are all kinds of shades in between. We have to find a way to enable workers to do that.

So, what are your weapons? What are the things that are coming at you?

"You manage both Agile and traditional Waterfall, or linear, projects. If you do manage both of those, how are you making them work together?"

"How do you translate the sprints and iterations of your Agile teams into launch dates and milestones that executives and other project managers need?" And, "Does your team create workarounds in order to get Waterfall data to project leaders and executives?"

Thirty-nine percent of project managers report that more than three-fourths of their projects are completed in Waterfall, while 58 percent report that they are working on projects that include Agile methodologies.

There’s our base. From there, and I’m going to throw a lot of numbers at you; sorry about this. 

But 33 percent of project managers who are mixing Agile and Waterfall—that’s 33 percent of that 58 percent—33 percent of those who are mixing them are using completely separate tools for each methodology. 

That is a lot. That is one-third who are having to use two separate tools just to be able to make sure that their workers can work in the way that they want to.

And then almost 20 percent of those are double entering all of their data.

So they have to go from one tool, enter the data, hop into another tool, enter the data; this is yet again part of that problem of our project management professionals who aren’t able to actually use the knowledge that they have to drive projects to completion, and instead are wasting their time on administrative tasks that are unnecessary if the right structures are in place.

That’s not fair to our project management organization. Because we hold them to such a high standard, we have to find a better way to outmaneuver this killer.

Just like with the others, there are losses. So multiple tools for multiple methodologies, this is a quarter of a million dollars spent on things like double entering your data across tools, and it is based around that statistic we talked about of having 13 different tools for the average worker.

That’s just too much. That’s just too much time, especially when we have the knowledge that we do, but we don’t have the time to be able to tap that knowledge because of all the tools that are in place.

So, we have our five killers. What are a couple of tips to be able to outmaneuver them, to get ahead of them and make sure that you’re not in a bad position and that you can build out that future plan that Naomi was talking about for your PMO organization? You want to win the game.

First, this is a simple one but I do think it is absolutely critical: invite diverse perspective. Diverse organizations perform better than those without diversity. I don't think there would be too many who would be surprised by that.

You’ve got to find ways to allow for other ideas. If everyone discussing a subject looks the same, talks the same, thinks the same, is coming from the same background or the same expertise, you risk introducing blind spots.

Studies are showing that more diverse organizations enjoy improved decision making and innovativeness, increased responsiveness to customers and markets, minimized risks and costs, and superior financial performance.

I know that for Naomi actually, this is one of her areas of expertise. What else would you add as far as inviting diverse perspective to be able to overcome some of these killers and challenges?

Naomi Caietti: I think a big thing for me is executive sponsorship. This is kind of bubbling up out there again. You really need to have your PMO aligned to the C-suite, and I did mention this in regards to best in class PMOs.

You really need to have a champion as your PMO director. You really need to have strong executive support. That’s really going to help your PMO find a place in the organization and acclimate to the culture. 

You need to find the right fit and you need to make that shift to focus on the business and go after some low hanging fruit with the business—issues they are facing—and demonstrate you can show value.

Nick Scholz: Very rarely, I’ve seen a few organizations manage to have some level of success without buy-in, but it’s extremely rare. It is so much easier to build an organization that’s going to have success when you have that buy-in and that kind of diverse perspective. Am I right?

Naomi Caietti: Absolutely.

Nick Scholz: Fantastic, thank you. Our second tip, this should come as a no-brainer. I think all of us know this, but few of us actually take action; tackling problems across silos to tear them down.

Siloed information is the enemy—is the opposite—of a good PMO organization, or enterprise organization as a whole. So true collaboration is key to getting your work done effectively; that you know.

If you don’t have the tools and structures in place to enable the type of in-context collaboration your people want and choose to participate in, now is the time to get that done; set that in place.

Start by speaking with stakeholders, just like Naomi said. Communicate your intentions to keep them in the loop. Choose a particular method, whether it’s a person, an email, a tool, whatever it is, but then the critical step after you’ve done that, is follow through.

Get a tool where updates are connected to the tasks being done.

Just as a tip: studies show that a social media-inspired tool, something that gives you feeds or activity update kinds of things that feel like what you would see on social media, those get people more engaged. When it comes time to choose the right tool, look for something like that.

Speaking of tools, have the right tools for the job.

When you have the right culture, like we just talked about in the last two solutions, having the right tools is when it really makes all the difference.

Without the right culture, structures, processes in place, your tool is destined to just not get used the way that it should, and that’s where a lot of adoption problems come from; when you don’t have the right organization in place. When you have that in place, that’s when they can truly work.

As a tip, there are many tools out there; make sure that the one you choose provides your team a central place for everything. They need to manage and collaborate their work all in one spot.

Look for something that’s going to help you improve visibility and productivity by eliminating those wasted time killers that we talked about, and eliminate those fragmented silo tools and processes that you’ve been dealing with.

These are five different areas that we’ve found a really good project management tool is valued by customers.

So look for something that helps you centralize projects in a single solution, manage any digital work processes you have, automate approval processes and any review that you have to do so that you’re not losing anything, deliver your client-facing services (and these are internal and external clients).

And then last, and a huge deal now and it's just getting bigger: something that helps you govern compliance workflows. Compliance is gigantic and you’re trying to keep track of what you’re doing, especially if you’re in a very compliance-oriented organization or industry.

You have to have something that helps you keep up on those compliance requirements that you have, but doesn’t necessarily take all that extra time to do it. Something automated would be ideal.


To watch the entire "5 Secret Killers of Your IT PMO" webinar on demand, featuring Naomi Caietti and Nick Scholz, click here.

Get Blog updates straight to your inbox

Resources to gain a competitive edge

Agile Marketing Cheat Sheet

Learning and adopting the Agile Marketing methodology often requires a change in thinking, team structure, and even vocabulary. With so much new...
by Workfront Admin

What are you waiting for? Get Your free demo