Go to any of the myriad analytics services providers that proliferate the industry today, walk up to any manager, and ask him if any of the analytics projects he works on is similar to the other. Chances are extremely remote that you will receive a response in the affirmative.
Let’s go one step further. Ask the manager how easy it is to hire people with the right skills for different projects, ensure they learn on the job, while being efficient all through. Be prepared for a long rant on the complexities and vagaries of finding good talent and utilizing it to the fullest.
PMO enables application of what we sell, analytics, to our own processes for betterment and continuous improvement
Challenges at scale
You would have figured out by now that analytics services companies enable their clients to solve complex business problems. And since each business problem is unique, the approach taken to solve it becomes unique as well. This leaves us with a large set of unique, mutually exclusive analytics projects running at any given point in time; each requiring a separate set of resources, time and infrastructure.
Small analytics organizations can handle this complexity because of multiple factors – a very strong and smart core team, fewer projects to manage, and lower layers of hierarchy within the organization. But as the analytics services company grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to ensure each project is running efficiently and on the right track. The problem is exacerbated by two facts: the flexibility of a startup is not easily scalable; and resistance in putting process to bring some order in to the system is something employees – especially old timers – chafe at. This is where the prominence of PMO kicks in.
Setting up, and moving beyond the traditional PMO
When a startup evolves into a mature, established analytics services company, it usually veils the fact that the company lacks strong processes to scale. In the absence of organization-wide standard processes for running projects, processes in silos start to take form, or in some cases the absence of it altogether.
But this leads to inconsistencies in how project delivery is executed. Similar projects are often estimated in different and sometimes erroneous ways; projects are staffed with people who don’t have the right skills, and knowledge often gets lost when team members attrite. Adding to the list of pains, projects don’t get invoiced in time, invoicing schedules are not consistent, and many projects are executed without formal contracts in place. Senior leadership also lacks a common view into the health of project delivery and the pulse of resources working on these projects, at the ground level.
A good PMO organization faces the same problems as a kite flyer – too many processes, and the kite will never take off; too few, and the kite flies off into the wind. But kite flying technique is important as well.
The focus of a traditional Project Management Organization (PMO) is more towards ensuring projects are completed on schedule, and processes are followed the right way. However, for true maturity in delivering analytics services, PMO needs to move beyond just process focus. It should allow improved project planning, monitoring and control
It should ensure the right issues are identified at the right time and addressed accordingly. It should ensure people across the organization speak the same language and terms, and provide the leadership team a single view into business performance. At the tactical level, a PMO group should help employees become more efficient and process-oriented. It should foster a culture of accountability, automation and quality control to ensure improved satisfaction for clients as well.
The right level of process
Setting up a PMO group is only half the battle won. The PMO setup needs to regulate the proverbial oxygen flow so employees don’t feel constricted in a mire of process bureaucracy; or on the other hand continue in a false euphoria of individual project flexibility. Internal change management needs to be a smooth process. While adding processes layer by layer, care needs to be taken to ensure that employees do not feel “pained” by the PMO “demands”, in addition to their day to day deliverable.
At Anteelo, the PMO drives improved quality and timeliness of work outputs, while also serving as a means to achieve work-life balance for our employees. Through a well-planned alignment of employees to the projects, which best match their skills, we ensure each team is best equipped to deliver more than the promised results to our clients. In our next blog, we shall discuss in more detail how our PMO group drives improved efficiencies within Anteelo and makes our employees more efficient and happy.