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Are Tools Necessary for a Successful PMO?

IStock_000000418676Small_2 Project management organizations (PMOs) have taken off in recent years.  In fact, in its State of the PMO Report for 2010, PM Solutions found that 84% of survey respondents had a PMO.  In 2000, the number was 47%.

My question is whether or not tools are necessary for successful PMO?  I am using the term "tool" to mean a central planning tool.  That could be almost anything, from a full blown project management software or PPM solution to something more simple, but that still centralizes information and plans.  It may even be a set of tools.

Fundamentally, processes are going to be much more important to a PMO.  You have to have the right organizational processes and procedures in place to deal with things like how projects are prioritized, how projects are run, how resources are assigned, and other key functions.  While a tool that shows you centralized views of projects and related information can be very helpful, it is not absolutely essential.  After all, you could do that in an Excel spreadsheet or SharePoint portal.

However, there is one area where I believe a tool is necessary and that is the area of resource management.  In its report, PMO Solutions also found that "resource management" was the top issue and priority for PMOs with over 64% of respondents indicating that improving resource planning and forecasting was their top priority.  This is understandable.  Resource management with or without a tool is difficult, especially when you throw in contentions, politics, changing demands, and personalities who want resources on their projects.

Fundamentally, the technical aspects of resource management are difficult to do without a supporting tool, which makes the management aspects more difficult.  I would say that there are some basic fundamentals that need to be tracked / tackled:

  • Creating a central resource pool (a central list of resources from which to assign projects)
  • An overall view of where resources are assigned and how they are allocated
  • Prioritize projects

These items are difficult to do in a flat Excel spreadsheet.  They also imply that you need to aggregate information and cannot maintain it separately.

So while there are many things that could be done without a central tool, resource management is not one of them.  Agree or disagree?



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To understand an employee's work time you need the full picture of their schedule including time off requested, time off scheduled, and holidays.

I agree with you completely that a tool would be fantastic. I have seen use of spreadsheet that provides resource managers with a view into the existig work that their team is working on (current month) and rolling 3 months.
The challenge as always is about the quality of data that goes into the tool and the discipline in updating it with accurate data. The project managers, resource managers and business sponsors need to work collaboratively to make sure that the tool yeilds right information

Anand, thank you for the comment. I agree with you. The hardest part is the quality of the data. Once you get that, then the tool becomes useful.

I had always wanted to learn about this topic ... I think it's great the way you expose .. great work and continuing on with this great blog

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