PMO Interview: Achieving Higher Commitment by Closing the Reporting Loop in Public Construction Projects

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In this PMO interview we asked Dr. Riko Wichmann a few interesting questions. He is the PMO manager responsible for building the European XEFL. This is a huge construction project with an amount of EUR 1 billion to be invested. It also encompasses many interlinked subprojects. The Deutsche Elektronen-Synchroton (DESY – in English: German Electron Synchrotron) in Hamburg is making a substantial contribution to this project. In this interview, Dr. Wichmann reveals his most important experiences and gives some helpful advice.
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What was your greatest lesson learned in the Project Management Office? Or the greatest challenge?

My most important discovery was the need for intensive internal promotion. If you introduce new PM processes and a new IT tool you have to promote it.

My most important discovery was the need for intensive internal promotion. If you introduce new PM processes and a new IT tool you have to promote it.

That was the only way we were able to achieve growing acceptance among the project managers and users. We had to constantly and actively pitch the advantages of this new environment.

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What made the difference was that the PMO was not alone in doing this. The overall project or program management also contributed their share.

The key benefit we stressed was the ‘single communication platform’. We provided it by means of a new central PM solution. Time-consuming and repeated enquiries became unnecessary. All role holders could now access the planning and the status of projects.

This alone was already a great gain.

You might also like our article “How to Set Up a PMO and Be Successful” – Click here!

A further goal of our internal communicational work was to convince the project managers. They needed to understand the benefits the new processes and the tool would bring to them. The PMO supported the project managers in this. We provided a hotline for planning and system questions. We also offered training sessions and jointly developed problem solutions.

This approach was beneficial. It turned a project environment that was simply accepted into one that was actively used.

What has been your greatest achievement as a PMO so far?

It is crucial to settle one question before introducing a central PM solution. How should the processes of planning, feedback and reporting be designed? Only then can the central IT system actually support those processes. Involve important stakeholders such as management, administration, IT and project managers. Doing this early on is vital for your success.

Check out our other Interview with a PMO manager listing 6 Success Criteria for the PMO.

On the one hand, it is important to highlight what the processes and the respective system support can accomplish. Get this approved by management. You should also state upfront what the changes will not be able to do.

On the other hand, the processes and systems need to be tested by ‘friendly users’. Are they adequate for everyday project work, and will they be able to stand the test of time? Only processes that are ‘lived’ can effectively support project work. Another prerequisite is their acceptance by those responsible for the projects.

Users urged to work with a system have to turn into convinced users. If this happens, the PMO has the best approval it can get.

Users urged to work with a system have to turn into convinced users. If this happens, the PMO has the best approval it can get.

In my opinion, we have succeeded in this.

What would be your special piece of advice for other PMO managers?

Close the loop! Planners and (sub)project managers often regard system-based project management processes as data krakens and black holes. Such an attitude can take hold. Once it is prevalent in projects, people will attach less importance to updating planning and reporting data.

If you want good project data quality, (sub)project managers need to be in the know. Tell them what central project management will do with the project data and where else they will be used. Changed statuses in the project plan and submitted reports call for a quick reaction. This feedback is vital.

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Further reports based on the project status reports should be made available within the project if at all possible. This closes the reporting loop.

Closing the loop, and the resulting transparency, help to achieve significantly higher commitment. This in turn increases the dependability of the collected project data.

Closing the loop, and the resulting transparency, help to achieve significantly higher commitment. This in turn increases the dependability of the collected project data.

Dr. Riko Wichmann interview PMO setup in construction project

 

 


Dr. Riko Wichmann

PMO Manager,
Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY)

Have you ever been involved in setting up a PMO? Do you agree about the necessity of intensive internal promotion? Are there any other questions you would like to see addressed? Please leave a comment below.

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