PMO Role 1: Constraints Management

PMO Role 1: Constraints Management

If you’re reporting on projects, make it valuable.

If your PMO is collating reporting, just passing on the reported reds, ambers and greens (with or without comments), this is low value. Remember that reporting should require action, motivate action or confirm that no action is required. Any other reporting (eg “for information”) is of no value. So, if you’re reporting on projects, make it valuable. Management wants to know the potential impacts of any project-driven constraints or problems.

If cash is tight, the change in cash demands of various projects over time can be critical to both forecast and manage. Will we have the cash when needed? Do we need to slow some projects down to reduce their cash demands in certain months? What will any slowdown do to the portfolio’s overall outcomes profile and business results/benefits?

In any organisation regardless of its size there seems to be 20 or so people that everyone wants on their project. These are the ‘scarce resources’ whose use needs to be carefully managed. Here the PMO needs to monitor more than their allocation — he or she must also monitor their utilisation. This utilisation monitoring needs to also ensure people have ‘down time’ so that they are not burned out. Scarce resources should not be managed on a ‘set and forget’ basis but actively monitored, tracked and managed throughout.

Staff, and especially middle management, can only take a certain amount of change concurrently while trying to maintain business-as-usual and achieve operational results and deadlines. Therefore, deployment management, tracking the impacts of project delays and new approved projects, scope changes and other project dynamics is important. Project D may have planned for full implementation in April, but now won’t be ready to deliver until June — what will this do to the overall deployment schedule?

For the success of the projects you also need to be identifying actual and leading indicators of failure.

Some projects will report that they are in trouble. Fine, but here the key is what is being done about it? Telling management that Project H is in trouble is of little value, telling management that Project H is in danger of . . . and we’re doing . . . which is planned to result in . . . allows management to assess the situation and only take action if they see some shortfall or additional risk.

Other projects will pretend that they are not in trouble. Yet others will not know that they are in trouble. Through the combination of the reporting, monitoring the leading indicators of failure, monitoring project changes, listening to rumours, anecdotes, chats over the coffee machine, you can ascertain which projects need help and work with the project and governance leadership teams to determine what needs to be done, and then report what is being done as an Action Plan.

Collating project reporting is only of value if you add value.

Further support and useful tools to help you manage your investments, projects and portfolio are available from

For the first article in this the series visit "PMO: What’s in a name?".

Jed Simms is CIO magazine's weekly project management columnist. Simms, founder of projects and benefits delivery research firm Capability Management, is also the developer of specialised project management and project governance Web site

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