Automating PMO Workflow

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Lately, I’ve noticed that a lot of organizations are seriously considering purchasing tools to automate their PMO workflow.  While there are certainly some good products out there worth considering, I think it’s important to avoid the “rush to automation” as a solution to all problems.  Automation doesn’t solve every problem, so it’s always a good idea to initially approach the problem using a version of the following framework BEFORE committing company resources to the purchase, installation and integration of a PMO or project workflow tool:

  • Understand the Current State: Clearly define the current project workflow.  Make sure you not only document and understand the PUBLISHED workflow, but how it actually works in practice.  If there’s a gap between the processes and practices in the current state, things will only get more complicated as you try to move to a defined future state.
  • Understand, Clarify and Document the Future State: Make sure that the desired future state is clearly understood and documented.  This will become important when you sell the idea internally, as well as when you begin to gather and document requirements.  Make sure that there is agreement on the future state among all stakeholders – business AND technology.  EVERYONE has to agree on what “tomorrow” looks like or you’ll be setting yourself up for another host of interesting complications.
  • Gap Analysis – Part I: Perform a gap analysis of the Current and Future states and DOCUMENT WHAT YOU FIND.  This will serve two purposes, as I’ll point out below.
  • Analyze and Improve the Current State Workflow: Before building out your requirements, looking up and talking to vendors or scheduling demos, stop for a moment and determine whether your existing workflow is optimal.  Can some of the problems be resolved by simply improving the existing workflow and avoiding the expense of finding and implementing an automated solution?  As advisors to our business partners on how they invest their IT dollars, it is incumbent upon us to make sure that the PMO workflow we intend to automate is optimal in the CURRENT STATE.  Avoid the idea that “we’ll improve the workflow when we implement the new solution”.  You may find that optimizing the current solution will be enough to meet the business’ needs.
  • Implement the Improvements: Once you’ve identified ways to optimize the existing workflow, implement the changes.  Make sure you’ve captured any metrics as a baseline so that you can test the improvements to see if they deliver the desired changes.  If they do, then you’ve resolved a business operations issue at minimal cost.  If the changes do NOT yield the desired results, at minimum you’ve not only improved the existing process that will be automated, but you’ve shown your business partners that you treat their IT investment as YOUR investment, too.
  • Gap Analysis – Part II: Now that you’ve optimized the existing workflow, perform the gap analysis between the new and improved Current State with the Future State.  This should result in a set of RFP-ready requirements that can be used in vendor selection and as a basis for the implementation and integration effort.

Remember that as IT leaders, our mission is to deliver products and services that meet or exceed our partner’s business needs and to ensure that we advise them such that they NEVER waste their IT investment.

© 2011 – Mark E. Calabrese

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