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Episode 420: Discover The Best Tools For Your PMO (Premium)

This episode is reserved for subscribers of the Premium Podcast. Learn how to subscribe to the Premium Podcast to access this interview and transcript...

H. Bandukwala
Hussain Bandukwala, PMO Coach

If you are setting up a PMO for your company, then no matter what industry you are in, having the right PMO tools at our disposal can make a significant difference. And as they relate to the PMO, tools are the moment when you shift your focus from management to administration.

In fact, we project managers and program managers may even find ourselves scrambling around to find not only relevant but also accurate information to update our statuses, while resource managers may have to connect with several people to determine if they efficiently staffed their resources and have sufficient capacity for the upcoming initiatives.

And these are just some some of the reasons why our PMOs need the right tools. But what are the right tools and how do we identify them? And why on earth did we end up using this tool over here which is clearly wrong for our PMO?

All of those questions and also ‘Why are the right tools so important?’ is what we we are going to discuss today with Hussain Bandukwala (LinkedIn Profile).

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Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Hussain Bandukwala: In this episode of The Project Management Podcast™, we discover the best tools for your PMO.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com. This is Episode #420. It’s a premium episode and I am Cornelius Fichtner. Premium means that it is reserved for you our premium subscribers. Thank you for joining us and for supporting the Podcast.

If you are setting up a PMO for your company then no matter what industry you are in, having the right PMO tools at our disposal can make a significant difference. And as they relate to PMOs, tools are the moment when you shift your focus from management to administration.

In fact, we project managers and program managers may even find ourselves scrambling around to find not only relevant but also accurate information to update our statuses while resource managers may have to connect with several people to determine if they have efficiently stuffed their resources and have sufficient capacity for the upcoming initiatives.

And these are just some of the reasons why our PMOs need the right tools. But what are the right tools and how do we identify them? And why on earth did we end up using this tool over here, which is clearly wrong for our PMO? All of those questions and also why are the right tools so important is what we are going to discuss today with Hussain Bandukwala.

Podcast Interview

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello, Hussain and welcome back to The Project Management Podcast!

Hussain Bandukwala: Thanks, Cornelius! It’s great to be back!

Cornelius Fichtner: Before we get to the heart of the interview, let me start with this. Why are PMOs important?

Hussain Bandukwala: That’s such a great question, Cornelius. PMOs really help you get over from an environment of wild, wild west to a place where things are methodical, consistent and predictable. And not every organization needs a PMO. Sometimes in organizations that are small, the PMO could often not be required. But as those organizations start seeing growth, that wild, wild west scenario starts turning into chaos instead of an enabler, it becomes an inhibitor, and that’s where a PMO becomes so valuable.

So making sure that things are going consistently and predictably, that is key. Having good visibility into what everyone is doing. Making sure that the right things are being done at the right time by the right people, that is important. Making sure that a workforce is efficient and happy, that is key. And all of these ultimately really boils down to what’s the end goal? What are the benefits that the organization is really striving towards? What strategy it’s looking to achieve? That gets realizes. And all in all that effectively really leads to long-term revenue or long-term cost savings. And that’s where PMOs can really help and that’s why they are so important.

Cornelius Fichtner: Thank you! Now let us turn to the main topic of our interview here today. You wrote and you delivered also a presentation titled: “Discovering the Best Tools for your PMO” and we want to introduce our listeners to these best tools. So let’s start at the beginning here. What exactly are PMO tools?

Hussain Bandukwala: So PMO tools are any sort of tools that help support the function and management of a project management office and all that it does. So if I were to name a few things, Cornelius, PMO tools really help support the management of schedule, management of resources, of time, of project priority, of project financials, of risks and issues, of communication, and ultimately the benefits realization.

So everything that a PMO does, if a tool is there to support it, it becomes a PMO tool. And then you see PMO tools in various shapes and sizes and functions, all of these different components and functionalities, some of them offer a good variety and combination. And some specialize in just one of them. So all of these things really define what a PMO tool really is.

Cornelius Fichtner: Your presentation also speaks of enablers. What are enablers?

Hussain Bandukwala: So PMO tools, Cornelius, don’t live in silos. When you think of any tool, what really needs to happen? Well, to make a tool work, it needs to follow a process. That’s enabler one. That’s the blueprint of how a PMO tool will work, right? So for instance, if you have a schedule management tool, there is a certain process in which a schedule is created and if it’s done haphazardly, the tool is not going to function the way it was designed or required or expected to be. So therefore, having processes, the right processes in place is the blueprint is the enabler for making sure that the PMO tools work properly.

What else does a PMO tool or any tools for that matter work with? Well, data. That’s really the fuel. Garbage in, garbage out as you are all very familiar with. You put junk in, you get junk out. And so making sure that you have the right data in place is so critical and that’s enabler number two.

And then finally, people. Do the people who are actually using the tool? Making sure that not only is a tool used properly but the effectiveness, the outputs of those tools are communicated and relate properly as well. So you can have a novice driver drive a Ferrari yet still may go through a few bumps here and there. But if you have an expert driver and you are driving an economical car, you’re going to get from point A to point B at no issues whatsoever. So having those people and making sure that they are armed and trained properly, those becomes as enablers as well. So according to me, Cornelius, the three enablers for PMO tools are data, people and processes.

Cornelius Fichtner: And why are PMO tools and their enablers so important to PMOs?

Hussain Bandukwala: In a nutshell, Cornelius, they help you get the job done with efficiency and accuracy. To doubt these enablers, your PMOs aren’t going to function. So your PMOs tools aren’t going to function the way you expected them to be. The role of these tools is to make sure that they are supporting the PMO to know what’s happening, right? So understand who’s working on what things. Understand how much time is being spent. Understand how much cost has been spent knowing that.

And then number two, understanding and predicting what’s going to be the outcome. So if you have a burn rate of the budget at a certain phase at that same rate or with that combined with the schedule head, what do you predict that to be? Or if you slipped so many things, slipped at so many tasks so far, what is going to be the impact on the schedule? That predictability and then using all of these things and collecting and informing this information to the relevant stakeholders and then enabling them to make a decision on what should happen next. The entire cycle of knowing, predicting, informing and deciding, that is what PMO tools help the PMO do. Without the enablers, that’s not going to happen. Without PMO tools, that’s not going to happen.

Cornelius Fichtner: Right and just to be clear, we’re not going to be talking about tools themselves much in our discussion here. We want to discover the best tools for our PMOs. That’s the goal and each PMO obviously needs different best tools, which indicates to me that there are also tools out there that do not meet the needs of my personal PMO. So what happens if we don’t have the right tools for our PMO and how do we even end up with tools that aren’t right for us?

Hussain Bandukwala: That’s a great question, Cornelius! I think we talked a bit about what doesn’t happen when you don’t have the right tools, right? So essentially everything that the PMO is supposed to do is suppose to help the organization with. That’s not going to happen effectively and efficiently and essentially is going to create more work and so that is going to leave a bad taste in people’s mouth for the PMO.

Now how do you get into a position where you end up with the wrong tools or not the best tools for your PMO? I really categorize those reasons to two buckets. You either are not the right fit for the organization, the tool is not the right fit for the organization or the enablers are dysfunctional.

So let’s quickly talk a bit about both of them, right. So how are you not the right fit for the organization? Well because maybe sometimes somebody didn’t do the due diligence in understanding what the right tool could be for the organization and when will the best and let’s say that best tool is extremely mature. It just comes with a ton of documentation, ton of functionality and there is just not enough appetite for someone in the organization to take all of that, lead to the implementation, get all the necessary integration done, train all the right people to do it and then use it. Maybe all that functionality is not even needed, right.

And then the flip side, sometimes people may go over the cheapest tool and that tool may not meet the needs sufficiently for the organization. You know these situations, I can think of unless there is merger or an acquisition that happens for an organization and the organization that was merged in was used to certain set of culture, was used to a certain type of tools but then they were forced and pushed to use the tools that the organization that made the acquisition to use. And so in that situation, the tools that are being forced up on, that doesn’t work.

You know what, even outside of mergers and acquisitions, I have seen organizations different geographies within different organization push certain tools into other regions and geographies and that just doesn’t fly. Those things, people are either using them or they are not happy or it’s taking longer to get things done but it’s essentially boiling down to the fact that they are not the right fit for the organization.

Looking quickly at dysfunctional enablers, right, so we talked about three enablers --- process, data and people. When do processes become dysfunctional? Well when they are complicated and it’s just not something that can jive well within a specific tool or it requires a ton of coordination and the organization just isn’t ready for it, or the processes themselves aren’t standardized or even documented. And when you go about setting up tool or implementing a tool that’s supposed to follow these processes, well goodluck with that, right? When you go with data, the fuel of the tools, this to me is so challenging because many times you set up a tool, there are certain expectations but the data may not even exist or maybe inaccurate or it may take a lot of time to collect and prepare the right data or it just maybe spread across five different files held by 20 different people and it just may not be something that could be easily updated so not having the right data and a good strategy where everything is essential and easily updated and can be trusted that is so key in making sure that the PMO tools are successful and that enabler works as functioned.

And then finally looking at the people, if they are not trained enough or they don’t have the right acumen or the maturity to accept a certain tool or don’t even support it because they don’t like it and there’s not enough incentives given for people to use well, you know what, things are not going to get done with passion, with intensity and as a result, the tool may take the blame for it but instead it might be the people who should be taking the blame for it. So those are some of the reasons, Cornelius, why I think how we fall into situations where we aren’t bless, I would say, with the best tools for the job.

Cornelius Fichtner: The obvious next question is of course, how do we then find the tools for our PMO that are actually right for us? What do we have to think about? How do we approach this?

Hussain Bandukwala: So in my opinion, Cornelius, I think that we need to focus on four key components and four key steps when you are talking about which PMO tools you need to do. You know you need to first understand what the requirements for the tools are? What does the end goal for the tool? Once you have done that, you need to validate that those requirements are truly what you have thought or you have heard from others to be, then you go about identifying the tools that will fit within those valid requirements and then finally implementing and rolling out the tool.

Cornelius Fichtner: How exactly do we do that? What do we have to look at? Let’s go through these four components one by one that you mentioned. So component one was requirements identification, right?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

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