The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has lowered its forecast for global economic growth for this year and next. Thing is, IMF seems to have forgotten to tell everyone I know – because they’re all predicting growth for their business in 2015 and 2016. And it’s not all talk either…

Many are embarking on ambitious reboots of their IT estate, brave refreshes of their networks, wholesale upgrades of their workstations and their work practices, they’re migrating to the cloud or adopting BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and there are exciting new server projects. The acquisition of new companies is necessitating either merging of existing systems or ripping the whole thing out and starting again.

And that’s the thing isn’t it? Sure, external factors like the price of oil, economic growth forecasts, interest rates, etc can affect your business both positively and negatively (and how great are the lower oil prices?!), but these external factors should not affect your core business plan and your specific growth capability.

However, the IMF is saying that there’s a dose of flu going around and you want to make sure you don’t catch it, so now is the time to make sure that your IT Project Management Office (PMO) is fit to deliver in line with your business growth ambitions. Here are seven great tips to get your PMO delivering:

1. Involve Your Project Managers In The Initial Planning Stages

Too often IT projects leak considerable value simply because project management teams are brought in to the mix after the plans have been agreed and the business course has been set. Project Managers are more often than not given a “Go get some tech to do this” list, so they match available IT solutions to the business plan based on:

  • A need to act fast having been brought in late.
  • Perhaps a weaker understanding of the business strategy having not been at its creation.

Start to think of your PMO as architects as well as builders – how crazy would it be to build a house without having the architect involved on the early drawing up of blueprints?

2. Get Your Tech-Minded PMs Focussed More On The Journey

One of the key strengths of a “techie” IT Project Manager is their tech knowledge and their thirst for expanding their awareness of available gadgets and technology – if this is you – your passion and excitement is infectious. But this great strength can also be a weakness. Too much focus on the devices and you can lose sight of the destination. Again, early involvement in the creation of your business mission will help your PMO remain focussed on the business strategy, and it doesn’t hurt to remind the more techie minded that they have permission and scope to take a more holistic helicopter view of the project rather than instinctively focussing just on the details and the devices.

3. BUT, They Still Have To Be Tech Aware

Make sure your PM is super aware of how your infrastructure works, how the project could impact upon it and what compatible technology is available for your project. Having just encouraged a more umbrella focussed approach, it feels paradoxical to immediately steer towards a more systems, technology focussed mind-set. But having brought them into your strategy planning stages, Project Managers with this knowledge can instinctively increase the yield of your project. Those PMs who have practically digested the inner workings of your IT estate and who have a thirst for the latest cutting edge available technology can use those attributes and their awareness of the project mission, to advise on how to progress most effectively at a much earlier point. A very effective Project Manager in the media industry just exponentially expanded his circle of influence within his organisation by doing just that, he’d been efficient before but by taking time to immerse himself in his company’s systems together with an awareness of “what’s out there”, he has accelerated his IT departments ability to deliver on business strategy.

4. Experience & Training

The success of IT projects can often be predicted by the amount of experience your PMO has relative to the IT project you are about to undertake. One CIO I know uses this ratio, scoring both from 1 to 5: (A) – Size and complexity of project; (B) – Experience of Available PM talent. If B is ever less than A he immediately outsources the PM function but he ensures that his in-house Project Managers work closely with the external talent, increasing their confidence and experience and raising their “B” rating for future considerations. Keeping your Project Management team’s training up to date will yield great rewards in better delivery of projects.

5. Communication

Encourage open conversation – loudly trumpet successes and flag potential failure and missed milestones. One organisation I have worked with has such a culture of blame that when a project goes off course the Project Management team feel compelled to hide it from the board. Doing this means that any efforts at correction are clandestine and unsuccessful. Only by shining the brightest light, will you get your project out of the shadows and back on track. Encourage open, honest communication in a fear free environment.

6. Encourage Flexibility

This comes with experience and confidence. IT projects rarely run hitch free and sometimes you have to roll with the punches before getting back to your game plan. Does your Project Management talent have the confidence to improvise and respond quickly when the project throws something that wasn’t in the script? If, mid-project, a key element could be executed better – perhaps a new piece of tech became available or a new player entered the market place – could your PM quickly assess the situation and react accordingly? Do they have the freedom? Do they have total awareness of contract terms etc? The best Project Managers I have worked with have a toolkit of “prepared improvised responses” garnered from experience and extensive reading, but they also “predict the unpredictable”. An exceptional Project Manager can survey the landscape ahead and predict potential pitfalls and be ready for them should they arise.

7. The Five Gs: Great Governance Gets Greater Gains

Your Project Manager should be across all agreed KPIs and SLAs and when, for example, a contractor fails to meet them your PMO should take the necessary steps to ensure compliance. Some PMs don’t like confrontation, some prefer a “softly, softly” approach and that’s fine, but if you want the best out of your IT project you have to know that your PM has got your back and if it’s a managed Project Management Service you have to know that in all negotiations they’re sitting “client-side”. In other words they’re serving your best interests and not your vendor/supplier.

IT projects can consume time, money and resources, by choosing Project Management talent, either in-house or via a Managed Services provider with experience, knowledge of your business and great communication, management and leadership skills you can mitigate value leaks and increase yield. Add in expertise and a business-case focus and your PMO will help advance your organisation’s business goals. As I said, despite what the IMF is forecasting, I think that 2015 and 2016 are growth years and the firms that get their PM talent right, I believe, will enjoy the most growth.