When winter storms hit, we’re reminded of the need to be prepared—with flashlights, snow shovels, spare tires. Project teams must also be ready to move quickly when the need arises. It may be in response to a problem, such as a new piece of equipment that arrives broken or the departure of a key PMP®. But there are also positive situations that call for PMOs to act without delay. When an emergency or a time-sensitive opportunity crosses your team’s horizon, are they ready to mount a swift response?
Know who to call. Whether it’s good news or bad news, everyone in the PMO should know who is in a position to help. Be sure the team has ready access to an up-to-date contact list of every approved vendor (or qualified and trusted vendors, if the organization doesn’t require them to be established in the accounting system or have legal contracts in place prior to starting any work). The last thing you want is to be searching blindly through file drawers in hopes of stumbling across that scrap of paper with a vendor’s name on it.
Know how to get funding approved. Most project budgets include some amount of contingency dollars, but situations may arise that go beyond what could have reasonably been expected. Unless the team holds significant approval authority, you should be prepared to develop and present justification for a funds request without a lot of lead time. Have a clear flow chart for the approval process and indicate who may act as an alternate signer if someone is unavailable. This ensures that even a PMP® who is new to the team will be able to follow the steps and get funds flowing quickly.
Know where limitations exist. If an unexpected opportunity to generate revenue presents itself, can the necessary changes even be made? The PMO will be wasting its time (not to mention infuriating its stakeholders) if it undertakes a feasibility review without first knowing if an insurmountable roadblock exists that will prevent the necessary actions from occurring. Industries that fall under regulatory oversight know this all too well, as space, equipment, and processes are often difficult and time consuming—sometimes impossible—to modify. Having this data upfront is the smart way to go.
Know your champions. There may be times when the PMO’s influence alone is simply not enough to move obstacles out of the way in a timely manner. In those instances, a well-positioned and committed champion can be a life saver, but only if you’re able to get them working on the problem in time. The team should constantly be nurturing relationships with influential sponsors and other stakeholders, as those connections could one day mean the difference between jumping on an opportunity or being relegated to just watching it go by. Remember, too, that champions don’t always need to be at the executive level in the organization. Someone who isn’t highly placed but who does control large swaths of the budget or a significant labor pool could be a very useful ally someday.
Know your workload. The best opportunity in the world isn’t worth the effort if your team is already overbooked. You may be able to offload some portion of the project to external partners but only your PMO knows if that’s an option. Providing team members with regular project status updates and soliciting information on where PMP®s are focusing their time will help the leadership group know immediately where free time can be found, or if there’s simply too much to do and no one is available to take on new responsibilities.