Consultants are often brought on site to help their clients realize the full benefits of established project management processes. After all, consultants are often the ones who have the most experience working within multiple organizations on a variety of projects and project structures.

Here’s a rundown of some of the additional services you and the project management office can help establish for clients.

Last of eight parts

This is the last installment in a multipart series about the consultant’s role in establishing and maintaining a Project Management Office (PMO) for a client. Previous articles have covered collecting project metrics, auditing a client’s project processes, training and coaching your clients, the basics of a PMO, customizing a PMO for your client, deploying a PMO, and project management methodology.

Establish a document repository
One of the value propositions to deploying common project management processes is the ability to reuse processes, procedures, templates, and prior examples. However, the ability to reuse documentation doesn’t come about magically. If project managers want to see whether there’s pre-existing material that would help them, they can’t be expected to contact every other project manager.

To facilitate process and document reuse, the PMO needs to establish and manage a document repository. This could be as easy as setting up a directory structure that everyone in the organization can access, or it might be more elaborate and multifunctional, like a tool specifically designed for document management.

Depending on how you implement this resource, you need to properly set up a classification structure, make sure that only approved information is posted there, that the information stays current and relevant, and that the facility is actively marketed and utilized by the organization.

Uncover best practices
At the end of every project, the project manager, team, client, and major stakeholders should meet to discuss what was planned and what actually happened. At some point in the meeting, turn your attention to lessons learned. The lessons should be collected and consolidated in the document repository. One problem, however, with this approach is that these lessons typically only apply to that one project.

As the PMO collects more and more key findings, it may start to see patterns emerge in the lessons learned. At some point, lessons learned from projects can be raised to the level of a best practice. A best practice statement implies that the benefit can be gained for all projects, not just the few that reported it.

Coordinate a common resource pool
All companies need a process to staff projects. In some organizations, the resources are allocated per business units. In other companies, all of the project people are assigned to one central staff. Since the PMO is a focal point for all project management-related activity, it’s the right place to manage these common resource pools.

The resource pool could be for project managers only, or it could be for all potential project team members. Creating a common resource pool involves taking a skills inventory of all shared resources and keeping track of when persons will become available after their current project. The PMO will then have that information available as new projects are ready to start. Or the PMO can, in fact, start certain projects based on the availability of skill sets.

Offer a document review service
Document reviews can be offered on a stand-alone basis to help ensure that project managers are utilizing the standard templates as they were intended, and that they’re being completed clearly and consistently. This service basically involves project managers sending in project deliverables to receive a quick review and feedback. The PMO is not “approving” the document, but it provides feedback on the content, format, and readability of the specified document.

Begin benchmarking
As your client company becomes more sophisticated in using metrics, you might realize that collecting data on internal projects is valuable, but can only take you so far. You don’t really know how efficient and effective your project delivery is unless you can compare how you deliver projects against other companies. Benchmarking studies (one-time) and benchmarking programs (longer term) are a way to compare your organization against others.

Benchmarking requires that you gather a set of predefined metrics that describe the result of well-defined processes. Then, metrics that are captured from other companies, using the same set of processes and definitions, can be used to create benchmarking statistics that allow you to compare your organization to others. You can evaluate this information to determine whether other companies’ changes can be applied to your organization to achieve similar results.

Benchmarking is a project that few companies want to start on their own. It requires a lot of work, and the processes you define must be applicable to a range of outside companies. If you’re going to benchmark, you generally need to use the services of an outside firm that specializes in benchmarking. This company may already have the core set of processes, metrics, and benchmarks defined. They can also spend the time to get other companies involved, conduct the study, and help interpret the results.

Tom Mochal is president of TenStep, Inc., a project management consulting and training firm. Recently, he was Director of Internal Development at Geac, Inc., a major ERP software company. He’s worked for Coca-Cola, Eastman Kodak, and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. Tom has developed a project management methodology called TenStep and an application support methodology called SupportStep.