As the financial crisis looms over the horizon for many firms around the globe, business owners have come to the realization that having a robust structure is crucial to a company's success. This article will describe four steps that will help businesses achieve a centralized infrastructure and an effective project management office.

The importance of project management

Despite its name, project management does not concern itself solely with projects, but also with the complex network of individuals, resources, technology, and communications within a company.

A survey studied 252 companies and discovered that only 32% of their projects were successful, in terms of budget, quality, and their time frame. Failure rates like these highlight the importance of setting up an efficient project management office that seeks to introduce best practices in terms of excellence, achievement, and leadership.

Project management made simple

1. Know your needs and establish definite goals

Any business that needs its organizational culture changed, or that requires an improved prioritization process will benefit from setting up a project management office. However, you need to be specific. Are your priorities scheduling, cost control, communication, or perhaps all of them? What are your business projections for the next five to ten years?

Also, it is important to keep in mind that setting up a PMO will be an investment in terms of time and money. Is your budget able to accommodate this? Can you enlist the support of management on a long-term basis?

2. Selecting the right project management software

Selecting the right project management software

This step is closely linked to the previous point. Knowing your organizational needs is primordial in order to choose a software package that will support your business requirements. Many businesses are choosing to implement online project management software instead of the more traditional desktop-based packages. Web-based solutions offer many advantages, such as only needing to install one version, being easily and simultaneously accessible to many employees, and offering a centralized data repository.

Generally speaking, the best online project management software will offer an integral solution to your current and future needs.

3. Implementing the first stage

As with any organizational change, implementing a PMO is best done in several stages. You may start seeing results after the first six months, but full deployment of a PMO usually takes between 3 to 5 years.

During the first stage, you should develop your strategy, build your team, and train staff on basic implementation processes and reporting mechanisms. It is also at this point when standards should be fixed in order to achieve consistency. Additionally, it is necessary to establish metrics, so that benefits and results can be objectively measured.

4. Second stage

The team can now be trained in more complex processes and techniques. It should be possible to start measuring results against pre-determined benchmarks. Also, evaluate the impact of the PMO on the rest of the organization. Is centralization being accepted? Have your organizational needs changed? Is change evident in clients' feedback? Are your chosen strategies and methodologies yielding results? Evaluate, re-evaluate, and change when necessary.

This is a guest post from James Bentham, writing on behalf of Iris Projectminder. James specialises in business and technology topics and enjoys exploring the relationship between the two.