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In my opinion, the industry that will benefit the most from using a Virtual Project Management Office would be the services industry because access to information and mobility will always be key.
Problems experienced with having a traditional PMO in the services industry:
1. Resources are mobile and rarely in one given location all the time. This makes the lives of Project Managers and Administrators difficult as they literally have to phone around all the time to get updates on projects or try to manage from Outlook.
2. With the resources being on the road, it is difficult for them to complete their timesheets. It is particularly difficult if they are working off a normal timesheet system that was installed on premise. If it is still Excel based (let’s face it, most companies still use Excel spread sheets for just about everything), it will work out okay, I guess - but then the Project Manager still has to update the project schedule manually with the timesheet information and some finance person has to do exactly the same on whichever system is used to generate invoices. A few old fashioned companies still make use of delivery notes and have their resources submitted weekly for client sign-off and then handed to the office to be re captured.
3. E-mail is used to distribute documents, and with different people having to contribute to these documents, it can get difficult to reconcile documents. It also adds load on the e-mail server.
How cloud services will enable the PMO to operate more efficiently:
Though the old method of having a traditional PMO had its advantages, time has moved on. To be ahead of your competitor, cloud services are definitely the way to go.
If a company uses a cloud service with hosted Project Server 2010 (EPM) as an example, it will result in several advantages:
1. Decrease in cost: No need for upfront purchase of servers – we all know how long this takes to get approved and delivered and what the cost involved will be;
2. No upfront payment needed for licensing – the licensing works as a SPLA model – which means the company actually rents the licenses;
3. Resources can book time spent on client work while they’re sitting at the client site as the system is accessible from anywhere;
4. Resources can collaborate together on project documents, by using the power of the underlying SharePoint functionality - this will decrease the mail server load;
5. Risks and Issues can be raised right away by either the Project Manager or any of the resources at the client site;
6. The Project Manager doesn’t have to phone around anymore to get updates on the project schedule because resources are booking their time spent directly against the project schedule.
7. No more spending hours and hours on compiling reports for the client - The Project Manager can now just draw project status reports by using SQL Reporting Services Reports while they’re sitting at the client in a progress meeting;
8. No one has to phone around or send tons of e-mails to get the latest project templates/artefacts that need to be populated. The project governance methodology will take care of this.
9. Approvals of timesheets, document and steps in the governance workflow can happen anywhere and anytime as it will all be accessible on the hosted environment
10. The client can access the project site/workspace by doing the following: Once loaded onto your Active Directory, the client can be allocated on the resource sheet of the project schedule. This will allow the client to access the project site and have read-only access.
If required, the client can be assigned to tasks on the project schedule which will allow him/her to have contributor access the project site/workspace for the project.
The only drawback I can foresee is that the age-old miscommunication problem will most likely still occur. Virtual teams could be prone to miscommunication when they lose direct interaction. This can derail a whole project, so it is good project governance to ensure that the typical face-to-face project meetings still take place, even if it’s bi-weekly or monthly.
Anita Potgieter, COO at FOXit
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