For utilities looking to establish consistency and build efficiencies in capital delivery, a project management office (PMO) can be a valuable, internal solution. However, this investment can at times be viewed as one strictly for large utilities.

Often, a small or midsize utility might see a PMO as an expensive endeavor that would introduce too much bureaucracy and red tape or detach the decision-makers from the hands-on work to execute projects — all concerns that would slow down work and progress. While these concerns are valid, they do not have to apply if the PMO is “right sized” for each utility.

Toss Out the One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Small and midsize utilities have different resource availability and organizational structure than large utilities do, so it makes sense that a PMO model wouldn’t be interchangeable among all. To establish a long-lasting and valuable PMO framework, the people, process and technologies of each individual utility — regardless of size — must be evaluated and considered. This approach allows for a truly tailored solution to managing projects based on each unique utility’s end goal for its investment.

Taking the time to develop a strategy for the PMO also gives management an opportunity to allow for the model’s future adaptability, scalability and continuous improvement as the organization grows. Whether it’s changing market conditions, new enterprise priorities or something else, a PMO can change course and expand with a utility without becoming out of date and out of touch.

After all, a PMO is an upfront investment for any utility, so it’s vital that the result solve for a utility’s actual challenges, not simply what the industry identifies as challenges. By taking the time and hands-on approach to work directly with every team at a utility to determine real challenges, a PMO can be created to enact necessary solutions and deliver a beneficial return on investment — without wasting time or resources.

Considerations for a Tailored Fit

To secure a cost-effective and efficient PMO model, keep the following considerations in mind during implementation.

Take a technology inventory — Evaluate the current technology tools in place, how they are used and the data flow between them. This information can help determine if a reconfiguration can meet new requirements and if further integration can automate routine tasks, potentially avoiding the need for new tools.

Embrace incremental change — Accomplish the end-goal transformation while minimizing risk and organizational shock to end users by implementing incrementally. This approach, when implemented with a road map and clear timeline, can make change more palatable to senior management as well by dispersing cashflow evenly.

Bear in mind the jack-of-all-trades — Remember that employees within small and midsize utilities often where many hats, such as one person simultaneously functioning as a project manager, engineer, project controls specialist, construction manager and more. Therefore, keeping the PMO design simple, with a measured dose of accountability and checks and balances, can provide useful guidelines in an environment where roles are often blurred.

 

A PMO can increase alignment of projects with strategic initiatives and produce consistent outcomes that elevate performance from strategy to solution.

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by
Clarice is a project manager for Burns & McDonnell with almost 20 years of experience in the power industry. She leads development and execution of large-scale fossil fuel and renewable energy projects and consults with clients on capital projects management and delivery.