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Achieving Scale: Benefits of Program Management Oversight for Federal Organizations

Moving a large Federal agency from a Program/Project mindset to a “Portfolio” mindset can help your teams achieve better project outcomes in several ways. This includes realizing cost and schedule efficiencies, capturing and disseminating best practices across your entire organization, and being the best possible stewards of public funding.

A key component to facilitate this transition is the establishment of a Program Management Oversight (PMO) function within the organization. PMO reinforces the aspects of your agency that may need to evolve to achieve the Portfolio approach—culture, prioritization, systems and business processes, change management, and, eventually, necessary course corrections.

This brief paper provides you with some details on what PMO is and what PMO can do for an agency. We understand the challenges you and your teams are facing, and based on our own experience with similar large-scale programs in the resiliency and recovery space, we think PMO can help owners to scale up quickly, efficiently, and effectively.

PMO: Advantages and Value-Adds

PMO offers a set of principles and processes to guide and improve the management of complex programs and projects. PMO can help manage programs and component projects more efficiently and cost effectively by realizing opportunities to control costs, advance schedules, and maintain quality across their entire suite of strategic endeavors.

The function of PMO is to safeguard and assure delivery of services while preserving quality, safety, service standards, and compliance. PMO would also enable you to achieve economies of scale, achieve greater transparency and accountability, and enable you to manage multiple projects with just one PMO team that, when integrated with the agency’s own resources, becomes a powerful extension of your staff and a force multiplier.

PMO achieves this by verifying that large and complex programs are well-planned, well-executed, and that the projects that comprise the programs receive the support they require to succeed.

Throughout the program lifecycle, PMO protects against projects exceeding budget and schedule and identifies areas for improvement. These areas can include management expertise or organizational capacity, tools and technologies, and the formal capture and implementation of best practices and lessons learned. To continue any agency’s success to date in maximizing the return on investment of Federally allocated funds, PMO can also serve as an invaluable tool for tracking progress, verifying compliance, and then providing this information to your stakeholders in easily understandable formats—helping you focus on the work on hand and keeping your stakeholders on-board.

At the agency level, PMO entails:

  • Supporting organizational portfolio-level decision making.
  • Supporting continuous project management improvement through the capture and dissemination of lessons learned.
  • Assessing and elevating agency project management capabilities and capacities.
  • Reviewing and reporting on project progress.
  • Helping to identify, evaluate, and manage risks throughout the program lifecycle.

At the project level, which can involve direct oversight support of work in the field, PMO involves:

  • Reviewing and confirming project objectives.
  • Identifying and resolving project challenges.
  • Reviewing project management reports for timeliness, completeness, and accuracy.
  • Auditing project lessons learned.
Hill’s History with PMO

Hill International (Hill) has a long and proven track record providing PMO support. In fact, the PMO service was first conceptualized by Hill’s founder, Irvin Richter, in 1985, for the Federal Transit Agency (FTA) and Hill continues to specialize in providing PMO services for FTA, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and many other U.S. public and private sector clients today. For organizations new to PMO, this experience offers a detailed, customized PMO approach informed by our own lessons learned and best practices.

The PMO Approach

Our approach to driving success across the program lifecycle through the PMO function will follow a detailed and rigorous process:

  • Establish a Program Management Office: Staffed with construction industry experts in large complex programs and transformational projects. This office will work side-by-side with your staff.
  • Plan Spending to Expedite Projects: The PMO team will confirm projects for viability and adherence with all applicable regulations and requirements and organize projects by readiness. This includes:
    • Baselining all projects for scope, budget, and schedule.
    • Packaging, advertising, and procuring projects to streamline and maximize spend.
    • Assessing and building capabilities and expertise at all levels of the program team.
    • Maximizing local, minority, small, and disadvantaged business participation.
  • Managing Projects: Capturing program and project data through a variety of business intelligence technologies and management systems, we will track progress on each project and, through our diligent monitoring, verify compliance with budget and schedule goals, regulations, reporting requirements, and other KPIs, including:
    • Jobs created.
    • Funds under construction/milestone progress.
    • Diversity goals.
    • Identifying, capturing, and disseminating best practices and lessons learned from individual funded projects to drive overall success.
    • Reporting & Forecasting: We will provide high-level snapshots and dashboards to leadership and other key stakeholders to facilitate informed decision making and keep all appropriate parties informed and up to date.
    • Developing and Maintaining Key Partnerships: Our PMO teams will interface with labor, trade, and community stakeholders to gather input on how to tailor funds to maximize diversity, equity, and inclusion to assure job creation and opportunities for all.

By implementing a PMO, Federal owners can establish a standardized approach to project delivery. Contracting and mobilizing the PMO early will enable the development and implementation of a Program Management Plan to support rapid response and deployment to the field. In addition, a PMO brought into the team early on can conduct operational exercises (OPEX) with your staff staff and other key stakeholders to make certain that actual deployments occur as planned and with minimal issues. This approach provides additional time to deploy its forces from across the country while being responsive to the event timeline.

For PMO to be effective it must have contracting authority to secure equipment, services, and contractors necessary for an effective deployment and response. The PMO OPEX will have exercised this and served as the mechanism for verifying and vetting out the needed levels of contracting.

As the missions become evident the time needed to match contractor support with each mission is shortened by the PMO team’s early deployment, quick mobilization, and start-up and contracting of material, equipment, services, and contractor support.

The organization of the PMO function is shown below.

Organizational Chart Graphic 2


Monitoring, Compliance & Oversight

PMO List Graphic

Providing the information needed to make informed and timely decisions is central program success. To achieve this the PMO team will establish workflows, and policies and procedures aligned with USACE, FEMA, Local Emergency Management, federal, state and local laws, regulations, and requirements.

All baseline workflows, processes, and procedures will be established and tested during predeployment, enabling the OPEX to test and verify each. This eliminates unforced errors and missteps and saves time during the actual event deployment. This cycle is shown below:

Circle Graphic

We hope this introduction to PMO and the benefits it can offer are apparent, but have no doubt you have additional questions. Please contact Hill International Vice President, Resiliency and Disaster Recovery Andy Robinson, PMP at [email protected] to share thoughts or learn more about how Hill can help you on your Project Management Oversight needs.