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The PMO: Right Work, Right Time, Right People

You might be surprised to learn that Gilt Tech has a Program Management Organization (aka “The PMO”).

Why do I think you might be surprised?  Well, the role of project management in traditional organizations has typically been one associated with paperwork and process (We need to talk about your TPS reports…).  It has also been associated with hindering rapid development and slowing things down.  These negative connotations are behind the reasons why many people struggle with the idea of having a PMO or a project manager on a team.

We strive to change this.  We believe every organization and team should invest in project management if you want to work smarter and spend more time on what really matters.  Here’s some reasons why…

One of the many tenets we are taught in our training is the “Triangle of Truth”.  The project manager’s key function is historically described as making sure a project meets its objectives, is on time and on budget.
What happens more often than not is that a project manager is so focused on driving to deadline, they lose sight of the big picture.  I have often heard project managers and others describe their job as “my responsibility is to make sure we hit our schedule no matter what” – and this is dangerous thinking.  Our function is so much bigger than maintaining a list of tickets on schedule.

The project manager’s responsibility is to make sure we are doing the right work at the right time and with the right people.  Let’s break this down a bit.


Right
Work

A good project manager doesn’t simply take orders and execute on them.  We have the authority to ensure we are working on what will bring the biggest contribution to the organization, and constantly question and re-evaluate this based on a combination of hard data, an understanding of the business we are working in, and good intuition.

  • Is this the most important thing we could be doing right now?  If it isn’t, how can we bring the right people together to negotiate and agree to the right work?
  • How will this work both positively and negatively impact others?
  • Is the work defined enough that we feel confident in its execution?  What is the Minimum Viable Product?  Is the work actionable?
  • What does the data tell us and what decisions need to be made based on this data?


Right Time
A good project manager needs to have an understanding of both internal and external factors behind the schedule, and make decisions based on a deeper understanding of what is driving the timeline, maximize efficiency, and take the initiative to make adjustments along the way.

  • What are the market conditions like?  What are our competitors doing? Is it the right time to be launching this kind of product?
  • Are we managing time appropriately?  Is the team focused and if not, what can we do to eliminate the noise?
  • Are we working in the most efficient way?  What changes to our current process need to be made to maximize our efficiency?
  • Are there deadlines that are fixed due to events such as press releases, end of quarter, or financial reporting needs?


Right People
A good project manager is also a people manager.  Yes, I’m adjusting the “Cost” part of the triangle to represent people – because people’s time = money.  A good project manager knows that a primary function is to alleviate any roadblocks that get in the way of your team focusing on the most important work, even if this means picking up the slack yourself.  We are also responsible for team building, encouraging growth and learning, and are often the public face or “go-to person” on the team.

  • Do you have the right people on the team to accomplish your mission?  If not, what can you do to get the people you need?
  • Are the right communication methods in place so that all of the people involved in the project have a clear understanding of what is happening?  Do all of the people outside of the project have access to information?
  • Do all these people really need to be at this meeting?  What can we do to eliminate unnecessary meetings for people so they can focus?
  • Is the team happy, engaged, and enjoying their work?  What can we do or change to maximize happiness and productivity?


As you can see, there’s a lot more to project management than managing the schedule, taking notes and executing orders.  Project managers oversee the end-to-end execution of a project, making sure we are doing the right work at the right time and with the right people.  We are experts in efficiency, negotiation, communication, strategy and big picture thinking with the ability to break the big things down into actionable chunks.  We not only get things done – we get the right things done in the best way possible.

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