three tips for nurturing and optimizing your PMO relationship
Adopters of MSP solutions know many valuable team members help maintain and drive the program forward, but it is the program management team that holds the keys to success. As the central point of contact for the suppliers, hiring managers, accounts payable, HR, and contractors, the program management office (PMO) provides the support, technical expertise, and market intelligence needed to keep daily operations running smoothly. That’s why it is especially important for employers to develop a close and trusting relationship with their PMOs to fully realize the value of their MSP.
Every outsourcing practitioner looks to getting the most out of its program, but how can a strong relationship with the PMO help achieve this goal? What steps should an MSP buyer take to ensure a close bond with the PMO? Even before answering this question, why isn’t it the provider’s responsibility to drive this client-provider relationship? To best address these issues, let’s look at the role of the PMO and the wide-ranging impact it has on program success.
defining the PMO
Nearly every aspect of daily MSP activities is administered by the PMO. Staffed by sourcing consultants and vendor relationship management representatives and led by a program manager, the PMO oversees most of the client facing services needed by the contingent workforce process; think of it as a one-stop destination for your entire contingent workforce management operation. The PMO team ensures skills-based rate cards are available for each market and that hiring managers adhere to them. They also ensure a pipeline of skilled candidates to keep your organization operating at peak performance.
Does a hiring manager have questions about acquiring a scarce skill set? Start with the PMO. Is a supplier unclear about billing terms? Ask the PMO. How can procurement get invoice information? Get it from the PMO. Does a SOW worker or independent contractor have questions about time or milestone reporting?... Well… you get the idea.
While the PMO may not always have the answer at its fingertips, it knows how to find them. It is the cog that keeps all program components operating smoothly. An effective PMO helps an employer constantly identify opportunities for efficiency gains and savings. At the same time, it is attuned to the labor market and supply chain, continually providing insights and feedback. More importantly, it operates as if it were an integral part of your internal operations rather than an external one.
Based on the client requirements and needs of the MSP model implemented, the PMO team can either be on site along with the client procurement or HR teams, or they can be located at a provider’s shared services centre operating across different time zones to accommodate various client needs. Off-site teams should be available at all times through a direct phone line or a chat service enabled as part of the model. In some scenarios it can be a combination of on- and off-site teams.
Among the services delivered by the PMO are:
- requisition management and support
- maintaining a current SOP and program policy documents
- user support and training • vetting and on-boarding vendors
- vendor contract administration and audits
- vendor systems training
- vendor performance tracking, monitoring, and coaching
- billing and invoicing
- timesheet tracking
- program performance monitoring and reporting
- survey Management
energizing the relationship
With so much under its watch, the PMO’s impact on your contingent workforce shouldn’t be underestimated. This is the reason for establishing a strong channel of communication with the program management team. While it is the responsibility of the provider to oversee the program and report back key metrics and issues, there are steps that the employer can take to help strenghten this relationship. Through mutual efforts, the two parties will continue to drive program gains and innovation.
So what are the steps that you can implement to enhance MSP outcomes? Consider the following:
- Clearly communicate expectations. Service level agreements established during the contracting phase spell out what’s expected of the provider…but not always. An oft-encountered point of contention is that the provider may be satisfying SLA mandates but still fail to satisfy the needs of hiring managers or program sponsors. This is often caused by shifts in the buyers’ expectations after go-live. To avoid such pitfalls, regularly let the PMO know how your expectations have evolved and what you anticipate for the near future. You can mutually develop a solution that might not require a rewording of the SLAs but still help satisfy your stakeholders’ needs.
- Trust your PMO. Allow your PMO to work through any issue in a reasonable amount of time. You might be tempted to quickly escalate any issues that might pop up, but this hardly the way to build trust and confidence in a partnership. What’s important here is that you reach an agreement on the right course of action, specify the timeframe for resolution, and only remediation fails should executive action be required.
- Seek expert advice. PMOs are typically staffed with subject matter experts who have vast experience in the industry from working with many organizations, so make sure to consult with the applicable team member on any issues for which you need clarity. He or she may have already fielded a similar query from another client or ever from a different business unit within your organization and possess the answer to your particular challenge.
With so much of your MSP solution riding on the success of the PMO, it’s in your best interest to develop a strong relationship with the provider’s team. As with all outsourcing arrangements, a partnership supported from both sides will ensure an effective and longstanding relationship beneficial to all.