Global leader in on-demand professional talent tightens portfolio management, maintains strategic focus

Makosi, an organisation that partners with accounting teams around the world to deliver high-quality variable workforce solutions, including audit, assurance, and advisory services, recently implemented Project Portfolio Office’s cloud-based project portfolio management tool, PPO, in order to help establish its global project management office (PMO).

In particular, PPO has been instrumental in assisting Makosi with establishing its portfolio management capabilities, specifically demand management, as well as providing a full view of its project portfolio and everything this entails, in one place.

Established in 2006 by chartered accountant Darren Isaacs, Makosi is currently headquartered in New York, USA, and services international audit firms in 12 different countries.

According to Leana Marais, head of operations and special projects at Makosi, , decided in 2022 that it needed to set up a PMO in order to formalise a repeatable recipe for success.

“Makosi introduced what we called a PMO ‘uplift’, creating a formal project and portfolio management environment that would have complete control over our high impact projects and their alignment to our business strategy. During this time, we started to build up the necessary templates, structure, processes, mandates and so on.”

Marais explains that the Makosi PMO is very much focused on the business’ strategic objectives. “The types of project that we deliver are all strategic, not  business-as-usual, incremental improvements. Based on this, we wanted to establish the PMO as the guardian of our business strategy, helping to guide the company as to whether projects are correctly prioritised, and if the portfolio management is being carried out in a way that will help Makosi to achieve its strategy.

“Because these objectives could be enabled through the use of proper technology, we decided that a project portfolio management tool was required at this early stage. We investigated several options, but found that many of them were very task management focused.

“What we were looking for was a ‘golden wrapper’ that could drive our portfolio management process and combine everything related to a project, looking at why a project has been set up, whether it has been prioritised, helping to identify and track benefits (either during or post project), as well as the risks, issues and decisions of which we need to remain cognisant.”

Incremental moves, bigger gains

Through global Australia-based PPO partner AVEC, Makosi found the answer to these needs in Project Portfolio Office’s project portfolio management tool. The company started its PMO journey earlier this year, developing and maturing its project and portfolio management processes, templates and procedures with the help of AVEC, and then kicking off the project and portfolio management tool implementation in July 2022.

“In our experience, similar project portfolio management tools often require a huge amount of time to be spent on development work, making them fit for purpose for your organisation. In this case, we found PPO to be very light touch, as it is configuration enabled. So, whatever your project lifecycle and your requirements in terms of managing your projects, it is easy to configure PPO to meet these specific conditions.”

The PPO implementation approach was focused on a two-week cycle, meaning that every two weeks an automated Minimum Viable Product (MVP) was released, introducing a new portfolio management capability. “This meant, for instance, that the Makosi PMO could, after two weeks, quite easily get a full portfolio view and then, after another fortnight, the PMO team could prioritise demand.

“So, while the implementation was carried out over four months, every two weeks there was a valuable, tangible output being introduced, allowing us to create excitement, maintain momentum, and ensure a level of adoption before moving on with the next output.

“The PPO team has walked the journey with us, making sure that we get to the right outcomes, and the time taken to get to a successful deployment has been well worth it,” Marais continues. “Because we’re going through a process of still maturing our portfolio management processes, a gradual approach was critical to our PPO rollout, as we didn’t want to kill the process on day one by implementing and activating all the functionality available.

“However, it is great to know that it is there, and available within PPO, so that when our PMO’s maturity reaches the right level, we can enable and configure more as required,” she adds.

In line with this, while the Makosi PMO is currently still fairly small – and purposefully so as it grows the PMO’s maturity in order to ensure adoption – it has plans in place for growth in the new year.

Previously, people within the business were running with project initiatives as the need arose. With the rollout of PPO, the PMO has now a formalised portfolio management process and been established as the guardian of the company’s strategy, with projects varying from technology-enabled process improvements or business reengineering type initiatives.

Says Marais: “Our projects are now strongly focused on the strategy for the next two to three years, and what needs to be done today to ensure a successful outcome. They all very much aligned to the strategic narrative and objectives.

“At the moment we have an overall list of around 40 potential initiatives, not all prioritised for our immediate busy season; some will happen later next year. We envisage that the PMO will be involved in bigger, even more impactful projects over time that will help us in moving closer to achieving the business strategy. We are looking at dividing the portfolio to reach a fine balance in terms of where the responsibility resides, but the PMO will be the overall gatekeeper to ensure that we achieve successful projects and related benefits.”

Faster, more accurate portfolio management reporting

One of the bigger benefits for Makosi with the implementation of the project portfolio management tool, she explains, is understanding how they are delivering on their projects, and being able to run any type of reporting on a particular project at the press of a button. “We live in a world where spreadsheets are king, and now being able to pull anything related to our projects directly from PPO from a reporting perspective has been great. The ability to run immediate, up-to-date portfolio status reporting has been a key win for us.”

Marais states that Makosi has seen a conservative 30 to 40 percent improvement on time spent on project reporting. “If I look at what we had in place before PPO, using PowerPoint dashboards and packs, we were spending at least four hours per project on a monthly basis preparing these. Now, this is done quickly and easily, and our information is also more accurate.”

“Prior to PPO, we did not have any type of visibility when it came to reporting,” adds Deepa Naik, PMO administrator at Makosi. “PPO has also helped our project managers greatly, creating a standard way of working within our team, allowing members to become more efficient. The goal is that PPO should be our single source of truth, and also provide real-time information, and it is simple enough to achieve this.”

Improved capacity demand management

One of Makosi’s biggest challenges, maintains Guy Jelley, CEO and co-founder of Project Portfolio Office, was the management of its demand process. “Makosi needed a mechanism to record, prioritise and assess its pipeline of initiatives, that would ease the decision-making process.

“With PPO, the demand portfolio can be reviewed and assessed together with the active portfolio, which supports a process of constant evaluation ensuring that the active project portfolio is made up of the correct, strategically-aligned projects.”

In terms of the demand component, Makosi has used PPO to create a funnel feeding into its projects pipeline once they have been prioritised. “This allows us to log ideas, collate these across the community, put them through the prioritisation framework, and then within the project and investment committee meetings, use PPO to drive this prioritisation process in a less emotional manner, as it is based on data,” Marais discloses.

“PPO has also helped to raise stakeholders’ perception of the PMO’s professionalism, as we’re now able to reference data in PPO at the click of a button, showing that we’re on top of our project delivery, and that our data is up to date. This has most definitely elevated our executive leadership team’s opinion on the PMO’s ability to deliver.”

Taking the portfolio management journey together

Working with Project Portfolio Office has been an absolute pleasure – right from the start of the sales cycle and throughout the seamless implementation process, says Marais. “Dealing with people who are experts in their field really goes a long way, and where the PPO team really came to the party was that it wasn’t a clinical, technical rollout. Instead, we looked at what project management entails and how to best use this technology to support us and ensure continuous delivery.

“PPO has made so much available to our user community to enable them with the process, be it extra training sessions with our PMO cadets when they came on board, or handholding with individual team members, as well as the forums that are established, the frequently asked questions that are available, and more.

“Moving forward, as our level of maturity settles, we plan to use more of PPO’s functionality, like resource capacity management for instance. We have starting to look at this functionality in PPO, and can see great potential value here, in terms of how our time is managed, project plans and so on, in time.

“For project delivery, Makosi also utilises SMEs from the business, and I believe that the resource capacity management functionality in PPO would go a long way to helping with capacity discussions here, making them more data-driven,” she concludes.