Jun 24
PMO Strategy, Accurate Report Data and Server Setting Decisions

Every PMO (Project Management Office) is different.  Those of us who have been in the project management industry or who have worked within many PMOs will tell you the same.   Go to any PMI local chapter meeting and talk with your colleagues about their PMO and often their PMO is quite different from yours.    PMOs range from very strong and structure to very weak and perhaps even unknown in the organization.   Each PMO has four or five key requirements that drive their makeup and for the most part they vary quite a bit from company to company. 

However, there is one requirement that most all PMOs require and that requirement is "reporting to upper management".  Over 85% of PMO survey will indicate that "reporting to upper management" is key to most PMOs. So the first thing that comes to my mind about reporting is "How accurate is the data?" Valid report and good data go hand-in-hand. Upper management want accurate reports for making the right decisions.

There are many elements for setting up a PMO and much of this is done by configuring project server.  Also, for the most part configuration settings can be changed on the fly.  The tracking method is one of the configuration settings and though it can be changed, it's best not to.   The main reason for not changing once decided is that when projects are created, they have the tracking method properties set.  If the tracking method changes on the server, the method does get changed in projects already created and this may cause confusion.   In fact, changing the tracking method is basically having project server in "Free Form".

Microsoft project server and online have a four methods ways to track projects.  All of the methods feed back into the project schedule. Some are more exact than others and though they do a good job; we will into a few other settings to make the data more accurate.   The options are set in the "Task Settings and Display" under the "Server Settings".


  • Percent of work complete.   This option is used by many companies and may be the best selection for their culture.  It provides a good read on how a project is progressing and provides good feedback of what is complete and not.  The main drawback of using this option is that actual work and actual costs is often not accurate.  Depending on the task type used and the skill of the project manager, the actual work can be inflated when the duration is extended or when a task is marked 100% complete which creates actual work from planned work.
  • Actual work done and work remaining.   A better option than above and actual work is more accurate.  My only issue with this option is that it doesn't require time periods and doesn't have to be done a recurring cycle. Determining if a week is skipped cannot be determined.
  • Hours of work done per period.  Again this is a better option than both options above.  It requires using time periods and thus makes it easier to determine if time is entered each week.  If actual work is not track weekly, it's easy to lose work done.  This is the best option of the three for measuring actual costs, work and scope is achieved.   As much as I like it, there is a better solution called SEM (Single Entry Mode) that we is discussed later and when this is enable, it turns on hours of work done per period.
  • Free form is the final option.  It may be best for organizations that have weak PMO and cannot define a standard.  Because of the inability of a PMO to define a tracking standard, this option would be my very last choice.

A few other configuration that should be considered for obtaining accurate data for reports is to check the checkbox that forces everyone to use the same tracking method.   Consistency and governance are key factors for increasing data accuracy.

The option "Only allow tasks via Tasks and Timesheets" should be checked for data accuracy.  This forces actuals to come in from their inputs and it prevents project manager from creating actual work by marking tasks 100% complete. 

At this point, your basic tracking method is in place and accurate data is feed back into your project schedule.  However, there is more that can be done to ensure accurate data and valid reports.  Taking data accuracy a step further requires using timesheets.

Timesheets is provides the most accurate data in your reports and at the same time has the most opposition.   Task sheets can look like timesheets, but just saying "Timesheets" makes everyone feel like they are on the clock.  Timesheets provides the PMO more information and better information than task sheets.   Timesheets also implies a weekly submission of work done each week and because of weekly and regularly submissions of time, we get better and timely data. 

For example, a person may work ten hours on a project.  The next week they work zero hours.  When timesheets are enable, PMO usually require forty hour to be reported. The person submits ten hours of work on project and thirty hours on other non-work tasks.  When timesheets are part of the PMO monitoring cycle, the project manager can determine if resources have submitted their work efforts.  In this example, if no work was done for a week, the resource still submits a timesheet showing forty hours of non-project work.  The project manager then can determine, the resource didn't just forget submitting time.

Timesheets can be a separate process for submitting actual work. When I refer to timesheets, I am actually referring to SEM (Single Entry Mode).  SEM puts task sheets and timesheets on a single form making it easier for resources to enter time for tasks on project schedules and admin task for non-project work.  SEM is enable in the server settings under the "timesheet Settings and Defaults".  The screen shot below shows the bottom part of the form.


As you can see from the form there are other configuration settings.  Checking the "Single Entry Mode" does several things.  First the timesheets and task sheets are combined on a single form and it also sets the task setting to "Hours of work done per period".   There are other options that need to be thought thru and studied.   Also, defining the governance of approval and when timesheets are submitted must also be defined.  However, it this point the key project server configuration have been made for getting the most accurate date for reports to management.

In summary the key points for PMO strategy and project server governance.

  1. Reporting to management is the key requirement for most PMOs
  2. Reports need accurate data on a timely manner.
  3. Single Entry Mode provides PMO with the most accurate data for generating management reports.
  4. The PMO must determine the level of accuracy that works best for their culture and management.  



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