people in a meeting using data charts on a tablet

The Importance of Data Analysis for PMO Operational and Strategic Leadership

In this age of “big data,” the ability to derive meaning from a sea of numbers is becoming more and more valuable to project success and business development. According to our own Director of Analytics & Research, Nick Morrelli, “Data analysis, as it relates to marketing, is the process of evaluating information from different sources to derive meaning, identify trends and influence business decisions.” Metaphorically, it’s a bit like panning for gold - and this age of “big data” is the new Gold Rush. A study done by the International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts that worldwide revenues from data analytics will grow from $130 billion in 2016, to over $200 billion in 2020.

For iProspect’s Project Management Office (PMO), data analysis is a core requirement to fine-tune process, establish accurate prioritization, and lead the team in fulfilling the schedule and strategy of our clients. Since we interact with all departments here at iProspect, our Project Managers have visibility into the challenges and areas of emphasis for the entire business in which they are supporting. With this level of visibility, they should be responsible for guiding the team in terms of what information to consistently review for specific opportunities. Effective data analysis is a result of correctly reviewing the right data at the right time.

On one client account that I support at iProspect, we start each week with a team-wide dashboard review meeting of key performance indicators through various data visualizations and timeframes, to form a transparent status of our work that is delivered to the client. Some of these key performance indicators include natural search keyword rankings and segmented website traffic. Team members from every department help connect the dots to paint a picture for our client, in the most straight-forward way possible. Over the past eight months that our team has held this meeting, we saved 80 hours of worktime due to the streamlined data collection and collaborative review.  I also found that holding this meeting at the beginning of each week sets a tone of curiosity and data-focused mindset in everyone’s work throughout the week.

Continuous account-level data analysis is important to identify the team’s performance trends, and monitor its established processes to discover areas for improvement. It’s only worthwhile to conduct this consistent analysis, however, when high-impact actions are appropriately identified. Otherwise, it’s a wasted effort. While this seems like a simple concept, complacency is common with consistent reviews and the important point is to know how to avoid that. This is achieved when the relevancy of the analyzed data is identified. With the staggering amount of information available, there needs to be prioritization around what is the most potentially telling and impactful data to review. The prioritization order should always be based around what will most benefit our clients.

The most immediate ways we as Project Managers positively influence our teams through data analysis are seen in resourcing and scheduling. Typically, this will come from identifying performance inefficiencies and inaccurate forecasting. A common Project Management practice that addresses both issues is to review the actual hours needed to complete a project, against the initially planned hours, or baselines. At iProspect, we refer to this as the team’s “velocity”. Historical baselines are used to establish accurate and faster delivery timelines for in-depth proposals like content gap analyses. These baselines and velocities are also used in Scrum team environments, where estimated levels of effort drive team workloads, speed in scheduling task completion dates, and helping to keep our employees appropriately engaged in client work.

While not all answers can be found in the numbers, data analysis will always play an important role in improving account operations and delivering the right information to make better business decisions. iProspect’s Project Managers use their unique leadership position over the team’s total scope of work to draw meaningful insights that make significant differences for their clients. Conducting frequent and sound data analysis helps our PMO schedule and prioritize tasks at faster velocities to create a win-win situation for our clients: a better performing account team that, in turn, ensures long-term success for our clients.