Organizational Process Assets: What does that even mean?

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Project managers are often faced with the challenge of managing complex projects and ensuring that they stay on track. One key tool to success is understanding how to use organizational process assets effectively.

But what is an organizational process asset (OPA)? I’ll confess: when I started out as a project manager, this was a piece of jargon that honestly didn’t mean much at all? It’s all so very buzzword bingo.

However, when you get your head around what they are and how you can use them, you’ll find that OPAs are pretty helpful for lots of reasons.

OPAs and the PMP exam

Let’s face it: I first came across the term OPA while reviewing PMP exam training material. You might have landed here for the same reason: studying for the PMP exam and wondering how to make sense of this nothing-y term. (Don’t get me started on Enterprise Environmental Factors either.)

Outside of the world of PMI, I’m not sure that the term is widely used at all, but let’s put that aside for a moment and consider what they are and how to use them.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at what organizational process assets are, why you would use them in project management and some best practices for utilizing these important tools. Learn all about leveraging organizational process assets efficiently without breaking a sweat – or getting confused about what it’s all about!

What are Organizational Process Assets?

Organizational Process Assets (OPAs) are the collective knowledge, experience, and information that an organization has accumulated over time.

OPAs include standard processes, procedures, tools, techniques, templates, and corporate knowledge bases or other resources used to manage projects or operations.

They are typically stored in a centralized repository for easy access by all members of the organization. Think intranet or policy library. These days, they are going to be hosted online somewhere on your internal network, so find that place and bookmark it as you’re going to be using it a lot.

These assets help organizations achieve their goals more efficiently by providing guidance on how tasks should be completed and making it easier for employees to find what they need quickly.

Examples of OPAs

Examples of organizational process assets include:

  • Project management methodologies bespoke to your organization
  • Project files
  • Financial control procedures
  • Quality policy that describes the way the organization approaches and assures quality
  • Risk management approaches, a risk register template, and risk appetite statements
  • Training materials for new hires
  • Operational guidelines for teams or departments within the company
  • Customer service protocols
  • Employee handbooks with policies and procedures in (bookmark these directly, they are always helpful)
  • IT infrastructure diagrams outlining hardware components connected together in networks across multiple locations worldwide.

When you start thinking about it, there are loads of examples, from financial databases to standardized guidelines for pretty much anything, product standards, quality standards, historical records, and even very specific things that you may only use in certain circumstances, like defect management processes.

What is not an OPA?

Organizational Process Assets do not include infrastructure or the software tools used to manage the data. It’s just the data itself, the ‘knowledge,’ that counts.

OPAs are internal

The top thing to remember about OPAs is that they are internal to your company. They might be influenced by market conditions (risk appetite statements might change, for example, if the market suddenly gets a lot more competitive). They might shift slightly with the political climate externally or internally.

But they are not the regulatory environment, government standards, or external environmental policies or regulations. Those are Enterprise Environmental Factors, totally different!

I’m kidding, EEFs aren’t that different. They serve the same purpose – to influence the context and environment for the project – except they are external influences instead of internal influences.

Benefits of OPAs

The advantages of using organizational process assets are plentiful; most obviously, you don’t have to start from scratch every time you want something. That’s faster and cheaper than reinventing the wheel each time.

The work gets done in a standardized manner because everyone is following the same processes. Teams can work collaboratively since everyone knows precisely what is expected when performing certain tasks.

That should lead to fewer mistakes being made due to miscommunication between team members who may not have had enough context about one another’s roles.

How to use Organizational Process Assets in project management

Organizational process assets are useful to project managers because they provide the context and framework for delivering change. They influence how we do the work.

Also, many projects leverage existing assets and create new ones – and everything has to fit together holistically to ensure the organization keeps operating efficiently.

Consider this example: a project team implements a new procurement process but does not update the ethical sourcing policy. Now, the procurement process says something that is out of alignment with the sourcing policy – perhaps the obligation to move through the process quickly, while the policy says you should take time finding ethical suppliers and validating their credentials. Perhaps the process misses out any reference to ethical sourcing at all.

You can see that the project has been completed (the new process is live), but unless it’s managed within the context of the other OPAs (including the sourcing policy), then it’s probably made life words for people who are trying to buy things.

Identifying relevant assets

The first step in using organizational process assets is to identify which ones are most applicable to your project. This includes reviewing documents such as policies, procedures, templates, checklists, reports, lessons learned from previous projects, and any other materials related to the project’s objectives or goals.

In particular, look at what governance approaches and organizational standards you have to stick to when managing the project. For example:

  • Risk templates, risk databases, and assessments
  • Human resources guidelines for putting your team together
  • Work breakdown structure templates
  • Data and information security guidelines that relate to whatever it is your project is doing
  • Project closure guidelines for shutting the work down at the end.

By understanding what already exists within the organization, you can determine what needs to be created or updated in order to meet current requirements.

Read next: 7 Factors of Good Governance

Using existing assets

Once you have identified relevant assets, it is important to leverage them effectively by using them where it’s appropriate to do so throughout the lifecycle of your project.

The most obvious assets to draw on are those created by the Project Management Office. The project management processes and lifecycles, policies, and approaches you are expected to follow.

Then look at what your project is delivering and identify what you need to use to complete the work.

This could include incorporating existing processes into new workflows or repurposing old documents with updated information for use on current projects. It may also involve taking advantage of available technologies, such as automation tools that can streamline tasks and reduce manual effort required for certain activities like data entry or reporting generation.

Creating new assets

Sometimes your project will create new organizational process assets in order for the team to achieve its desired outcomes successfully.

For example, this could involve developing custom templates tailored specifically towards meeting specific objectives or creating guidelines that outline best practices when working with particular stakeholders or vendors involved in the project’s execution phase.

internal organizational process assets examples

PMI and Organizational Process Assets

The PMBOK® Guide – 7th Edition doesn’t mention OPAs beyond a reference in the glossary.

Process Groups: A Practice Guide does talk about OPAs. The are inputs to many processes because they shape how the process should be done.

PMI splits OPAs into two categories:

  • Plans, processes, and documents. Generally, these assets are not updated as part of the project work and are usually established by the project management office (PMO) or another function outside of the project. These assets can be updated only by following the appropriate organizational policies. Some organizations encourage the team to tailor templates, life cycles, and checklists for the project. In these cases, the project team should tailor those assets according to the needs of the project.
  • Organizational knowledge repositories. These assets are updated throughout the project with project information. For example, information on financial performance, lessons learned, performance metrics and issues, and defects are continually updated throughout the project.

Best practices for managing Organizational Process Assets

I’m not a fan of the term ‘best practice’ as the best practice for you might not be the best practice for me, if we work in different ways. But whatever. There are a range of good practices that will help you manage your OPAs within a project context and they are as follows.

Establishing clear guidelines and policies

Establishing clear guidelines and policies regarding the use of organizational process assets is essential for effective asset management. Create standards around how you store assets as well as who has access to them.

This should mean that only authorized personnel have access to sensitive information or confidential documents while also making sure everyone knows where to find the necessary resources when needed.

Additionally, having clearly defined roles and responsibilities related to asset management will help ensure accountability throughout the organization.

Use automation tools

Many collaboration and project management software tools have workflow tech built into them.

Document management systems can be extremely helpful in streamlining processes related to asset management within an organization. These tools can automate tasks such as creating new versions of existing documents or ensuring all stakeholders have access to up-to-date versions of files at any given time which can save both time and money in the long run by reducing the manual overhead associated with updating files manually on a regular basis.

Prioritize security

OPAs are internal to your organization. While that means you can update them whenever you want or need to, it also means they are proprietary and confidential information. Do you really want your competitors having access to your project lessons learned repository?

Prioritize data security when dealing with organizational process assets since many contain confidential information about customers or proprietary business strategies.

Make sure you know what the policies for document storage and access are, and if your project is changing or creating new assets, loop in the Information Governance or IT Security team so they are aware of what you are doing and can advise.

Your next steps

Organizational process assets are a powerful tool for project managers and program managers to use in order to ensure successful future projects.

By understanding what organizational process assets are, how they can be used in project management, and the best practices for managing them, you will be able to increase your chances that projects run smoothly. And that changes land in the business well, because that’s just as important, if not more so, than simply collating project knowledge and doing the work.

Here’s what to do next.

  • Find your internal policy library and bookmark it
  • Find your project lessons learned data repository and have a browse through. Ask how you can contribute lessons learned to it following project retrospectives.
  • If you are studying for your PMP exam, check out the training course I recommend.