I’ve written some negative blog posts in the past regarding PMOs. It’s not that I’m against Project Management Offices. It’s just that I’ve been exposed to more bad ones than good ones.
Too often, they appear to be contrived. It’s as if the IT organization said, “Everyone seems to have a PMO these days. Maybe we should too. Carl, go create us a PMO.”
Carl was most likely selected because he had the most time and they didn’t know what to do with him. So Carl brings all of the project managers together and tells them that they are now part of the PMO. As a result, they will have weekly meetings to give each other their status.
A PMO needs to be a strategic decision for an organization. Rather than just a title, there are a number of services a PMO must provide their organization in order to be worth while.
In many organizations, they have as many methodologies as they do project managers. The logic is that if you hire good PMs with deep experience, they will know how to manage a project. We shouldn’t need to tell them how to do their job.
But if a business unit has three active projects by three different project managers, they may become very confused by the inconsistency. Imagine receiving three different formats of the status report, and every other document you receive from the project managers.
A PMO helps the team of project managers to provide consistency in their delivery. They don’t just standardize deliverables. A PMO standardizes the methodology and how projects are approached. Whether you follow a waterfall, agile, or some hybrid in-between, it serves the organization better when the approach is consistent and predictable.
This is not telling the project manager how to do their job. Project management is not about status reports and methodology. Project management is about using those tools to prioritize, make decisions and drive a project to successful completion.
A PMO provides a global view for all of their stakeholders. They work with each one to help make sound decisions for prioritization of projects.
They understand the interactions and dependencies of all projects that are in-flight or under consideration. This allows them to consider the net benefit of each project. They then work with the business units to prioritize based on the benefit and dependency of each effort.
Sharing of resources
Many projects don’t require a full-time project manager. If two related projects require only a half-time PM, the PMO can coordinate this and manage the time of one PM across those projects.
Additionally, functional PMOs have project managers that collaborate. They share their most effective tips and techniques (their “better practices”) with each other. This creates an environment of constant improvement for the entire group.
Internal consulting service
A good project manager should have a good grasp on the business. This helps to make sound project decisions. The PMO should be integrated with strategic business. They should understand the company’s strategic direction and drive decisions based on that strategy. The PM should not be an appendage to the organization that they turn to on an ad hoc basis once decisions are made.
The PMO is a partner. Not merely a service provider.
The bottom line across all of these attributes is that the PMO must provide measurable value to the business. A PMO is a service center, not a cost center.
The management within the PMO, as well as the project managers, should be in constant communication with the business units that they serve. They should have a constant finger on the pulse of what the business needs. In response, they must provide what they need from a project management perspective.
If the business sees little value in the PMO, the PMO is ineffective.
Does your PMO provide value?
If you would like to learn more about a career in Project Management, get Lew’s book Project Management 101: 101 Tips for Success in Project Management on Amazon.
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