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Creating a Successful Project Management Office

What is a Project Management Office?

The Project Management Institute (PMI) states that a Project Office may operate on a continuum from providing support functions to project managers in the form of training, software, templates, etc., to actually being responsible for the results of projects. Project Management Office (PMO) is one name used for this business function. Other names include:

  • Project Office (PO), 
  • Project Control Office (PCO), 
  • Central Project Office (CPO), and 
  • Project Support Office (PSO).

Depending on the organization, the role of the PMO might be to provide an infrastructure for centralized status and budget reporting, providing training and mentoring in project management best practices, creation of methodology templates for use by project managers, and / or completion of projects from inception to benefits realization.

Creating a Successful PMO

ust like building a house, to create a successful PMO, a solid foundation is required. One of the key building blocks for establishing and maintaining a viable PMO is continued executive support. All the templates and methodology in the world will not help you if you can’t get the main sponsors to realize the benefits of a PMO. With this support in place, the PMO can begin to initiate change in the organization.

The next big hurdle is to communicate the PMO mandate beyond the executives. The ability to provide business value and having a clear mandate are two ways to ensure the organization at large understands the importance of the PMO objective. Once this is demonstrated business departments should understand and appreciate what the PMO brings to the table.

Another hurdle to overcome, is removing the control stigma from the PMO. People often associate a PMO with the gathering of status data and providing methodology templates. In some organizations the PMO fulfills an internal audit role for status and budget tracking, this is not an appropriate use of PMO resources. In order to provide the most benefits to the organization, the PMO should be providing the methodology used to measure project manager performance. The actual measurement should be conducted by the organization’s internal audit department, and should not be part of the PMO mandate.

To ensure your PMO is providing value to the organization and the business departments it services, it’s also important to complete projects from inception to benefits realization. Too many PMO departments are guilty of providing only administrative and support functions for project managers. When the budget belt needs to be tightened, if the PMO has demonstrated its value to the organization by completing strategic high- risk projects, it should withstand any organizational restructuring.

One of the PMO responsibilities is to develop the organization’s project methodology, including the project templates. The true measure of a good PMO is whether it can “eat its own cooking”, actually using the templates it creates in PMO managed projects. This way the PMO can get a first hand account of how useful its tools and methodologies are to the organization, and how they can be improved.

The measurement of the benefits realized per project, and how those benefits align to the organization’s strategic objectives, is an important contribution the PMO can make. The focus here is on portfolio management. Do the completed projects contribute to the bottom line? Project benefits should be aligned to the organization’s strategic goals. PMO portfolio management provides the mechanism for evaluation of the overall portfolio health. This will be a key input to executive project prioritization decision- making.

With this foundation in place, a successful PMO can be established and can play a key role in building a successful organization.

Ian Gittens, PMP, is a senior consultant with SPM Group Ltd. specializing in project fulfillment, methodology development, project portfolio management, business process reengineering, change enablement, and the development and implementation of project management infrastructure. Ian has 20 years’ experience in project management, business analysis, and application development, supporting multiple customers such as financial institutions, third party logistics providers, distribution organizations, high-tech manufacturers and retail organizations from APAC, EMEA and the Americas. His past responsibilities have included program management of regulatory and compliance initiatives and enterprise resource planning technology implementations for various business verticals. Ian can be reached at [email protected], or 416-485-1584 X 243

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