One model I used to like compares various project management offices with familiar functions. For example, the project office can be viewed as a weather reporting office, reporting status information and giving insight into the health of projects. Or as a lighthouse, providing assistance to projects in the form of guidance, processes and best practices as they pass through their life cycle.
While the pictures conjured up by these comparisons are illustrative, I find they don’t hit the nail on the head when it comes to broaching the PMO as a key organizational and structural element intended to support the business. Increasingly companies, especially larger ones, are attempting to develop PMOs which integrate project and business processes.
We see this with the trend in recent years toward ‘Enterprise’ or ‘Corporate’ project management offices. These aim to address integration issues associated with the functional silos of the large organizations, or to align projects to business strategy, or to provide visibility on project spending and achieved value through various reports and dashboards. Many provide support publishing policies, procedures and guidelines. Others manage the project life cycle and integrate this to the system development life cycle, or to other key business processes linked to change and change management. Yet others fashion themselves as the center of excellence and central point of contact for the business. Still others focus only on staffing PMs or on financial reporting or vendor management.
Some try to do it all! But realistically can a single PMO do it all?
Well not unless it’s very mature. Not unless the business it supports needs it to.
Recently I’ve come across another model. It’s presented in a book titled The Complete Project Management Office Handbook, by Gerard Hill. The model in the book presents a comprehensive look at the project management office competency continuum. It presents the PMO and related functions and concepts with a pro-business slant. The book details over 20 functions and functional areas, which collectively comprise the competencies an organization may choose to support in their PMO.
What I like about Gerard Hill’s competency continuum is that it reminds us, first, that alignment of project activities to the business objectives is essential to ensuring that projects deliver value. Second, that to be successful a PMO must do a good job at whatever set of functions it performs to support the organization. And finally, these functions must help assure projects deliver that value which is required for the business to meet its objectives.
Mike Lecky is a consultant at The Manta Group, a management consulting company specializing in IT governance, Project and Portfolio Management, Service Management, Risk and Compliance. Mike has degrees from the University of Waterloo (BScEng), The University of Western Ontario (MBA) and the University of Liverpool (MScIT). He worked for 12 years in aerospace electronics and as a Project Engineer managed several general aviation and US Military contracts. He teaches project management online with the School of Applied Technology at Humber College. Now, with over 25 years experience, he is a PMP and an information security professional (CISSP) and has a broad range of program and technology implementation experiences in the high tech and service sectors. Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org