October 2, 2014

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Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Project Management: How a PMO Can Make a Difference

PMORecently I attended a Virtual Conference hosted by the International Institute of Learning (IIL). A presentation by James C. Brown about how a PMO can make a difference was very insightful. Today I want to share some of what I have learned from him about Project Offices and the value that they bring.

PMO Perceptions

Often there are many perceptions about Project Management Offices (PMO’s) in organisations. They are considered to be ‘Report Generators’, ‘Process Creators’, ‘Infastructure builders – building and maintaining costing, time-keeping and scheduling tools etc’, ‘Dashboard/Scorecard experts’, ‘Organisational home of Project/Program managers’, ‘process police’ and so on.

In reality a PMO is and should be much more than any of the above. Let’s take a closer look at what the goal of the PMO should be.

Goal of a PMO

According to James Brown and the research that he has done, the goal of a PMO is the following:

“The right information at the right time in the right hands.”

For a PMO the commodity is information. How a PMO manages and communicates that information to others so that they know where it is, have it at the right time, and it’s pertinent to them to use it, interact with it, and make decisions with it, is the key to success.

When you want your PMO to deliver real value, you need to make Portfolio Management your goal. This would include:

  • Strategy development
  • Revenue planning and budget development
  • Functional resource management
  • Project execution

And how all of the above relate to one another.

James Brown states that for a PMO to be successful, the PMO needs to make life easier for the stakeholders by providing data that they need for decision making and making visible what projects have done for the organisation at any given time.

Types of PMO’s

Traditionally there are 3 types of PMO’s:

  1. Auditing – responsible for auditing methodologies and compliance with quality and standards.
  2. Enabling – to improve the maturity and effectiveness of project leaders
  3. Executing – actively engaged in implementations, responsible for facilitating and doing project work.

The ultimate vision, according to Brown, is to be a bit of all these types, but being flexible depending on the needs of the organisation.  For a PMO to survive it should become agile, which means it must learn to adapt and overcome challenges.

Some critical success factors for successful PMO’s are:

  • To support the vision of the Leadership team (innovation, cost savings, growth etc)
  • Focus on value delivered from a stakeholders point of view
  • Support decision management with data that matters to stakeholders
  • To improve forecast capabilities
  • To provide near real-time data that is always accessable

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Please share in the comments section if your organisation has a PMO and what your perception is of the value that your PMO delivers.