Project Management Office – how to make it work well?

In some of the project driven organizations that implement a number of projects simultaneously, we can observe the solution proposed in PMBOK Guides, which is Project Management Office (PMO). In theory such a centre of competence and design solutions should support projects and contribute to their success, however in various phases of development, PMO faces many problems that may limit its functionality and efficiency, and as a result contribute to its marginalization in the organisation.  From my personal experience –I’d like to refer to a few points.

How to improve the existence or functioning of the PMO Office?

From my (limited but intense!) experience of being a part of distinct types of PMO environments, from very small local PMO’s, where it played an administrative function responsible for the company’s project management methodology in creating document templates and training, to that of a large global organization, where the PMO was quite strategic and monitored the company’s development in the assumed directions.

I look at the PMO as one of the elements of the broadly understood project management model of any organization that implements change or delivers new products in a predictable and structured manner.

The same applies to the positioning of the PMO within the company and its organizational structure – in some cases the role of the PMO may be more informal – composed by one or several people, whereas in others it may be a separate organizational unit. Regardless of its essence, I believe that the activity of the PMO should be perceived through the prism of the effectiveness of project implementation. What I mean by that is that we should look at it in the layer of delivering results and products or the effectiveness of risk and change management. Due to the above, with such a wide scope of the definition of PMO, there is no single model for implementing the Office. I deeply believe that the key to success is always adjusting it to the requirements of the organization and the expectations of the main stakeholders and the recipients of services that the PMO provides.

That is why I believe that the role of PMO, regardless of company size/structure etc., to be effective, should start with small steps at the beginning, slowly moving to bigger projects.

Here are a few tips, for starting a well-functioning PMO:
  • Initially it should implement what you want to achieve in a given period – develop a clear vision and strategy
  • The PMO should become the seed for future initiatives, a source of ideas for broadly understood development, including improvement of the company, any lean concepts, continuous improvement etc.
  • Try to make it a place where people come for best practices, a treasury of tools to strengthen the effectiveness of activities, a knowledge centre on how to manage projects to achieve optimal results
  • A good PMO should have a database of all the projects you are working on, which over time should grow into a large repository of valuable knowledge.
  • Once we observe that our PMO grows from strength to strength – it’s worth considering the need to hire more people – perhaps project managers, change managers, BA’s, Product Owners etc.? It is very important to choose the right team-members. PMO resources should be an example of good leaders and managers of their teams. They should also perform PMO functions in a variety of environments: creative, design environment, managing and tracking the progress of multiple projects at the same time. Other traits that they should possess include: training, encouraging their teams to take action and foremost – be excellent communicators.
  • Of course having people employed by the PMO office means it should take care of their development and training needs etc. They must feel valued and appreciated and it is crucial to keep them upskilled and challenged (in a positive way)

If we try our best to implement the above consistently for some time we should notice that with the same level of resources (monetary and human effort) we are able to implement many more projects effectively and should see how it translates into business benefits, customer benefits and sustainable financial results.

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