We continue to hear from our clients about the continuing shortage in the supply of project managers with the skills and experience needed to manage medium to large scale projects and programs. This is true even in the current environment where unemployment levels are at record highs. To make matters worse for CIOs and other business executives, there is an increasing need for quality PMs as public and private sector organizations are spawning major initiatives at a rapid pace.   The Project Management office (PMO) is a construct that you can use to engage your experienced PMs more broadly and provide on-the-job training for less experienced PMs.

Here are four tips to help ensure the success of your PMO:

  1. Align PMO capabilities and processes with organization needs – PMOs can take on a broad range of responsibilities, from project and portfolio reporting at one end of the spectrum to active involvement in the management of all projects at the other end.  Decisions about the services provided must be made in consideration of organizational needs.If your organization will be initiating large-scale programs requiring large numbers of resources and months to deliver, it will require capabilities different from those required by an organization focused on managing large numbers of small-to-medium-scale projects. In both instances the PMO should provide standard project delivery guidelines, but the level of PMO staff involvement and oversight is likely to be significantly less in the organizations managing small-to-medium sized projects. Overburdening small projects with unwarranted levels of bureaucracy can lead to end-user and implementation staff dissatisfaction, delivery issues and low levels of process adoption.
  2. Extend support beyond IT – The PMO can be leveraged as a tool for building bridges to its internal customers and enhancing the perception of IT across the business. In most organizations, critical projects are typically underway in business units as well as in IT. The odds are high that those business units are struggling with the same set of project management challenges as is IT. As PMOs are usually housed in and staffed by IT, offering project management expertise and other PMO related services to business units is one way IT can improve relationships with and enhance the value delivered to internal customers.
  3. Select the right organization structure – PMO structures range from centralized to highly decentralized. While no structure is inherently right or wrong, it is critical that the PMO structure support the needs of your organization. In organizations with well-developed project management processes, I have seen the decentralized model work well. In those shops, the PMO has provided methodology guidance, portfolio reporting services and project management resources for high-profile projects. In organizations with project management processes that are either not fully developed or widely adopted, I have seen the centralized model used to speed both process development and adoption.
  4. Implement meaningful metrics – One common PMO responsibility is to facilitate visibility, accountability and control across the project portfolio.  Fulfilling this responsibility requires monitoring and reporting meaningful project performance metrics. Tracking data such as project success and failure rates, estimates and actuals, post deployment issues and benefit realization experience provides the opportunity for continuous process improvement. An added benefit is that as the data is collected and analyzed, teachable moments will be identified for use with project managers in training.

I believe project management challenges and the potential for PMOs to contribute to organizational success will continue to grow, particularly as organizations focus on managing through turbulent times and maximizing the return on those project related investments they choose to make.

For more information, visit www.systemsalliance.com or email me at ecoram@systemsalliance.com.