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Are You Really Ready for a PMO?

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Organizations that have a project management office (PMO) show they are moving toward a centralized management of project resources and strategic alignment to business goals.

But I find a certain level of readiness has to exist in an organization for it to create the platform for a worthwhile and cost-effective PMO--the type of PMO that contributes to the business not by simply being an extension that offers extra resources, but that works and evolves with the business.

There are key issues in organizations that usually hinder this:

•    Senior teams do not understand the PMO or its purpose
•    Senior management teams do not understand what project management is all about and how it can help them lower the costs of implementing projects
•    The PMO is viewed as something you install without careful and business-aligned planning

In my mind, PMO implementation must be viewed and managed as a project. A company should know why it's seeking to implement a PMO in their organization, what business issues it's trying to fix and what inefficiencies it's trying to improve.

A company has to consider:

1.    Organizational Readiness

Organizational processes will require changes to ensure the process flows into and out of the PMO are integrated into the organization.
2.    Cultural Readiness
The organization has to assess its readiness based on current resource pools, whether the resources can be migrated to PMO teams, and how other members of community will be able to align with PMO requirements based on their knowledge, experience, skills and mindset.
3.    Strategic Alignment
The goal is not just to have another department, but to have a team of people agile enough to act quickly and in a focused manner. And planning of the PMO has to include reasons that align with direct impacts on strategic goals of the organization.

 

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10 Comments

After reading this article, I have gathered some primary knowledge about PMOs. Some important organizational key issues are discussed in this post. I totally support Dmitri Ivanenko's views on organizational readiness. PMOs try to create standards & they provide guidance to the project managers, teams and sponsors. A clear idea about Project Management is needed to set a PMO for any company. PMO helps to achieve that. Everybody must read this post to set up a PMO for an organization.

Thanks, Yael Nowogrodski

I recommend Joyce, and others who want to get PMOs off to a great start and be sustainable, read the book I co-authored with Robert Graham and Paul Dinsmore, "Creating the Project Office: A Manager's Guide to Leading Organizational Change" (Jossey-Bass, 2003).

Our premise is that it may be a major change to embrace the tenets of a project-based organization. A PMO is the vehicle to drive that change, following a change management process. We provide process steps and case studies to guide leaders on the journey to create successful PMOs.

Randall Englund, www.englundpmc.com

Hi Joyce,

Thank you for your comment. A good place to ask for some advice on PMO books might be the PMI Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pmi#/PMInstitute. Or check out PMI's eReads and Reference: http://www.pmi.org/Resources/Pages/eReads-and-Reference.aspx.

Thanks!

I have just been asked to set up a PMO for my company. Can you suggest any good books to read on this topic? I am a senior program manager but I have never actually set up a PMO. Thanks for any advice you can offer.

I would suggest that Mr. Jordan has a defined PMO charter in mind, which in some companies would include a process for evaluating and perhaps managing a greenlighting process for potential projects. I believe that a properly chartered PMO should provide such value to the company, for in most companies only within the PMO does the expertise and knowledge lie to dispassionately manage the evaluation of potential projects and their impact on the company.

Of course, that in some ways assumes project managers can function as a business analyst, which in my experience is generally the case. At least if you find a pm that has worked in more than one company and with luck more than one business type.

I have worked in organizations with very senior project teams. What they lacked was thinking beyond their product silos. As long as senior management care about projects being better aligned to their corporate goals, they can use the PMO function as an enabler for such alignment. A PMO can start with an individual consultant with management backing, helping to create policies that can initially be enforced by individual project managers.

Pradeep Bhanot, Product Marketing Director, CA Clarity, CA

I think we need to be having more discussion around PMOs right now. The economy has given us an opportunity to prove it's worth. Thanks for starting it here Dmitri. I hope you will do more.

I want someone to show me how a central office can possibly manage several large civil or building projects without having highly trained PM's being in the field. The organization better be prepared for sticker shock when it comes to the purchase and integration of systems, VPN's, Routers and web firewalls and the related maintenance.
There is no one complete package to fully manage every area required. The investment of time required for systems training, education, and team building is extensive.

I agree with Mr. Ivanenko's views on organizational readiness. However, there can be many types of PMOs, and not all are active actors in managing projects, programs or portfolios. Some PMOs serve in the mentor and trainer roles. They educate organizations to reach the stage that Mr. Ivanenko shows as organizationally ready to accept a more active PMO role.

I have seen a number of mentoring PMOs that create standards, then train to the standard and provide mentoring to project managers, teams and sponsors. These PMOs can also establish PM Centers of Excellence (web sites or portals) that share information and act as a clearinghouse for best practices. I would deem these PMOs to be successful if they mature the organization around them, and thus allow both the organization and the PMO to evolve to a more active stage where true cost reductions and efficiencies can be found.

A forth item is critical. Executive Management Support is necessary. Without it, most PMO's will fail in the first 6 - 9 months, because there will not be buy-in. It is not impossible to build a PMO without Executive support, but it is increases the risk of faily dramatically.

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