The Project Management Office: The One Thing That a PMO Must Do

The Project Management Office:  The One Thing That a PMO Must Do
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Having a Project Management Office (PMO) is not a solution; having an effective PMO is.  Studies show that PMOs can be effective…but that an alarming number of PMOs are not effective and are failed efforts.  In fact, some studies show that as many as 60% of PMOs fail, and often when they fail, they fail spectacularly. This article looks at the fundamental question that all PMOs need to ask continuously - and ensure that the answer is positive!

This is the fourth of a series of four articles on the Project Management Office (PMO), where we explore the various aspects of this complex, controversial organizational entity that, in practice, has produced both resounding success and miserable failure.  This article, Part 4 in the series, “The One Thing That a PMO Must Do”, distills it all down to one make or break consideration that trumps all others. Part 1, “The Three Flavors of PMOs”, looks at the primary types of approaches that PMO’s take. Part 2, “Waterfall, Agile, and Hybrid Methodologies,” looks at how PMOs can handle the complexity of managing a variety of methodologies across the enterprise.  Part 3, “What to Look for in PMO Software,” surveys the range of functionality [provided by PMO software, and how to choose what’s best for your PMO.  

The Project Management Institute (PMI) defined a Project Management Office (PMO) as the “Management structure that standardizes the project-related governance processes and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques” - PMI 2013

With such a definition, it’s no wonder that a PMO is complex!  In fact, most organizations take six months to two years just to implement a PMO – and a large number of them fail!

So what are the main challenges that PMOs grapple with?  A 2014 Project Management Solutions, Inc. survey found the following top challenges:

  1. Organization resistance to change - 51%
  2. PMO processes seen as overhead - 47%
  3. Having enough time/resources to devote to strategic activities - 45%
  4. Demonstrating the added value of the PMO - 43%
  5. Inadequate resource management capability - 43%

So, what is common among all of these things?  What is the one thing that most helps determine if a PMO will be successful?

The common thread among the five challenges above is that the PMO MUST ADD VALUE.  Resistance to change goes down when you add value. Processes are not seen as overhead when they add value.  You must be devoting a decent amount of time/resources to strategic activities if you are creating value! If you are truly adding value, it should not be hard to demonstrate that added value?  And if you are adding value, and have a culture for doing so, you are probably balancing resource capability with needs.

A PMO must not get bogged down in process…and must not over think it.  The key is to be ruthless about adding value at every turn in order to remain relevant to the organization.  As a service organization, adding value is a job that is never done for a PMO.

Is your PMO ruthless and unbending in its pursuit to add value?

This Post is Part of the Series: The Project Management Office

This series of four articles on the Project Management Office (PMO) explores the various aspects of this complex and controversial organizational entity.

  1. The Three Flavors of PMOs
  2. Waterfall, Agile, and Hybrid Methodologies
  3. What to Look For in PMO Software
  4. The One Thing That a PMO Must Do