The Successful Project Management Office
By Brad Egeland | minute read
The varieties of Project Management Office (PMO) models seem nearly endless. I've joined companies that already had them, helped organise one for a company I was already at, and consulted with smaller organisations who were just trying to get their PM processes off the ground. I believe there is no guarantee for success with any model. It's how the organisation values the PMO and the role of the PM, in general, and how the supporting organisations interact with the PM that plays a significant role in the PMO organisation's success.
In general, the PMO is the central organisation that is staffed with skilled delivery Project Managers providing oversight and leadership services during the planning and execution of the projects within an organisation. Whether all projects go through the PMO or just the most visible or the projects with budgets higher than 'x' dollars, that's up to the individual organisation.
The main tasks of the PMO and the PM in preparation for and during an engagement are:
- Project Planning
- Project Scheduling
- Risk Analysis
- Project Tracking
Project Planning may be undertaken by another entity, senior leadership or Sales, but I fully believe that the PMO and the assigned PM should be an integral part of this process. Sadly, that is not always the case. Project Planning involves the estimation of the size of the project and the timeframe and resources it will demand. The outcome of the Project Planning activities are usually a price to the customer and a project that is ready to be kicked off.
The act of Project Scheduling, or creating a detailed project timeline, may actually initially take place during the sales process as a way to show the customer that the organisation understands the undertaking and has the resources and the timeframe to perform the work. This is another reason why PM involvement in the sales process is critical. In simple terms, Project Scheduling is the act of breaking the project down into detailed tasks, mapping them out with a project scheduling tool such as ProjectOffice.net or MS Project and setting milestones and performance indicators.
Risk Analysis should be performed by the PM team, lead by the Project Manager, and preferably with solid input, if not outright involvement from, the customer side project team. Risk Analysis is the act of identify potential project risks based on known and anticipated factors, weighing their probabilities, identifying possible risk mitigation actions, and putting them into some device or spreadsheet for on-going tracking purposes.
Project Tracking becomes the sole responsibility of the Project Manager. This involves on-going weekly status reporting, leadership of weekly status meetings, monitoring and revising the detailed project schedule/plan, monitoring the team's execution against it, and all the necessary communication that makes those tasks possible.
All successful PMOs feature four basic components:
- The right processes
- The right tools
- The right people
- Executive level organisation support
I've seen PMOs with the right people, the right tools, or at least visions for building or acquiring the right tools, and seemingly the right processes, yet they have failed because executive management did not share the vision of the importance of the PMO in the organisation or they didn't stay with it long enough to help ensure success. I guess I would have to say from a personal standpoint, that may be the key ingredient. You can always hire different people. You can bring in consultants to help define better processes or identify better tracking tools. But without the executive-level support, none of it will happen or at least it won't succeed.
The PMO is more than the staff that performs the project activities of planning, scheduling, communicating with the customer or ensuring the project delivery. Successful PMOs make an impact on organisational success by performing the following tasks:
- Aligning project delivery with strategic business goals and priorities
- Requiring that every project have an effective PM
- Implementing an appropriate PM methodology
- Consistent management and oversight of the project portfolio
- Obtaining and maintaining company leadership support
Brad Egeland is an independent IT Consultant with 23 years of IT industry experience as a software developer and manager including 17 years of Project and Implementation Management experience. He is married with 7 children and lives in Las Vegas, NV.