PMO – What is it good for?

It’s been some time we can hear about a trend of setting up Project Management Office or PMO.What is it, and what’s the value of this new organization for project and program management ?

Behind PMO is the idea to better control the risks of project management, which are multiple: missed deadlines, scope creep, lack in stakeholder involvement, unstandard reporting. But aren’t PMOs at the same time ad additional burden for project managers? In addtion to working with their teams and the customer, now they will also have to comply to PMO requirements? Is this not a waste of time for them?

If done correctly, PMO can benefit the business, the overall project management practice, and with it, the project managers as well.

PMO should address three critical aspects of the project management:

  1. Business case management
  2. Operational project management support
  3. Project tracking
  4. Professional development

Let’s elaborate on each of these aspects

Business case management

This is where business management is involved, and it should be involved at all levels – making sure that the projects and programs support overall business strategy. In the case of project portfolios, this is also about prioritizing individual projects. This PMO function ensures that the projects are founded on real business needs.

Operational project management support

This is multifaceted function, which facilitates the life of project managers. It encompases:

  • change management (boards, request forms, approval lines, reports, etc)
  • risk management (checklists, risk classes and categories, assessment baselines, etc)
  • cost management (earned value analysis, project accounting, chargeback, etc)
  • resource management (time claiming, vendor and subcontractors management, etc)

Project tracking

This is the function that most project managers like the least, but it provides unified and single view over the overall project portfolio. The trick here is that forms should simplify the reporting, and not discourage individually created slides in the overall PowerPoint presentation to highlight original aspects of each project.

Professional development

Best practices would include traning packages for new and junior project managers, refresh courses, official coaching and mentoring programs, spreading lessons learned, development of project management community,  regular newsletters and educating stakeholders on project management principles

Taken seriously, PMO can prevent chaotic and uncontrolled escalation of costs and recurrent problems. If implemented the right way, it can significantly reduce the stress at work and percentage of failed or abandoned projects. And overall, it improves the corporate bottom line and reduces business risks.

Sasha Lazarevic
July 2005

This entry was posted in Project Management. Bookmark the permalink.