A PMO, also known as a Project Management Office or a Program Management Office is an entity that adopts, enforces and maintains standard methodologies and processes of project management within the organization. A PMO would consist of people conversant with guidelines mentioned in the PMBOK® or PRINCE2 depending on the region where the services are required or incase the organization has a specific inclination towards adopting one of these practices.
As per PMI's "Pulse of the Profession" - 2017 edition, the percentage of organizations with a PMO is witnessing an upward trend. The figure has skyrocketed from 61% in 2007 to 71% today. Also, organizations which have their PMOs aligned to the company's strategy report 38% more projects being successful and 33% fewer projects ending up as failures.
What is a PMO?
Every organization undertakes projects for some targeted benefits and the primary function of every PMO is to ensure that projects, programs and portfolios of the organization are streamlined towards achieving their strategic objectives. However, today's changing dynamics have led to PMOs assuming greater roles and responsibilities ranging from coaching to handholding & even directing projects towards successful deliveries.
Senior management expects the PMO to reach every nook & corner of the company's system and channelize all functional departments towards assisting favorable project outcome. An agile environment takes the concept of PMO to an entirely new level. It is expected that the PMO is in sync with market requirements, technology, existing & emerging competition and possesses capability & capacity to influence decision making at the higher most level.
A PMO ensures that different verticals in an organization are guided and controlled in a similar fashion without any prejudice and that resources are utilized and shared effectively from within the common pool. In a traditional set up a PMO can be seen second line to project manager
In a traditional set up a PMO can be seen:
PMO has umpteen benefits that help an organization deliver successful projects. Some important and pertinent ones are:
Business Competence: PMOs assist in successful selection of projects that align with the organization strategy and goals. Successful execution & closure of beneficial projects leads to increase in profits. An agile PMO ensures that project selection is in line with the market sentiments and may even go ahead with postponing or dissolving projects that might hurt company's finances.
Project Metrics Achievement: PMOs keep an eagle eye over metrics that define project success by ensuring successful delivery within PMI's triangle of scope, time and quality. Organizations benefit from PMOs abilities to quickly and effectively address gaps and timely closure of projects within schedule & budget.
Constant Skill Upgrade: One of the important responsibilities of a PMO is to educate the organization and its project managers on project management skills. There is a constant stress on developing better communication/ managerial skills and train staff to embrace newer technologies thereby enabling them to deliver in an agile environment.
Improved Stakeholder Collaboration and Communication Management: PMOs are responsible for streamlining communication & coordination between internal and external stakeholders of the organization. Ensuring clear and precise lateral & hierarchical communication between departments and resources facilitates better understanding of the objectives and improved productivity.
Central Project Repository: PMOs are the custodian of historical database of the organization. They are responsible for continuously building a repository of past & present projects that are accessible and can be revisited every-time for reference and learning. This compendium strategically helps in project selection and risk mitigation as opportunities and threats of past projects are duly documented.
Enhanced Risk Management Capabilities: PMOs ensure that project risks are managed, analyzed and mitigated before they pose a threat to project success. The ability to look well into the future and assess what may affect the project adversely is a primary benefit of having PMOs.
PMO functions in different ways depending upon the degree of influence and extent of involvement required at the project. The same PMO can be a mentor on one project, a facilitator on another, while it can act as a project controller on the third.
1. PMO as a Mentor: Every individual benefits from a mentor, likewise every project can be steered towards successful completion if provided with the right guidance at the right time. A supportive PMO assists the project via consultation and by providing valuable inputs on best practices, past learning, templates, deliverables and training in the right direction. Projects in such an environment benefit from the expertise available, but the onus of utilizing this support lies entirely with the project manager. Organizations where projects are consistently delivering on the set targets, but lack a professional and streamlined approach can benefit from a PMO in a supporting role.
2. PMO as a Facilitator: A supporter and an enabler, this kind of a PMO ensures adherence to periodic project reviews, audits, compliance to standards and intensive reporting. By far this is the most important role large organizations expect their PMOs to play. Success in this situation can be largely attributed to a clear management mandate that PMO support and control over the project needs to be complied with. The project manager’s buy-in and the organization's willingness towards outright support for PMO proceedings is the key to successful delivery of projects in such cases.
3. PMO as a Controller: The controlling PMO is actually “in-charge” of the project. The PMO in this role directs the project and takes control of all aspects of the project. The PMO may loan out their project managers to take control of the project or the project manager directly reports to a PMO director and conforms to the professional expertise, experience and project management practices of the PMO in entirety. Such examples can be seen in cases wherein the project is unique in nature or when the risks involved & stakes are too high for that project.
1. PMO is Just another Auditor: PMO is often considered to be a reviewer and auditor of processes & practices prevalent in the organization. Generally this leads to a sense of insecurity amongst the employees and they end up not being forthcoming in reporting shortfalls. However, an efficient PMO is one which strives for project’s buy-in and ensures that they work hand in hand with the projects team supporting and assisting them in every way possible. Training projects on efficient ways, methodologies and essential software skills leads to greater knowledge sharing, acceptance and harmony among the stakeholders.
2. PMO is an Unnecessary Cost: Organizations where the culture of a PMO is new, often feel that the PMO team is a monitory burden with no tangible benefits. However, every process driven organization has a PMO team in place with benefits that clearly outweigh the costs involved. A PMO which is constituted from within the organization is cost effective and also beneficial as it is aware of the organization’s culture and conversant with the existing system of operation. PMO targets can easily be achieved by using basic project management software, and limited but efficient resources. As per the general trend any PMO department requires 3 to 6 months to realize their short term targets and at least 2 to 3 years for long term benefit realization.
3. PMO Uses Conventional Methodologies: PMOs no longer adopt traditional ways of working but make use of agile project management approaches. Good and efficient PMOs are tech savvy and aware of emerging technologies required for effective control and management of projects. Today PMOs are constantly evolving, can adapt to market dynamics/ product requirements and are beneficial at every stage of the project lifecycle.
With projects getting bigger and complex, organizations are looking for ways to rein in the diversity and operate them under a single umbrella that adopts a regimented approach towards project monitoring and control, but also understand project peculiarities and directs them towards achieving organization goals. PMO is definitely the answer and way forward.
Siddharth Singh is a project planner & controller with a renowned real estate developer. He is also a certified PMP professional with a Masters in Building engineering & management. He is passionate towards learning and imparting project management skills with special emphasis on the construction industry.
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