Visible? Did I say visible? What I think I really mean is viable. We all want our Project Management Office (PMO) to be visible, right? And, if the projects are flowing through it like they should be, then it probably is visible. The scary part is when some projects flow through it and others – possibly the big ticket, high dollar projects – aren’t.
Separate is Not Equal
It’s not wise to segregate like that. I worked at one very large aviation and engineering company in the late 90’s and early 2000’s leading all internal web development projects just prior to helping them build their PMO. There was an internal struggle to be the web project provider between our group, the Internet Team, and the other group, the Graphic Design Team. I truly was some strange internal political struggle. Our team eventually came out on top meaning all web development projects were channeled through us, but it was strange to see such an internal battle going on like that.
The same can be said for the PMO and the projects that are allowed to run through it. If you have a PMO in place, or are building one, then all projects should at least run THROUGH it – if not all are run BY it. All projects should be tracked by the PMO and status reporting should be run up through the PMO, even if the project ends up being managed elsewhere within the organization. If the high visibility projects aren’t even being channeled through the PMO for documentation and tracking, then you have a real problem brewing.
It is the responsibility of the PMO leadership to properly promote the PMO and help ensure its viability and visibility. Its viability is maintained by doing the following:
- Implementing proper and repeatable processes to consistently and successfully manage projects
- Implementing consistent templates for managing project and reporting status to customers and executive management
- Hiring competent, experienced Project Managers to lead projects for the organization
- Implementing proper compensation plans to retain good PM resources
- Implementing adequate training and on-boarding programs and processes to ensure that PMs are well-trained and up to speed on the PMO processes and practices
The PMO’s visibility is maintained by doing the following:
- Reporting project portfolio status on a regular basis and in a meaningful and useful format so that executive management realizes the PMO’s value
- Implementing solid PMO practices to ensure that the high-visibility customers are happy and referencable and the high-visibility projects are successful
- Inviting executive leadership to regularly attend weekly PMO meetings and sit in on project status meetings for the critical, high-visibility projects
- Managing project budgets thoroughly and reporting budget status up through executive leadership to show bottom-line PMO and Project Manager value
The PMO Director, as the leader of the PMO, must be a strong leader with pull inside the organization to ensure that these things happen. Otherwise, the PMO runs the danger of becoming obsolete or, at the very least, insignificant…and the mission critical projects will pass right by the PMO to special teams outside the PMO’s jurisdiction. Executive leadership must see value and ensuring that happens begins with the PMO leadership.
I’ve personally helped setup PMO’s and I’ve personally watched PMO’s fail. They’ve always failed for one of the following three reasons:
- Lack of strong, focused leadership
- Lack of repeatable process
- Lack of executive leadership support