The varieties of Project Management Office (PMO) models seem nearly endless. I’ve joined companies that already had them, helped organize one for a company I was already at, and consulted with smaller organizations 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 organization values the PMO and the role of the PM, in general, and how the supporting organizations interact with the PM that plays a significant role in the PMO organization’s success.
In general, the PMO is the central organization that is staffed with skilled delivery Project Managers providing oversight and leadership services during the planning and execution of the projects within an organization. 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 organization.
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 is 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 organization 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 ScheduleReader 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 identifying 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, the 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. The output of employees can be managed much easier through performance reviews, which can also open better communication with managers. Project tracking can be made much easier by using workforce management software, which can record how much time is being spent on each separate task.
All successful PMOs feature four basic components:
- The right processes
- The right tools
- The right people
- Executive level organization 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 organization 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 organizational 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