Does your company need a Project Management Office (PMO)?

February24, 2020
by Emil Tarka

Project Management is far more than just a theory, a classroom course, or one of those buzz words you hear about online.

In over ten years of providing clients with professional Project Management training and corporate training, one of the things I’ve noticed is after the course is finished, everyone gets excited, and everybody pinkie-swears that they will implement what they’ve learned. Then, guess what? Nothing happens. Not only is this a personal irritation, but it is also a highly ineffective way of spending a company’s resources for corporate training. Naturally, the question is, how do you bridge that gap? How do you actually ensure a company implements those good project management practices?

The answer is a PMO.

So, what exactly is a PMO? A PMO, also known as a Project Management Office, is a person, or group of people within an organization, who make sure that the company implements the necessary Project Management practices to prevent projects from going by the wayside. Does this cost money? Yes, it does. Will you see an immediate return? No, you won’t. Will it take between 2-3 years to get a PMO which yields optimal results? Yes! Do most PMOs fail within their first year? Yes, they do. Why? The main cause is a lack of management support, and because it is far too easy to revert to old ways and habits.

So, to return to the original question. Does your company need a PMO? If you’re managing projects, and people don’t know what on earth is going on, if you can’t clearly articulate the scope of the project, if you’re constantly dealing with upset customers because you’re just not getting it right, if your projects are over budget, if you simply don’t have a budget (yes, sadly, this is more common than you think), then yes, your company absolutely does need a PMO!

How should you develop your PMO? This is not a cheesy sales-pitch, but you are far more likely to be successful hiring an expert; someone who has implemented a Project Management Office multiple times. There is a benefit to hiring someone with knowledge and experience who’is familiar with the common pitfalls associated with creating a Project Management Office and can effectively increase efficiencies within project management.

The development of a PMO is usually divided into several steps. Each organization is unique, and the current level of your Project Management practices will determine the caliber and complexity of your PMO. You need to crawl before you can walk, and you need to walk before you can run. The first step is assessing the current state of Project Management in your organization; this is where I often hear clients say, “we currently have no Project Management practices”. That’s never true! Current Project Management practices do not have to be formally documented. Many times, they exist in the form of oral history. The next step is identifying the level of Project Management which the organization is able to handle. This includes the identification of process, tools, and individuals needed to set up a positive Project Management culture. Once the processes have been identified we develop the tools. After the tools have been developed, we test those tools on a real-life project. We make revisions, and then we continue with coaching and mentoring, in order to make sure that people are using the tools properly. The last step is to validate whether the tools are still appropriate, and then, voilà! The process is finished; you’ve now successfully developed a PMO.

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