Adding distinctive value through the PMO

A previous article described some of the common role characteristics of a PMO in establishing and ensuring the application of a consistent PM methodology and tools, establishing a control environment to track the status of projects under its remit, and providing the necessary reports to support governance bodies.  These are what most organizations expect as a minimum from a PMO.  The question is whether this is enough.  Part of the issue is that if this is the extent of the PMO’s role, it can too easily evolve into a “handle-turning” function, representing a significant reporting overhead for projects and providing limited additional insight to senior management.

In our experience, the most successful PMO functions recognize these challenges and add distinctive value through a range of “delivery assurance” activities illustrated in the diagram below.

The base expectations (in light blue), include the deployment of concrete techniques; resulting in the most visible PMO deliverables.  These establish the foundation to enable the PMO to do other things and need to be set up right and run smoothly.

The “delivery assurance” activities (those in dark blue) include those PMO activities focused on “joining the dots” across projects, ensuring projects are well defined and planned, coaching and supporting Project Managers to manage more effectively, providing senior management with the necessary overviews, insight and advice to enable effective decision making, and identifying the key issues and risks that require immediate focus.

These additional activities not only earn the PMO the right to advise at a senior level but are also the key to personal development through a PMO.  This raises a number of related considerations, notably using the PMO as a means to develop PM capability through, for example, rotation of staff through this center of excellence.

In a future article I will talk about the benefits of implementing a value-adding PMO.

John Hall

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