In a work of increasingly complex interactions and business models the need for a standardized approach to managing projects has never been greater. The benefits of businesses building their own Project Management Office (PMO) will depend on whether the business culture, leadership team, and project processes, tools, and goals are aligned. Although there are project management standards that can be applied to every project each of these must be individually applied to meet the needs of each unique project. This means that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to project management and that the team needs to understand both the unique needs of the project as well as how to wield each tool to be successful.
Deciding if you need a Project Management Office (PMO)
Egeland (2013) advises that at least two out of three criterion should be met before considering building a project management office. These same criterion can also be used as guidelines to determine if a project management approach is proper or if other business strategy alternatives should be explored. Initiatives that have a need to share resources, need and have the capacity to support high-end communication, and have a level of complexity that would benefit central control are considered a good candidate for the project management approach.
Santosus (2013) provides a list of benefits in having a project management office (and using project management tools) that need to be aligned with the business need and capacity to support. When the business needs and capacity are aligned a strong business case for developing a project management office (and using project management tools) can be presented to the leadership team.
Presenting the business case to the leadership team requires consideration of the business needs, project areas to be supported, benefits expected, and the systems and supports needed to successfully manage projects and a project management office. Having a shared understanding the role of the project management team is just as important as being able to communicate the value of having a project management office.
The project manager as a process owner (but not people manager) becomes increasingly valuable in matrix based organizations where teams, areas of ability, and resources are often shared. The project manager owns the process and planning tools where the customer, sponsor, and project champions own the decisions and the authority. These roles must be ‘owned’ and ‘mastered’ in order for the project resources, plans, and responsibilities to be successfully executed.
The above graphic illustrates five steps to pitching the business case, building the necessary relationships, and identifying the tools, processes, and structures to successfully build a project management office. Executive buy-in becomes crucial for not only forming the PMO but also for establishing its authority for bringing cross functional & departmental group members together to pursue a shared vision.
Data becomes increasingly important as pressure continues throughout the lifecycle of the PMO. This includes both qualitative and quantitative metrics that are used to evaluate whether the project management office was able to deliver on its promises. Comparisons are made against the original business case, as well as against individual project forecasts and actual performance.
How is your organization building their Project Management Office? Share your comments below.
Travis Barker, MPA GCPM
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