PMO – Do you Need it?

Do you know what PMO is and whether an organization needs it? What is it for and how to live with it and in it?

Hey Crizpers, today I am proposing to look into the PMO solution and to define if this is something you might be interested in. Whether you need to consider this form as a beneficial approach for the organization management? Let’s try to look into it with more precision.

PMO – what?

Firstly let’s clarify what this abbreviation means and what it hides beyond the letters. Project Management Office, or PMO, is an organizational structure. This is a form of management and an approach of building a company’s hierarchy. There are multiple opportunities to configure and to construct the stares in your company and to categorize the positions in it. PMO is one of these ways. In other words, Project Management Office is an individual department in the organization where the Project Managers belong to. 

As an example, when a company has a PMO, a Project Manager does not belong to a team and does not have a regular team. In this case a PM is assigned to a project from this department on a demand and as an allocated resource. 

Why do I need it?

Not all the organizations have PMO and not all the organizations need it. Moreover, not everybody feels it would be the best way for them to collaborate. We will touch base on the different organizations structure some time in the future, but for now let’s review the preconditions for building a PMO and let’s define when this approach would work better.

Do you need a PMO?

Initially, when the company starts its path and does not have a lot of resources, there is probably no worth in organizing a Project Management Office. Frankly speaking, I would say this could be a necessity to have a PMO when an organization requires restructuration due to the volume of the resources it has. For instance, starting from the very beginning it might be more comfortable and convenient when the teams are configured constantly. You might even start with a single team and in this case it is obvious there will be no individual department for a sole resource.

However, should the firm grow further, and based on the average projects specifics you might consider a possibility of allocating Project Managers in an individual organization within the company. This would work if there are many projects in the company and they differ significantly from each other. Or if there are many customers, or enterprise clients to dedicate a Project Manager to.

Anything Special?

One of the PMO specifics is a documentation and procedures structure. Having this would obviously be beneficial in every organization, especially in a large one. 

Imagine a situation, you have several project managers. Every manager works on several projects. And you do not have a stated workflow, documentation and procedures standards. Everybody works on their own discretion. Try to guess how huge a mass will be in only a couple of day. And what if one of the managers or even a couple of them decide to leave? 

Managing Projects is a high-level accountability. In an organization all relevant procedures are structured and documented. Give people a chance to track the processes and to complete things that were started by someone else. Therefore, here a Project Management Office comes in.

PMO helps to keep things organized, structured, standardized. PMO helps to manage projects efficiently throughout the organization. Besides, as any other departments, PMO has its own internal customs and procedures to follow. All Project Managers belong to this department and they have their top manager to oversee and supervise them. Usually Project Management resources are assigned to projects based on the availability and competence. Moreover, it is a PMO responsibility to take care of the resources evaluation and education.

Who can do it?

If you feel an organization requires structure and procedures change, and you have decided to implement a Project Management Office as a separate department, you have a couple of ways to act. You could either assign a person from your Project Managers to work on that and to further lead this department, or to invite an external outsource specialist to build this department for you. 

Project Management Colleague

There are pros and cons for both of the solutions. Should you assign a person internally, this will most likely take all of his or her time to efficiently perform in a new role. This means if a person has something else to do, there will be a necessity to re-assign this work to other resources, and even maybe to hire another PM if no internal resources are available. 

Nevertheless, in this situation a person assigned to a new position already knows the company’s flows and structure, has an idea of what to improve and how to collaborate with colleagues. 

On the other hand, should you feel you need an objective view and a professional approach you might be interested in outsourcing. It could be a beneficial solution to hire an outsource specialist to work on the PMO building and structuring. Although it might be a bit more costly, a professionally built solution could be accepted easier and will allow your team not to be pulled out of the work for good.

How to Build?

There are certain techniques and steps on how to develop a Project Management Office. The methodology usually depends on the current status of the organization. 

Do you already have any stated flows, documented standards and procedures? Are the procedures already developed? Do you have the documentation standards? Are Project Managers prepared to collaborate as a single department and as a Project Management Team?

Obviously, all these items impact the approach and provide dependencies for the work estimation and the outcome delivery.

To begin with, a good move would be to conduct interviews and available documentation review. Analyze the current situation in order to define whether it would be feasible at this point to start a PMO. Do you think it would finally be beneficial for the company as a result?

Set up measurable KPIs and define how to estimate them. For instance, analyze how many hours Project Managers are spending on their tasks at this point. Ask them what makes the work complicated. Think of how it would be possible to optimize this stuff to allow Project Managers taking over of more projects without a loss of efficiency. 

Project Management Team

Once the analysis is done and it was agreed a PMO is a good solution, take it as a Project. Plan it, create the delivery roadmap, put milestones and work on it. 

Life in PMO

The huge part of the PMO implementation success is people that will belong to that department. These are the Project Manager, and they are going to collaborate as a single team now. It is important to work with them and to prepare people for this. A new collaboration approach might differ from what they were involved initially in and what they have got used to before.

If previously there might have been an atmosphere of competition among the project teams, then now we need PMs to be more supportive to their colleagues. Consider working with Project Managers as with a single team and think of the opportunities to engage them all together.

Are you working in a PMO now? Do you feel it is a good management approach having a Project Management Office? Let me know your thoughts in comments.