Read Part One of this Series HERE
The Project Management Office (PMO)
The PMO, a simple word that has been seen to bring about anger and mistrust in some people. For others, it is a barrier stopping them from doing what they want to do. Either way, in every organization there must be an understanding of what the expectation of the PMO is. A PMO will be different things in every organization. Some will have project managers reporting directly to the PMO while other organizations keep the PMO and the governance around it separate from the project managers ensuring an unbiased governing PMO. There is no right way for everyone, as each organization is different so are the PMOs. As a project manager, it is important to understand the role the PMO plays in your organization, and the processes defined. As an organization, it is important to implement a PMO with the culture and environment in mind.
Why Does an Organizaton Need a PMO?
There are many studies that show the advantages and disadvantages of having a PMO within an organization; the question is how will it benefit the organization and the individuals. The implementation of a PMO can either be a time of great celebration with success, or time to try again upon failure. The biggest challenge for an organization is how to do it, and what project management framework to implement. A PMO can bring standardization and controls, but it can also provide training and mentoring not only to the project managers, but to the organization as it relates to the project management life cycle (PMLC) that the organization plans to implement. It is important to help everyone understand that a PMO is not implemented to cause delays, but to help ensure the successful implementation of the projects.
We have all heard that with a PMO there are benefits as they relate to investment management, resource management, and even financial management. But there are other benefits that are not regularly called out. With a PMO an organization can also recognize growth in maturity, both in process and production. A PMO can also help to bring a once decentralized organization into a more centralized structure. Most important, a PMO that is set up correctly can help identify areas of waste, set processes and standards that help move the organization forward, and help in educating the organization on not just project management, but also help managers to gain a better understanding of basic resource management, estimation techniques, and even project financial management.
A PMO is not implemented overnight, and I like to think of it as a growth process instead of a build process. I am a firm believer that PMOs cannot be built, that they must be grown to fit within the organization’s culture and environment. You can build a house, but it will not grow with you. If it is built too small, you either must build on or move. This is not to say that every organization needs to have a PMO, but that every organization will come to a time in its life that it may need to consider whether a PMO is the next step for them.
Once a PMO is initially implemented, it does not stop there. Continuous process improvement should be a big part of any PMO. A plan should be in place to continue the growth of the PMO, and the maturity of the organization. Communication should also increase. All too often the PMO expects projects managers to communicate, but for some unknown reason, there is less communication from the PMO. Why is that? Project management is all about communication, and if anything, a PMO should communicate more.
- Be ready to do the two-step: one step forward and two steps back. As organizations change, so must the PMO.
- A PMO should be set in processes, but flexible when needed. It is not a strict one-way or the highway rule unless necessary for legal or regulatory compliance.
- Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!
- Start small and grow the PMO. An apple orchard can start from just one seed.
- Remember that the PMO is not there to be a police department, but there to help project managers and the project succeed. If all the PMO is doing is telling them what they are doing wrong or that they are behind, then the PMO or the people in it need to change.
This is also a question we have heard for many years. Many people do not seem to understand that there is a difference between doing just certain things, and doing end-to-end (E2E) project management. The way we view E2E is that it involves the change management process where you also take care of the changes that are happening to people, processes or technology and ensure communication and planning is completed around it. It involves all aspects that we are going to talk about here, not just serving as a technical lead or implementation lead. It starts at the very beginning and does not end until the customer acceptance is signed off, the funding is closed, and the project is officially completed.
You manage the entire project with E2E project management including resources, budget, forecasting, reporting, schedule and timeline, capital versus expense, change management, risk management, project management, communication management…EVERYTHING! Throughout my career I have met very few project managers that have done total E2E project management. Many times, they are responsible to manage the schedule, including all the tasks, and the dates to which the activity should be completed by. Rarely have I met a PM that has also taken care of the budget and forecasting, had a basic understanding of capital versus expense for internal labor capitalization, knew anything more than the basics about risk management or change management, and was never involved in any communication management. If you cannot do these, you are not doing E2E project management.
Change management is one of the big pieces that is normally left out. What many do not understand is that without change management you can very easily make a successful project a failure. Change management covers the change that is occurring from a technological standpoint, a person standpoint, and even a workflow standpoint. If we were to relate this to the building of a house example it would be the same as you building a house and not communicating where the front door is. Change management is communication, and that communication should begin as early as the discovery stage. If you wait until the end of the project the communication regarding the change and any training needed for the personnel may not be able to be completed in the timeline required.
As I sit here thinking about change management, I recall several projects that were going to impact the branches and stores of a company I worked for. No communication about the change had ever been completed to the stores and branches making the rollout. Deployment of this application was unsuccessful because not only were the personnel not ready for it or aware of it, but they had no training on how their workflow and processes were changing. With just a little bit of thought, and a little bit of effort, this one project could have yielded a lot of return on the investment.
Risk management is also an area that is often neglected. I cannot tell you how many PMs I have spoken with that when asked a very simple question: which comes first a risk or an issue, they often reply with issue. A lot of money can be wasted with the simple neglect of risk management. Depending on the organization you work in risk management may or may not be a priority. As a PM, I would hope that you help the organization understand how risk management can save them money, and help to ensure the successful completion of a project.
Financial management is also a big part of E2E project management. Monitoring the budget and keeping an eye on the costs versus the remaining work should be one of your main concerns. The people and the organization that trusted you to lead their project count on you to keep a watchful eye to make sure that the project does not go over budget. If you are not watching it,then who is? Even if another area is watching the budget, make sure you stay informed so you can alert your management if you are burning at a higher rate than you are producing.
Even with E2E project management a PM needs to understand what lines can be crossed and when they can be crossed. Remember, even with a PMLC, E2E project management is something that not every PM has done and it can take time, which leads to experience, to fully understand E2E project management.
- E2E project management takes time to learn. You should not expect yourself to be able to do it all overnight.
- Do not forget about all the areas that are normally forgotten or only thought of after the fact. They should always be in the forefront of your thoughts.
Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.
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Over 20 years project management experience with a passion for helping organizations grow their PMO, their project managers, and their teams. My passion has taken me to the pursuit of a Doctor of Education, as I enjoy seeing the proverbial light bulb come on. I am a believer in continuous growth and improvement, and believe that an organizations culture and environment is what drives the growth of PMOs and all areas, and not the other way around.