A PMO’s success cannot be all about on-time, on-budget project execution. Certainly, these things matter, but execution can only be the foundation of a PMO’s success. Just as a house cannot be a house without a foundation, a house cannot be a house if it only has a foundation.

The PMO’s success is driven by how it augments successful project execution. At Project Management for Today we talk a lot about Governance, Intake, and Operations. This article deals with Operations.

I am passionate about PMO operations as I have spent much of the PMO related parts of my career dealing with it. I know what works, because I have experienced firsthand what hasn’t. A PMO without an effective PMO Operations team is inefficient, bureaucratic and is slow to provide information to the rest of the organization. A PMO with an effective PMO Operations team is responsive to the needs of the organization.

What exactly is PMO Operations? To answer this question let me talk about what the value proposition is behind PMO Operations. PMO operations is like the office of automation and work avoidance. Within PMO Operations we make sure that the entire PMO process is as “Push Button” or as automated as possible. In this role, we look for manual processes and we extinguish them. Simply put, we either adopt the benefits of our manual processes into our automated processes or we eliminate manual processes that add zero value. The PMO Operations team makes life a lot easier for the rest of the PMO.

Certainly, there is additional value behind PMO Operations. We provide information regarding the “pulse and breath sounds” of the portfolio. This includes information on budget, status, time worked, projected finish dates, resource projection, etc. etc. But this is a natural extension of our mission in PMO Operations, to automate all value-added processes. Information coming from the PMO should always come out instantly through automated means, not through each individual project manager.

I am sure you are asking yourselves how you make processes push-button? Isn’t that expensive? After all, in most organizations the PMO is often seen as overhead. Why would the organization invest a bunch of money in IT resources and tools to automate the PMO? The answer is that the organization should not spend a bunch of money in software and tools to automate the PMO. The organization should invest in skills.

The truth is there is a lot of automation that can be done through Microsoft’s Office 365 offering. Macros can be built through Excel and Access; databases and applications can be built through Access. Microsoft SharePoint can be a wonderful repository for your information. But you need folks who are skilled at the usage of these things. This is why I tell you to invest in skilled staff that is skilled at using what is available to work the work out of your PMO.

But beware of your inclination to pay for low-skilled staff in thinking they can be trained up to meet the demands of automation. This often leads to a bloated PMO Operations staff, full of individuals who manually put together datasets through a tiresome process of copy and paste. If your operations team consists of one or two people who are automating your process, then you are on your way to success. Know that in most cases if your PMO Operations team exceeds two people then your value proposition of automation will be questioned. After all, how can you say something is automated if you are paying a bunch of staff to run the automation?

But skilled staff charged with automating everything possible is not enough. Your PMO operations staff should have one individual who is skilled at Organizational Change Management. This individual will work with the automation staff in PMO operations and with the rest of the organization to ensure that processes coming out of PMO Operations meet the business needs of the organization. To put it another way, the organizational change management person ensures that there is a good relationship between PMO process and the rest of the organization. They ensure the continued use of the PMO by doing this.

The value of this team of PMO Operations resources is they let Project Managers do what they do best which is to provide project leadership. Project managers are not data entry specialists, nor are they process engineers. PMO Operations primarily services Project Managers by allowing them to remain focused on their projects with minimal distraction, which all leads back to a good foundation of strong project execution.


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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Karl Hallgrimsson

Karl Hallgrimsson

Co-Founder: Project Management for Today

Karl has worked in many different organizations over his 18+ Year career. These organizations include TeleTech, IBM, DaVita, and Hewlett Packard, Inc. He has served as a change agent in each organization, either by building up strong operational rigor in PMO's, or by greatly improving an organization's Analytics capability. Karl's contributions to this site provides practical recommendations suiting a variety of environments, which will be best suited for readers who are interested in updating their Analytics, PMO Operational, or Portfolio Management capabilities.
Karl Hallgrimsson - Co-Founder
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