Recognizing when enough PMO is enough for your organization

Most people know that I wear a couple of hats. By day I am the director of consulting services for Wellingtone, a company that specializes in partnering with organizations to develop their project management maturity. Outside of that as a volunteer, I have been Chair of the Association for Project Management PMO Specific Interest Group for three years and am also a mentor with Project Managers Against Poverty and PMO manager for Project Managers Without Borders. Yes, I am quite busy! But I believe that these roles give me a unique insight into what is happening in the industry and what people are talking about.

Over the last month or so, I have noticed one question keeps cropping up:

“How much PMO is the right amount for my organization?”

There are a few trains of thought when it comes to this topic according to the guidance that is out there. A common one comes down to aligning the number of PMO roles to the overall cost of the portfolio it is managing. Another relates more to the number of projects and programs that are active and being managed in the organization but the majority of PMOs are budget driven and resource up to that amount.

The PMO Value Ring is a methodology and looks at the number of staff currently in the team and allows for a re-distribution of skillsets to achieve the most value for the organization based on the benefits that they are working towards.

As with all things to do with PMO, there is no one size fits all and during our pilot Wellingtone PMO Practitioner training, we also covered this topic. As more and more questions like this make their way to me, it does seem to be gaining some traction and for me it is a combination of all of the above ideas to come to the magic number of how much PMO is right for your reality.

The key to defining your PMO correctly in the first place is to find out what the perception is of the value that it will bring. Unless you know this and understand what your Customers need, your success will be slow going and potentially painful when you are asked to change direction. So always find out what you are trying to achieve and identify the skillsets needed to deliver that value. Only then can you work out the number of PMO people you are going to need.

Why does it come down to the definition of the PMO? Because there are flaws in other ways of trying to decide.

If you focus on budget or number of activities, you don’t have enough data to get past the logical ‘fair split’. If you take this approach, how do you know that you are using your people’s skills and development opportunities to deliver change? How do you know that the workload is truly balanced (10 small projects is very different to 10 complex ones after all) across the strategic objectives of the organization? And when do you know that people are ready for the next step in their career?

 The right people in the right role should be less about availability to manage complexity and more about the core skills, interest and opportunity to develop PMO through your competence frameworks. Unfortunately, though most don’t have the luxury of resourcing their team based on people’s career paths; instead most have to bring people in to deliver value quickly.

Instead, defining your PMO brings another layer of data that can help you to understand how much PMO is right for your organization. As well as knowing what the PMO is there to achieve, you also know what your service catalogue looks like. And THAT gives you the ability to truly understand the skills (and how much of them) you are going to need – not just for now but for the future.

If your PMO is there to deliver and report to the Sr Management team, then the skills you will need at your core revolves around project management and analysis. But if you also need to train, mentor, and develop individuals; you have to bring in a different set of skills in addition to your delivery and reporting teams. This combination provides an opportunity to bring a career path within the PMO with clear competencies, but also ensures that the right people with the right skills are in the right roles.

Tracking your service catalog can provide the basis for your PMO road-map both in terms of functions and people. All services don’t have to be ‘switched on’ from day one as long as you are able to communicate your progress transparently to your organization; giving you credibility with your Customers and helping to ensure your PMO is sustainable for the long-haul.

 

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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Emma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton

Emma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton

Contributing Author

Emma-Ruth Arnaz-Pemberton is a PMO, Project, Programme and Portfolio specialist with extensive experience in the change management industry and a particular focus on collaboration, PMO conception & strategy, method and capability development.

As the Director of Consulting Services for Wellingtone Project Management, Emma-Ruth is responsible for all services within the PPM DNA ethos; including PMO implementation, project definition, and PMO metrics, training and competency framework/

She is currently chair of the APM’s PMO SIG, an APM Accredited Trainer, and involved in various project management charitable organisations. The PMO SIG aims to provide a collaborative open forum for PMO practitioners, and anyone with an interest in the role of PMOs, to get together, share ideas, offer support and advice to the PMO community, and to create valuable practice-oriented knowledge, which helps drive the PMO profession forward.

 

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