Over the past several years, I have heard more and more people talking about implementing a PMO using a template or a toolkit…really? I have even seen advertising from companies selling a tool like it will help implement your PMO. Maybe it is the words that bother me personally, but I never imagine a department that is so dependent on the people, culture and environment being able to be implemented through the use of a toolkit of a template. A PMO cannot be rubberstamped since every organization’s culture and environment is different.
I would agree there are steps that any organization should look to consider, below are some of the ones that I would suggest:
Complete a maturity assessment and not just at the organizational level, but at the departmental level. From that information is where you will define what your organizational level is. Also consider what you want to include in your maturity assessments and what areas it extends to such as financial management, resource management, documentation, frameworks that will be used, time management, etc. Do not go into it blindly, as your maturity assessment should address the areas that your organization is currently functioning in, but also the areas that they want to move into in the future. These maturity assessments are also not a one and done deal but should be completed at least on a yearly basis to ensure growth is occurring, and potentially identifying new or priority changes in growth expectations.
Purpose and Expectations of a PMO
Identify the why behind a PMO, and the purpose that the organization is looking to achieve with a PMO. Be able to articulate it. The why might be to get consistent processes in place, and the purpose to achieve greater delivery times and financial savings. These should be treated as two separate items, or else you might find conflict or be asking yourself what benefit the PMO is bringing to the organization. Some organizations actually compile a Charter that outlines the responsibilities of the PMO, the expectations, and even the role that the PMO plays from a training perspective. I see this as a good thing, so it is clear; however also note that this should be a living document and not just a one and done.
Is it an Enterprise PMO or Divisional?
Do not forget to consider whether the PMO is going to start out as an enterprise PMO supporting all divisions, or if it is just a PMO that serves information technology needs. This is often a check point that many organizations fail to consider. There are many different ways to think about it. If you start out as an enterprise PMO there will be more upfront collaboration that needs to happen, as well as some more time spent on implementation. However, then everyone is already starting out on the same page. If you start up divisionally, then you need to be sure you have a plan on how to bring other areas in, and the ramp up will take more time.
Which One Rules…the PMO or the Culture and Environment?
Do not build your PMO around a tool or PPM application, but around the organization’s culture and environment. With this, identify the cultural and environmental aspects that will influence the PMO. Many times, I see tools representing that with their tool you can implement a PMO. This however goes back to the first two steps: until you can identify your maturity, and the purpose and expectation of a PMO, the tool is meaningless. Each tool available brings with it different strengths and weaknesses. I have spent time every year doing analyses across tools, and this is something that should be done after you identify who and what your PMP is being implemented for. Otherwise, you could end up with a tool that doesn’t match your needs.
What Resources Should Be in the PMO
In the end, what is important to remember is the PMO can serve a lot of different functions and will go through growth as well. There have been many times I have seen organizations just move a person that has project management experience into the role of a PMO resource and I will give you some warnings on this. Although a Project Manager has experience in managing projects, they may only have familiarity with one way and this can silo the PMO. What you should be looking for is someone who has experience in multiple frameworks, operates at a high level of risk management and resource management, has an understanding of all types of documentation, understands all the aspects of time management, exhibits excellent communication and leadership skills, functions as a mentor and guide not a governor, has worked with all levels of leadership, understands the importance behind training and is able to conduct training of resources on all aspects of project management, and the list goes on. I say this to simply say the project manager path and a PMO path often have different demands for levels of skills, and you need to keep this in mind.
What Does All This Mean?
There are a lot of things that need to be considered when implementing or growing your PMO. These are not things that can be purchased in a tool but need to have thought and interaction behind them. It is important to remember that even a PMO must continue to adjust and make the transition as necessary to stay in front of the needs of the organization. If the PMO is acting in a reactive mode then it is time to make a change. Be careful of the resources you staff the PMO with as they can drive people away from the PMO which will only aid in the downfall of the PMO. An example of this is when I left the organization at one time, one of the resources they put into the PMO was a project manager with no PMO background. This person quickly became a dictator to others and to this day after being gone from the organization for some time I continue to hear from resources complaining about this resource. The words tyrant and dictator have been used to describe this person, and people and departments do everything they can to avoid this person.
The best advice that I can give you is do not count on the tool to implement or create your PMO. The tool comes after you decide the role that the PMO will play within your organization, and from the maturity assessment perspective the needs that you have. You would not implement a premier tool that does fall project management tracking such as financial and investment management, resource management, time management, risk and issue management, change request management, and all other aspects for an organization that is very immature in their understanding and processes as this can intimidate and drive them away. You need to be sure to match the tools that you use to the maturity and the needs of the organization; not the other way around. There are a lot of other things that need to happen and should be considered but this would be a good start.
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Author, Speaker, Project / Program / PMO Thought Leader
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.