The PMO - 26.05.11

The project management office. Also known as the PM0.

There are plenty of organisations, businesses and government departments, that deliver projects.

There are also plenty of organisations, businesses and government departments, that could deliver their projects much more successfully.

Oftentimes people are nominated as a project manager to deliver a project given to them by senior managers in the organisation, often these people are technically competent in the area covered by the project. They may also have good relationships with senior managers in the organisation.

What we have found however is that the organisation is not structured to deliver projects, and it does not have a project management culture. Oftentimes the person nominated as project manager has no experience or training in project management. You see this quite often when an organisation whose business is not primarily delivery of projects is given the task of delivering a project. For example, a school, where a funding has been made available to construct new classrooms or library.

A project management office, either established in the organisation, or external party contracted to provide the services of a project management office, has been found to improve the delivery of projects.

In a survey conducted by the Project Management Institute (PMI), survey respondents still reported positive benefits from the formation of a PMO. Out of 450 people surveyed, 303, or 67 percent, said their companies have a PMO. Of those with a PMO, half said the PMO has improved project success rates, while 22 percent didn’t know or don’t track that metric, and 16 percent said success rates stayed the same.

There are two basic models of PMOs: one that acts in a consulting capacity, providing project managers in business units with training, guidance and best practices; and a centralized version, with project managers on staff who are loaned out to business units to work on projects. How a PMO is organized and staffed depends on a myriad of organizational factors, including targeted goals, traditional strengths and cultural imperatives

A PMO generally will become the source for guidance, documentation, and metrics related to the practices involved in managing and implementing projects within the organization.

The project coach model: This model assumes a willingness to share some project management practices across business functions and uses the project office to coordinate the communication. Best practices are documented and shared and project performance is monitored actively. The PMO in this model is a permanent structure with staff and has some supervisory responsibility for all projects.

PMOs function in the following areas.

Project support: Provide project management guidance to project managers in business units.

Project management process/methodology: Develop and implement a consistent and standardized process.

Training: Conduct training programs or collect requirements for an outside company.

Internal consulting and mentoring: Advise employees about best practices.

Project management software tools: Select and maintain project management tools for use by employees.

Portfolio management: Establish a staff of program managers who can manage multiple projects that are related, and allocate resources accordingly.

What about virtual project management offices?

Virtual project management offices offer project management guidelines via the internet.

What do you need to start a virtual PMO

The virtual PMO starts with :
1. A Project Management methodology, which the organisation is happy will mesh with their organisational culture

2. A Project Management Office, which contains the following:
• Guiding standards
• Methodologies (workflows, best practices, understandings)
• Process designs (functions, processes and procedures)

Benefits of a PMO for the organisation

Portfolio, Program and Project alignment
• Clear alignment of all project initiatives to business benefits
• Management processes for effectively identifying, assessing, selecting, and managing programs
• A ‘centralized’ view (a single view of activity, resource allocation, etc.) of all projects across all programs
• Operational visibility which makes it easier for management to see how resources are being deployed and utilized
• Pre-selecting which programs to target so the portfolio best matches the enterprise-resource-mix for maximum on-going yield to the business

Staff development

  • A project is an excellent tool for developing leadership skills in an organisations people
  • Project management methodologies are able to be applied across any organisations usual work practices, and incorporated to produce benefits. People involved in projects take these skills back to the “business as usual”, work environment

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