Advantages of a Project Management Office (PMO)
In the midst of the current worldwide economic chaos, there is a growing awareness of how dependent most businesses are on their information systems. Public and private industry has undergone radical changes, often in the form of reorganizations and layoffs. Vital information maintained in corporate systems may be at risk as the people who knew how to support and access systems leave the workplace. Building organizations with a standards based approach to IT preserves investments and puts remediated projects on a solid footing.
Too often, immature organizations have taken a “search for the silver bullet” approach, imagining there is a killer application or single technique or method to quickly solve all current problems. This is rarely, if ever, successful.
Consulting firms enter such engagements with mixed feelings. In such cases, it’s important to remember that this is no time to make it up as you go, but a perfect opportunity to introduce the use of standards and guidelines, as well as the concept of centralized and professional management.
One of the “buzzwords” used to express a general need is the “Project Management Office” or “PMO.” In many cases, a PMO initiative is simply a thinly disguised short-term fix intended to counter complaints of leadership or management problems, without actually focusing on the root cause of the problems. Unfortunately, because of this short-sighted approach, these key positions are often staffed with the very people who caused the problems in the first place. In this scenario, IT workers trudge from one failure to the next, within their own enterprise.
For a PMO to be successful, it must be supported by executive management who will engage in creating an environment that supports successful projects. Mature organizations approach the PMO implementation as an opportunity to centralize management controls, coordination and support for the entire corporate portfolio of programs and projects, and to better align all project activities with corporate strategic goals. Many times, the “PMO” is shorthand for all the understaffed or missing management skills for a large program or portfolio. In either case, using accepted industry standards and best practices as a basis for delivering goods and services provides the means to support sustainable processes. A well-executed PMO may also provide a valuable incubator for developing project management capacity through mentoring assignments. Implementing a quality management system (QMS) in support of the PMO’s activities increases its value tremendously, and further provides assurance of successful projects and their deliverables.
Many companies just don’t have the internal expertise or training to set up a PMO. In this case, outside assistance can provide the services to help protect a corporate investment. A consultant can provide leadership and mentoring that will help the client institutionalize the elements needed for a successful ongoing PMO. For the value of lessons learned on a program or project to be sustained in an organization, senior management must be committed to the bigger goal of institutional change. In the worst case, you will have an improved program or project, which is n. ot a bad outcome in a time when ARRA reporting goals will soon challenge the uninitiated.