Though most organizations now have some form of formal project management office (PMO), there is still no guarantee of project success or even PMO success. Indeed, a 2012 report from PM Solutions indicated that 87% of surveyed organizations have a project management office in place compared to only 47% in a similar study performed in 2000. Yet PMI reported in a study that as many as 68% of all projects fail to some degree. And as for PMOs, I have personally worked in or lead PMOs for four different organizations. One company experienced utter PMO failure…twice…another kept turning over their PMO directors in a never-ending quest for some project management ‘better’ practices, and a third floundered miserably. The only one that didn’t fail was the one I was leading, though unfortunately it was short-lived as the organization itself closed up shop.
Through all of this chaos and turnover and failure I’ve learned a few things about what not to do and what should be done in order to create a successful PMO. Here are my top 3 items – I’ll call them ingredients – for a successful project management office:
Buy-in from the top
Nothing says you’re in it for the long haul like being the baby of someone high up. Of course you need to perform as well. But if your PMO has the buy-in from the leaders at the top of your organization, then the likelihood that it will be well funded and well stocked with competent, seasoned project managers is much higher. You need for important projects to be thrown to the PMO right from inception and that will only happen if you have buy-in for the PMO infrastructure from the leaders of the company.
A good PMO director
A PMO that is headed in the right direction has an experienced leader at the helm. This person should have both a project management and resource management background, but this person should only be directing going forward. It is not wise to put a director in charge who will also be leading projects. This stretches that individual too thin – they will find that they are not available for PMO issues at key times and staff development and engagement will suffer in the long run. Indeed, the PMO will suffer greatly and it will likely be doomed to fail.
A good methodology
The PMO will grow stronger with even better processes created and followed as it becomes more mature. But it has to start with something – and that needs to be some proven, repeatable processes, some useable and easily adaptable templates, a PM scheduling tool that everyone is using in the PMO, and some policies in place that everyone is following. You need experienced PMs with their own opinions and ways of handling projects, but you also need to build consistency in how projects are delivered. Create good processes (or steal them from another organization with a good PMO), and mold them along the way. But start with something good and have everyone use it from Day One.
These are my top three. I have more, but most vary depending on the size of the organization and the complexity of the projects that are being managed. Start with these three and your project management office will definitely be headed in the right direction.
In addition to the ingredients for successful PMO, you have to make sure you have introduced the right project management tool for your needs. Still searching for the one? You should definitely try Telerik TeamPulse - all-in-one project management software inspired by Agile best practices.
A Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 9, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV.
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