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4 steps to PMO viability

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4 steps to PMO viability

Behind every good project manager is a strong project management office (PMO), right? Well, not exactly. In a perfect world, yes. But many organizations are still winging it without a viable project management office or solid PM infrastructure in place to support their projects, their project managers and the career growth of those PMs.

Why is this happening? My assumptions are lack of support and / or interest from above. Lack of funding. Lack of real PM need. I personally believe the others, but would have a real hard time convincing myself of that last one. These four concepts can help ensure the viability of your project management office.

1. Executive management support.


I’ve seen project management offices start up, fail, start up again and fail again. And the underlying problem in more than one organization was the lack of executive management support. Projects are everywhere. The CEO comes up with them. Outside clients come to us with a need for projects. Internal business units need apps developed, websites designed, etc.

Projects are everywhere in the typical organization. When you have executives who don’t support the project management office, where do their projects go? Not through the PMO director or standard process to the PM infrastructure that is setup in the company. No, they go to some pet project leader and special team to execute. Eventually the PMO becomes second rate or obsolete in some of those organizations. At best they become a unit competing with other units for the good project resources. That can’t happen. Senior management must buy-in to the PMO concept or scrap it.

2. Hiring of good, experienced project managers.


The PMO must focus on hiring good, experienced project managers. Too many times they phone it in and ask HR to find some PMs with 5 years experience. That’s the lazy route and there is no way that organization will find long-term success. Find experienced PMs with good successes and a few failures under their belt and the rest will take care of itself.

3. A PMO director who directs PMs and doesn’t manage projects.


There may be lots who feel differently about this than I do, but I feel strongly that a PMO director should only direct and a project manager should manage projects. I’ve seen too many PMOs led by directors who were also leading projects. Every single one I witnessed that in has failed. I realize that smaller organizations may not be able to financially support a full-fledged PMO that has a dedicated director. That’s understandable and their model will likely need to be different. But when possible, the director needs to be a dedicated leader of the PMO who:

Guides the career development of the PMs
Hires good, really experienced PMs for the PMO
Knocks down roadblocks on projects for the PMs
Gets involved in specific projects when issues arise
Acts as a liaison to senior management (really, a buffer, but liaison sounds more positive)

4. Templates and processes in place.


A productive PMO should - must? - have proven, reusable tried and true templates and processes in place to help PMs realize repeatable success from project to project. This common thread allows them to share knowledge and experiences and benefit from each other as they work collectively to even improve those templates and processes as the PMO matures.

Summary


You can hire the best PMs, plan your project management office for months, hire a great PMO leader and still have it fail. But if you have executive backing - which also means good funding, experienced project managers, a dedicated PMO director and not a PM leading the PMO, and processes in place to help the PMO get off on the right foot, then success for the PMO is much more likely. And, as it should follow, success for those project managers and projects will be much more likely as well.