The PMO Conundrum!

Over the last few years’ organisations around the world have been investing heavily in establishing PMO to improve project delivery. However, not many PMOs have successfully deliver the benefits expected of them.

Since 2008, the correlated PMO implementation failure rate is over 50%    (Gartner Project Manager 2014)

The success of a Project management organisation depends on a number of factors like PMO Model adopted, Objectives of the PMO; culture of the organisation; project management maturity level within the organisation; and support from senior management to name a few.

In a series of articles, I’ll try to tackle these influencing factors base on my experience with a hope that these may provide some level of guidance for anyone embarking on setting up a PMO.

 PMO Model

PMOs can be categorised into three main types based on degree of control and influence (PMO Mandate) they have on projects within an organisation.

Supportive PMO; Controlling PMO; and Directive PMO

Supportive PMO

A Supportive PMO provides generic support to project managers as in when require. There is usually no define methodology or framework. The PMO staff is not dedicated to PMO activities and are pick up from within the parent organisation to perform additional activities while still reporting into their functional managers. These could be resources with basic admin skills.

PMO has limited responsibilities and their activities could include Project Status Reporting, Overall Dashboard Reporting, Financial Status Updates (Timesheet tracking, invoicing, etc.). Due to limited skills and capability an organisation may not invest in a PPM tool and most of the reporting / tracking would be done manually using spreadsheets or PowerPoint.

This type of PMO has no influence or control and is suitable for an organisation where projects are delivered successfully in a loosely controlled manner and where additional cost of setting up a dedicated PMO is deemed unnecessary.

Controlling PMO

A Controlling PMO comes with senior management mandate to provide “governance & structure” around project delivery. In fact, not only does the organisation provide support but it also mandates that support be used to ensure conformance to standard practices to achieve high ROI on organisational goals.

Organisations that use a “Controlling PMO” usually have a strong awareness of project management methodologies and benefits. Projects would usually be complex and aligned with organisational strategy.

Controlling PMO provides governance framework along with templates and structured processes. Dedicated resources with skills and experience specific to PMO activities are usually hired and collocated centrally. This contributes in fostering PMO capability and also enhances its stature as a “professional entity” within the organisation. PMO Lead may be part of senior leadership team or report directly into SLT.

Due to high control and influence; the PMO contributes to organisational objectives by implementing a common project management methodology, standardisation of tools & processes and economy of repetition through robust conformance practices.

PMO may have annual budget allocation to spend on enhancing PMO capability through automation and tools deployment.

Directive PMO

A Directive PMO is basically “Controlling PMO” but with additional responsibility of providing project management expertise and resources to manage projects.

Directive PMO is responsible for ensuring suitable resources are available at all times for project delivery. As all the project managers reports back into PMO this ensures high level of consistency of practice across all projects and programs.

PMO Lead would either be part of SLT (Senior Leadership Team) or a peer and a key stakeholder in prioritisation and selection of the projects. Directive PMO tend to become Centre of Excellence (CoE) for project management discipline.

Regardless of the model adopted the PMO must aim to provide a level of coordination and consistency that otherwise wouldn’t exist within the organisation.

The table below summarises characteristics of PMO Models.


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