I’ve created, helped create and managed projects in probably more than a dozen project management offices (PMOs). I can’t say I’m an expert really on project management offices, but I’ve seen enough stalled and failed PMOs to know many things about what doesn’t work. That in turns helps me figure out what probably works better – and often it’s doing the exact opposite of what I witnessed in some of these failed PMOs. For me, it comes down to these four concepts or ingredients that are key to helping ensure that your project management office survives past the first year and beyond…
Executive support and buy-in. The project management office that does not have the support and buy-in of the executive leadership for the company is often not going to last very long. Why? Because the most important projects – the ones that this leadership cares the most about – will go to some “favorite” somewhere else and not to the PMO. When your leadership doesn’t trust the PMO’s ability to deliver on the important projects, the rest of the company will eventually follow suit – at least to a degree that will spell doom for the PMO. Trust me, I’ve witnessed it first hand. The senior leadership must buy-in…that is critical for funding, staffing and for ongoing visibility and company-wide usage of the project management office.
Strong PMO leadership. The PMO needs a dedicated leader at the helm, not an experienced project manager who leads projects and also manages the PMO. There isn’t enough of this person to do both jobs well, so why try? I have long-held that the PMO Director needs to be a leader and resource manager, and not just a PMO Director who spends most of his time leading projects, too. It is certainly understandable if this individual needs to assist on some projects at times – especially when implementation or performance issues come to light or some customer interfacing and goodwill needs to happen on a troubled project. But this needs to be an extreme, not the norm. The PMO Director’s role should be to encourage, direct, train, and report PMO status…but overall be guiding the careers of the PMs reporting to him. He should not be focused on leading projects on a daily basis.
Experienced staff project management staff. Project management certification is good and can certainly show a manager or organization or prospective employer that you are dedicated to the profession. But it doesn’t guarantee success. Experience and a past history of proven success is the best indicator of future project success. When staffing the PMO, look first for experience and then if you decide that some certification is nice or your industry niche and customer base requires it, then go for some certified project managers. But use experience as the main building block for success and use those experienced PMs to help train and mentor the new and junior PMs that you will eventually hire in the PMO.
Repeatable templates and solid methodology that makes sense for the organization and industry. Don’t make project success come from luck. Collaborate, share knowledge and information, and most of all…use templates, processes and a methodology that everyone can share and understand and that help rather than hinder a project manager in doing their job. Don’t force PMs to use difficult tools with big learning curves – their jobs are hard enough as it is. Use what works and keep using it. And tweak what doesn’t. The use and reuse of templates and tools that worked in the past are the best way to kickoff the next successful project.
Summary / Call for Input
Most of these things are logical…yet I see project management offices fail all the time. Unfortunately, I’ve lived through many of them. But learning is good, too. What on this list do you agree with? What failures have you seen in PMOs that you can share and what successful tips can you share to help others here build successful PMOs tomorrow and beyond?
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About Brad Egeland
Brad Egeland is 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, Creative Design, 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 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at https://www.bradegeland.com/.