Are You Ready for a Project Management Office? Part 2 – Players and Pitfalls

By Nancy Mather, Director of Professional Services Operations, PMP

This is the second part of a series. Catch up with part 1 here.

Once you’ve made the decision you’re ready for a Project Management Office (PMO), it’s time to think about who you need for players. If you’re on the fence about a hire due to uncertainty of sustained business needs to support the hire, or due to the fact that you have found someone that might not have the exact experience you are looking for but you believe is the kind of person you want on your team, consider a contract position instead of a permanent hire. More than half of all PMO’s use contracts resources to manage projects.

Consider the reporting structure and if the PMO will manage the project managers. It’s important to try and keep PMO resources unified within the group. That doesn’t mean that there can’t still be a dotted line reporting structure to groups outside; however, try to keep the PMO together.  The team will gain great value from the consistency that comes from being part of a PMO. In addition, it will make it easier to keep processes and best practices consistent. Project Management team meetings can be a great forum for the team to share lessons learned.

Be on the lookout for functions that might take Project Managers away from their primary focus of project management. Project Managers are known to be detail-oriented and organized by nature. This can at times make them a catch all in the company for a variety of responsibilities, some of which might not need to belong with them. This could include things like:  resource scheduling, contract creation, negotiation, or other general administrative tasks.

Over the years, we have gone through my renditions of what functions our PMs hold.  Some functions we’ve moved to centralize, and others we have decentralized. Centralizing helped us increase efficiency in areas around contract writing and resource scheduling, and it decreased efficiency when it came to centralized billing. The key is to be open to change and recognize that there is not a one size fits all answer.

If project managing is not the primary role of the person that’s deemed the project manager, you could be setting yourself up to fail. We often see examples of IT professionals that wear a project management hat as needed in their organization. While some can do this effectively, others can get more hands on than needed and take on more of the leg work than needed. Just because someone is good in one role, it doesn’t mean they will automatically be a good project manager.

Executive buy-in is also a must. Without executive level support of the PMO, your PMO could be doomed to fail by not being valued or being dismissed as an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. There must be executive buy-in that believes in the fundamental value of a PMO. In order for this to happen, the PMO must be aligned with the organization’s strategy. If the PMO doesn’t understand the company’s key drivers, it won’t contribute to the value.

Continual improvement is also key.  While a PMO should use best practices for consistency, it’s important to make sure that these practices are continually being looked at for refinement and continuous improvement. The PMO must be agile in the event that the needs of the business change.

By considering these things up front, it will help ensure that you are on the right path to successfully establishing a PMO. As always, our Project Management team is available to offer you professional advice any time!