Keys to a Successful PMO (Project Management Office)

Project management office The PMO can be understood as the organizational entity, staffed with skilled professional personnel, that provides services in core and supporting areas during the planning and execution of a project. Cross-functional project teams provide services that not only entail performing traditional work towards project completion (i.e. project management, business planning and forecasting, accounting, engineering, IT, clerical and secretarial, etc.), but also training, consulting, mentoring the project personnel, and serving as a clearinghouse for best practices. The project goals, milestones, team member roles, and other project specifics are usually presented and discussed in a ‘kick-off’ meeting (link to kick off meeting article).

The typical PMO process comprises four distinct phases, each involving a particular set of tasks:

1. Project Planning The estimation of the size of the project and the time and resources it will demand.
2. Project Scheduling The decomposition of the project into fine-grained details with the purpose of setting milestones and key performance indicators.
3. Risk Analysis The preparation for potential problems, weighing their probabilities, impact and counter-measures.
4. Project Tracking The monitoring of project execution against the defined plan and schedule.

During the term of a project, the project manager’s major challenge is to ensure that project team members are focused on the target and are all on the same page. This means that team building should be worked on in parallel with project planning activities. Throughout all four phases, project management software and planning tools help the manager organize and track project completion.

Despite projects vary widely depending on their goals, scope and complexity, all successful PMOs feature three basic components: 1) the right processes; 2) the right tools; and 3) the right people. These components should be carefully aligned for they affect the project’s overall performance. Just like in any systemic context, a problem in one of them usually carries repercussions on the others. Whereas the right processes usually involve identifying those technical processes that best fit the project’s particular needs in terms of time and efficiency, the tools are right when they effectively support the right processes. Regarding the right people, we must say that they not only should possess the required expertise and experience, but also they should clearly understand their roles and responsibilities and must be 100 % committed to fulfilling them.

Some Final Thoughts

By now it should be quite evident that a PMO is much more than the project staff that provides support for project activities such as scheduling and monitoring tasks, or using project management software (link to PM software article) to do project planning, financial forecasting or tracking work progress. As an essential component for future organizational success, it requires the alignment of the right processes, with the right tools and the right people.
Successful PMOs make a strategic impact on organizations by performing the following tasks:
1) linking all projects to strategic and operational business plans;
2) making sure that every project supports the right business goals;
3) requiring that every project have an effective manager or leader in charge;
4) implementing and maintaining an appropriate methodology;
5) grouping similar projects and managing them in a similar manner; and
6) implementing, leading and coordinating project portfolio management.

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