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Are you a strong enough project manager to join the PMO?

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Three things every successful project management office (PMO) manager should know: 1.You will require the patience of a saint 2. You will say the same things again and again 3. You will need to cajole, herd and manage project managers to do things in the right way. 

Working in the PMO is not likely to gain you much in the popularity stakes – but it is an essential function within any organisation.

The PMO is responsible for the governance of each and every project within the company.  All the aspects of a project – policies, regulations, functions, processes, procedures, etc – come under their area of responsibility.

On joining the organisation, managers will need to be trained to ensure that they are cognisant of all the requirements that have to be met in their position of responsibility, creating mechanisms for them to apply all the ‘rules’ to their projects with ease. 

It is down to the PMO to monitor that projects are run and completed within this framework; that all the project phases from initiation to development through to operation are planned and have the necessary quality checks; that deliverables are clearly defined and managed; that risks and issues are managed and reported; that the client is suitably informed of progress; that costs are maintained; the list goes on.

In an ever changing world, the PMO must be aware of project impacting trends/changes; ensure ongoing alignment with our international parent company.  As an extension of that, they must manage the introduction of new requirements and ensure a suitable mechanism and pragmatic approach. The PMO provides the consultancy and SME support for the project community as well as managing its own stakeholders in the provision of accurate management information.

Throughout the life cycle of a project the required approval and directives have to be obtained when appropriate, with all the necessary checks and balances.  This will all need to be stored in a central repository where approved persons can check the current status and that all the necessary bells and whistles are in place, thus enabling the projects to pass the internal and external audits as they arise as just one example of the wider area of engagement.
The function is often seen as having a purely administrational role, sub-ordinate to that of the project managers, but the brief encompasses far more!  It holds the pieces together, making sure that nothing falls through the cracks; that the project is timely, fit for purpose, in line with management thinking and trends as well as within budget and quality.  A necessary and sometimes arduous task – but someone’s got to do it!

This is a Project Excellence blog written by T-Systems, headline sponsor at the 2014 APM Project Management Awards.


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  1. Dan Strayer
    Dan Strayer 03 November 2014, 01:21 PM

    The patience element at the beginning of this article is quite apt, especially in the following sense. As we've reported on our website, 37% of those who have had a PMO for less than one year reported increased success rates. Not bad, but seemingly not a quick fix for corner cutters out there. But if you are willing to stay with it and enable it to help project management improve, the returns can be dynamite: those with a PMO operating for more than four years reported a 65% increase in success rates. You need to determine if you're in it for the long haul to properly determine if PMO design & deployment or external managed PMO is a worthwhile investment.

  2. Sonal Shah
    Sonal Shah 16 September 2014, 08:58 AM

    Hi SerenaI totally agree and often write and mention about the value of a PMO and people's understanding as often it is overlooked as admin support.  The value we bring as PMO is often overlooked or not understood because of the varying types of PMO in operation from organisation to organisation.It is up to us as PMO professionals to encourage people to appreciate more and understand the value a PMO can bring to large programmes and projects so thank you for posting an interesting blog!Sonal ShahPMO Lead

  3. Sereina Fielder
    Sereina Fielder 15 July 2014, 03:50 PM

    Dear Kelly,at the risk of teaching grandma to suck eggs, I have found a good way to establish a firmer PMO footing, is by putting in place a Service Catalogue that outlines what the PMO will/can provide, this can include KPI's and measures of success. It provides not only a good review mechanism within the PMO and your team, but also a starting point for discussion when you receive "admin" requests. The PMO does have to take a firm stand again and again to ensure that you achieve the alignment within the company you are looking for! Good luck with the presentation.

  4. Kelly Letts
    Kelly Letts 13 July 2014, 08:43 AM

    Definitley within my organisation I am seen as an administrative role by most, but this article helps with me putting together a presentation on why PMO matters and what it can do for the organisation as a whole. I know though I can personally start by having more confidence and even though the Project Managers are more senior to me I am the only one who is PRINCE2 trained!Thank you for this very justified blog