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#PMChat: Divorcing the PMO

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The changing world of the project management industry has seen a split in a number of different areas; seen plainly by the growing number of Association for Project Management Specific Interest Groups. At PMO SIG we believe it is important to explore this brave new world and have been investigating whether the divorcing of PMO and some of its key functions to develop new industries is diluting expertise in a world where project people do not need to be subject matter experts; or whether it is instead creating a healthy competition in the industry.

Is it good to divorce key functions of the traditional PMO role in the wider sense of the word in order to provide some key focus to those areas? Or is it causing a dilution of the role of the PMO in the future?

We can see the difference in the different groups that exist across associations. A Knowledge Management group may work to develop an industry in its own right, but sometimes there is a reluctance to acknowledge lessons learned as a legitimate part of knowledge management. So what does this mean for PMOs? Do PMOs get left with the ‘stuff’ that no one wants to deal with because it’s not big or sexy?

The fact that PMO is different in every organisation means that we cannot tie you or ourselves down to a ‘type’ of PMO, but the PMO potentially touches all of the aforementioned disciplines and more.

With that in mind, should the industry not be encouraging that specific groups work with PMO groups as standard? If not, organisations will end up with a number of teams across project controls, assurance, benefits realisation, and knowledge management? With that in mind is the PMO supposed to bring those together in their role as integrators, or do they all work in their own way?

If the latter, the PMO would surely not have any authority prescribed over these other enabling departments, so would we not just end up where we were? With organisational teams working in their silos, working alone, in their own way, creating waste, and reporting different information?

The PMO has been the catalyst for a lot of sub-disciplines. PMOs have grown now in scope and remit to include training and development in some organisations. So maybe we have reached a critical mass of greatness, and it’s time to let disciplines do their own thing. I don’t know any PMO that can afford to delegate any of the topics mentioned above – if we do, the ‘one version of the truth’ view of change in an organisation suddenly disappears because nothing is connected. We go back in time.

Wouldn’t that be a shame...

What are your thoughts on this topic?



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  1. Neil White
    Neil White 24 July 2017, 11:31 PM

    As a Benefits Manager with a specific interest in developing organisational Benefits Management Capability I would strongly advocate that organisations use a central permanent 'office' in which to base and develop its indigenous capability. Not only is this essential to ensure a consistent approach is taken across the 'in-scope' projects and programmes it provides the organisation with the facility to learn from its mistakes. Organically developed services that evolve to meet the specific needs of a an organisation are much more likely to succeed that those 'bought in' to fill a gap. In my opinion, the PMO fits the bill on many levels for benefits management and many other service orientated disciplines i.e. risk, change, requirements etc

  2. Merv Wyeth
    Merv Wyeth 25 July 2017, 10:51 PM

    Hi Emma, I agree with Neil. The PMO offers a degree of permanence in an organisation which projects and programmes, by definition, do not. When it comes to implementing and embedding a key discipline such as Benefits Management, this is best done at the portfolio-level. APM did initiate work to develop a SIG Architecture to help identify the interfaces and inter-relationships between the existing 15 SIGs! Personally, I think there are too many SIGs and the process of 'rationalisation' would help to identify and document synergies and opportunities for joint working. Meanwhile, we [Benefits Management SIG] remain committed to working with PMO SIG - incidentally I believe you are doing some great stuff. Merv

  3. Claire Summers
    Claire Summers 26 July 2017, 10:35 AM

    I also agree. I have recently become the head of a PMO function having been a senior Programme Manager for many years. There is always seen as a divide between the PM and PMO responsibilities across different organisations and industries. I see the PMO as offering the co-ordination and control to the core functions within Project Management as well as driving continuous improvement in processes. PMO shouldn't just be a scheduling and risk function anymore. It should definitely not been seen as the admin area for projects either with tasks that PMs can't get to falling to the PMO teams.

  4. Richard Renshaw
    Richard Renshaw 28 July 2017, 08:14 AM

    Within Saudi Arabia where I live and work the PMO is seen to provide value. "The Saudi King has carried out an assessment of critical success factors and determined that PMO’s at all levels of the government and industry are key to success for these projects. The concept of PMOs have been established at the Kingdom level reporting to highest authority. " Source As a suggestion to reflect BREXIT as an opportunity could you consider to explore possibilities of "twinning" the APM PMO SIG with other international project management enterprises whom promote good PMO practice as a synergistic 1 + 1 = 3 exchange for the short term and creation of an ISO PMO Technical Report for the medium term if you see merit. For the long term consider to campaign for an ISO PMO Informative Standard. It's just an idea, hope it appeals.

  5. Mike Belch
    Mike Belch 28 July 2017, 02:59 PM

    The problem as I see it is simple - we call it a PMO. There are a myriad of different types of structures with differing names that facilitate through provision support, governance, assurance, and definition of standards / best practice to the successful delivery of projects and programmes within an organisation's portfolio(s). To call any or all of these a PMO is to invite confusion as to what its function might be. What you call a PMO might be different. In one organisation it might just be a Project Support Office; in another it may be a full blown soup-to-nuts structure touching every aspect of portfolio, programme and project; or the organisation might have a number of different structures. I think that PMO to most people means Project Management Office, and that is just one small part of what is done under the umbrella that we at the APM call "PMO". So the solution is as simple as the problem - we need is a new umbrella name that won't cause confusion. Then we can get on with the business of designing (and naming) organisations that facilitate successful portfolio/programme/project outcomes. Answers on a postcard...

  6. Keith Major
    Keith Major 14 February 2018, 03:51 PM

    Some time since comments received on this topic but looking at the value of comparing a PMO office with all Projects/Programs/Managers reporting into a PMO Office within a group or alternatively a PMO officer responsible for Compliance/Assurance/Strategy of Projects running across companies within the group and PM's reporting through hierarchy structure within individual companies. Comments?

  7. Fungai Katsande
    Fungai Katsande 06 August 2019, 04:26 PM

    I am looking for some literature on " What makes a success PMO?" Anyone is greatly appreciated. Thank you