How To Make a PMO Work for You
Midmarket CIOs share tips for setting up an effective PMO
Thu, July 10, 2008
CIO — With countless projects always under way, CIOs need to feel confident that their teams have things under control in terms of project scope, budget, prioritization and time line. Few would argue that a project management office (PMO), well-planned and implemented, won't go a long way toward governing projects to more satisfactory conclusions. For many CIOs, it's a requirement.
"My philosophy is that there are three legs of the stool that are required in any successful IT department: a PMO, portfolio management and IT governance," says Eric Hungate, CIO of the Texas Association of School Boards, a nonprofit educational association.
In smaller, more nimble organizations, CIOs can try unique models for project management and governance. In Hennepin County, Minn., PMO Director Pan Hall hired Karen Piet to work with a select group on a biweekly basis to set up an initial project management methodology. The 12-person team is open to anyone in IT and to select business partners.
"We call it the 'best practice' model. It's a grassroots effort that provides structure for different phases of project methodology, template advice and other aspects of PMO oversight," says Hall.
This collaborative effort is very different from buying a set methodology or adopting a well-known practice. Instead, Piet asks the team about the best documentation for a particular phase of a given project, and what the deliverables should be. Responses are compiled and discussed, and form the basis of the methodology. "Adoption of the PMO has been much smoother with this team-based effort, rather than going out and telling people that we have made the decision, and this is how it is going to be done," says CIO Toni Jelinek.
When it comes to setting up a PMO, all CIOs struggle with securing buy-in, demonstrating value and choosing the right project methodology for the corporate culture. More than their larger-company peers, though, mid-market CIOs (those whose companies report less than $2 billion in annual revenue) must grapple with finding staff and funding resources to develop an effective PMO. But a mid-market company's size and agility also allow its CIO to try out different processes that a larger company might not risk. Below, four Council members share tactics to make their mid-market status an advantage when forming a PMO. Advocate from the start. Mid-market CIOs have many priorities pulling them in different directions. That's why new CIOs should seize the opportunity to jump-start a PMO. "I used my honeymoon as the first CIO to advocate for a PMO, and then started to get the basics established," recalls Hungate. "My first step was to hire a PMO director."