by Lorraine Cosgrove Ware

A Breakdown of the Modern Project Management Office

Jul 01, 20032 mins
Project Management Tools

When It Comes to PMOs, Clout Matters

Senior-level sponsorship and visibility are keys to a successful project management office. A recent study of 303 organizations, conducted by CIO and the Project Management Institute, found that 67 percent of companies today have project management offices, or PMOs. Those companies that have a senior-level executive who oversees the PMO reported greater project success rates (projects completed on time, on budget and with all the original specifications) than those without a PMO czar. PMOs that were formed at a corporate level?establishing processes for the entire company?were also taking on a greater number of the company’s projects, and the projects managed were larger in terms of dollars invested. (For more on PMOs, see “Office Discipline: Why You Need a Project Management Office,” Page 82.)

PMOs Should Aim High

The higher the PMO resides in the organization, the fewer the problems reported. Survey respondents identified the PMO’s level within their companies and then cited the problems that exist there.

Problem: Project not supported by senior executives

Problem: Lack of authority

Problem: Conflict over project ownership

Best Practices

To position your PMO at the highest level, you must sell it to the board. Here are your arguments:

PMO as communication tool. Senior managers usually hear about projects that go wrong. The Project Management Institute’s Lew Gedansky suggests that PMO heads maintain a consistent flow of communication to senior executives and report both successes and problem areas.

The PMO will keep projects on time and on budget. Some of the survey respondents reported resistance to attempts to implement any serious, rigorous project management discipline (like standard project tracking, reporting and post-completion audits from employees in the various business units). “People resist project management practices because they don’t see the value at first or they think they’re giving up control or freedom of a project,” said Gedansky. Make sure your PMO communicates that it is providing the framework and methodology for project management, which allows the end user to focus on the project itself. “Project management skills also make the employee more valuable to the company,” Gedansky adds.

Come to the table with reinforcements. Gedansky suggests that PMO heads create committees that include senior managers who are affected by the particular project. These groups can reduce barriers to the PMO effectiveness and make decisions about resources and funding for their projects.