How to make a PMO work

When an organization sets up a project management office (PMO), what are the things that typically go wrong?

And what are some best practices to help ensure success?

Here are my views and tips based on my experiences and general research on the topic :


1. Have Clear Objectives & Collect Metrics

Make sure you have clear objectives-and collect metrics to measure those objectives and assess the PMO’s return on investment (ROI). Some metrics that organisations typically collect to evaluate ROI include:

  • Money saved from eliminating the development of duplicate or overlapping applications. This comes when an organization examines its entire portfolio, and identifies and gets rid of redundant projects.
  • Time saved on completing projects due to improved oversight and coordination of initiatives.
  • Money saved by more efficient allocation of resources.


2. Get Executive Sponsorship

The success of a PMO often depends on getting executive sponsorship. In many cases, senior management are not properly informed of the time and resources necessary to make a PMO happen, including the reassignment of currently active project managers.


3. PMOs should be Run by Experienced Managers

A PMO shouldn’t be started unless its members have demonstrated the ability to run large risky projects and programmes. Experience counts and I would express caution against having “book smart” project management professionals setting up an office, defining a methodology, selecting software tools and then training project managers. It’s much better to have experienced project managers doing that as they have already done this before and have demonstrated how to apply project management best practices.


4. PMOs should Operate at a Strategic Level

PMOs need to operate at a strategic level or risk losing their effectiveness and power. They should not looked upon as an audit function or a bottleneck because if you are failing, the business executives will look at you as a librarian and a keeper of the templates (‘paper pusher’), as opposed to a function that provides ROI.


5. Use Project Management Tools Effectively

Some companies are using enterprise project management software to only track time, instead of taking advantage of other features such as managing multiple projects simultaneously.


Question: What makes a project management office work? What could doom it to failure? Let me know your thoughts.


Author: Mawdud Choudhury, Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Universal System Technologies (UST), Brunei Darussalam.


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