Start From the Top: Building a Sustainable PMO

As the PMO is dogged by the challenge of remaining relevant, its ability to support successful project outcomes is incumbent upon the view from the top as a sustainable, value-led proposition.

Project Management Offices (PMOs) are facing the threat of relevance in today’s organisational project delivery, forced to prove their worth to an increasingly sceptical marketplace.

A well set-up and fit-for-purpose PMO can add significant value to an organisation, particularly those undergoing substantial change where there is need for strong governance frameworks around project prioritisation, portfolio management and quality control during project delivery.

The rapid rate of Agile adoption signals the issues that executives are facing as they are propelled into a world of trying to do more with less at a quicker rate. However, an Agile environment does not preclude the continued need for good governance during project selection and initiation.

In the current environment of rapid change, where the value proposition of a PMO is increasingly under suspicion, how can you ensure that a new PMO is created and continues to deliver on its fundamental premise of good governance?

Be clear on the value proposition

PMOs are often referred to by the acronym ‘Project Management Overhead’. For some PMOs, which haven’t been set up to enable better project outcomes, it can be true. Avoiding the unwelcome moniker will be dependent on making sure that the value proposition for the PMO is well understood and that it really does add value.

PMOs cannot be rigid and set up for the sake of themselves. They need to be flexible and work within the current construct of how projects are delivered by your organisation – especially with the increased use of Agile project delivery techniques – and add value to these approaches.

It’s important for PMOs to work with the executive and delivery teams to ensure that the PMO is seen as an enabler, not an unnecessary overhead.

Get a strong executive mandate

Getting the executive mandate to either set up a PMO or continue to fund and support the PMO is becoming increasingly difficult in a project environment that values speed to market over quality and sound governance.

If there is a challenge in PMO, it’s this: to get executive buy-in, it is important to be willing and able to not only explain the value proposition, but also the downside to the business of not having a functional PMO. At their best, a PMO will be very effective in ensuring that a number of things that are dear to the heart of all C level executives are being done well. Namely money is being spent in the right places at the right time and in the right way.

This is where the true value of a PMO will shine through. PMOs can provide the clear governance and frameworks that enable the C level suite to:

  • Be comfortable that they are spending their investment dollars in the right areas;
  • See that their investments are being clearly tracked via portfolio management; and
  • Understand that there are repeatable and fit-for-purpose methodologies and processes to deliver the project outcomes.

Without a PMO, money is often assigned to individual departments to control their own delivery slate. This lack of control of a centralised pool and prioritisation process, typically managed by a PMO, means that the executive level lacks the governance to have control over the spend and thus any future benefits.

Make it fit-for-purpose – always

When the PMO has the attention and the mandate of the executive, it’s important that – irrespective of whether it is a new or existing PMO – that it remains relevant at all times.

With the rapid pace of change in how projects are delivered, PMOs can be left behind with legacy processes and frameworks that, at best, add no value and at worst actually hinder the delivery of projects.  A PMO’s relevance depends on being able to stay at least up-to-date or even ahead, if possible, of the changing priorities and approaches to project delivery.

A PMO should never be static. It must be managed and calibrated at all times to ensure it continues to add value to the organisation. Executive sponsorship can dry up very quickly if the PMO falls behind and is seen as a relic of a bygone era. PMOs do have a place in the current delivery landscape. At their best, they provide the governance and frameworks to inform good investment decisions and delivery approaches to promote quality project outcomes.

But PMOs will continue to be under attack. If you can effectively state the case for their value proposition and continue to strive for the ear – and support of the executive, then your PMO is likely to continue to get the sponsorship it needs to stay established and, hopefully, flourish.

For more information about how to optimise your PMO within your organisation, please contact us on 02 9098 6300. We believe that quality thought leadership is worth investing in. Please share our content with your colleagues via any of the links below.

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