Why PMO when you’ve already got project managers?


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Increasingly PMOs (Project / Programme / Portfolio Offices) have become the way to “do projects” in organisations.

If they are the answer, why do 50% fail in the first 3 years?

Probably the greatest contributor is they do not make clear “What is the purpose of the PMO?”

To many they are the way to standardise the tactical management of reporting, controlling governance and providing skills development for project teams. This misses the true potential of this evolving business function.

In defining the PMO purpose, linked to strategic business goals, you start to enable its performance measurement and hence its value to the business. If it is just the tactical management of projects, it is inherently just an overhead cost and therefore likely to fail, as it becomes increasingly more difficult to justify.

The Purpose of a PMO is:

To improve the ability of the business to achieve its goals and objectives through projects. 

(Andy Jordan – Delivering Results with a Business Focused PMO, LinkedIn Learning)

This is a strategic role involving collaboration across the business, to support change, to achieve business goals. In today’s business environment change is increasingly rapid. Technology is disrupting markets. Businesses need to adapt quickly to take advantage of the opportunities.

Take for instance a project to develop a new product. Tactical project management evaluates the tasks to create and deliver the new product, assesses the risks, and develops a plan. The team will be measured on meeting the plan milestones and completing the project. This does not contribute to the business goals. The product is there to generate revenues, so merely developing it is neither a measure of success nor strategic. It is a tactical move to have more products.

The PMOs role is strategic and should be involved early in the planning, reviewing, and prioritising of projects. It can support the business in achieving its goals and should be independent, thereby able to support across the organisation. The PMO has 3 – 5 clear strategic priorities with which it can write a business plan, and be measured against the contribution to meeting business goals. It must be accountable for its contribution to success.

So, in short, the PMO is not tactical, it is strategic. It has a clear scope, clear priorities and can be measured against the business goals. It is a business function that must justify its existence.

Each PMO is unique to its organisation. It can still provide standardisation but the real benefit is in its strategic involvement to help the whole business meet is stated goals and objectives.

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