Authored by Guy Wolf, transformation executive @ guideit
So much material has already been developed and published about what a PMO is, what it can be, and how to set one up. Much of the material is banal. For those of you who are fans of Monty Python, the “How to do it” skit comes to mind. This particular post focuses on something else: a perspective on stakeholder roles and the importance of clear objectives.
Often PMOs get started for the wrong reasons, putting a solution in place before fully understanding the primary objective. Some promote focusing on achieving a level of maturity first. Others propose starting at the project level, and as you demonstrate proficiency, moving “up” to the program, then portfolio level. The problem with these approaches is that the “what” is confused for the “how.”
The best practice for an effective PMO is to develop a list of business objectives and customers that will be served with a business case that illustrates why implementing a PMO is better than the alternatives. The PMO, however one defines it, is not a project. It is a business unit. Therefore, just like Human Resources, Marketing, or Facilities, it must justify its existence by improving the lives of its customers. What that means in your situation, and how to go about it, will be different from others. Below are some perspectives by role.
Customer/CIO: Nearly all business improvement initiatives have a large component of Information Technology (IT) at their core. Frequently, IT is the single largest component, and implementation is often on the critical path to achieving the desired end state. Additionally, IT departments often suffer from a practice of project management that excludes all other departments in an enterprise. This disconnect can create a misalignment in critical path objectives. Unfortunately the CIO too often holds the bag at the end if the broader strategy and governance are not easily accessible. What the CIO needs is clear governance or a seat at the strategy table to manage a complex, inter-related portfolio of initiatives that will deliver success to the company.
CFO: CFO’s have an expectation to forecast and manage capital and operating expenses. As enterprise business-change initiatives often carry high risk, a CFO has a strong desire to assure that processes are in place to alert leadership in advance of potential variances and manage expenses to the forecasted budget, even if it was set long before the project requirements were fully known.
CEO: charged with the overall success of the organization, the CEO must manage many competing priorities among multiple departments. Managing a global perspective includes oversight of limited availability in capital investment resources spread across multiple strategic priorities. To that end, CEO’s require some method to weigh the various investment options and to select the combination that has the highest chance of achieving the overall organizational objectives.
Business Unit Leaders (Sponsors): charged with growing and improving their areas of responsibility. They have a need for a well-defined process to engage IT resources in helping them prioritize projects and source them with the right resources. Furthermore, they need visibility to relevant status reporting with opportunity to make business decisions to navigate a successful result.
Steering Committee: responsible for weighing the costs, risks and benefits of multiple project options, often without certainty of the inputs. They require a method that provides as much information as possible regarding objectives, resources, and stakeholders. For projects underway, visibility to insights through reporting enables better decision-making throughout the process.
Project Managers: need support for collecting status data enabling focus on day-day decision making and management, not task-driven administration; access to resources across multiple matrixed towers in the organization; access to key stakeholders to make decisions and allow them to keep projects on track.
Team members: require easy data collection that helps reporting status and doesn't take a lot of time to use; respect for a balance of time to support operations as well as project demands from multiple project manager stakeholders.
Choosing objectives means limiting some, and eliminating others. Prioritization isn’t easy but it’s necessary to increase the probability of extending the long-term value of your projects. There are some great templates that can be used in building and operating a PMO to improve the quality and speed with which we achieve our goals. If you would like more information, drop a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome your feedback, as we strive to do technology right, and do projects right.