Tips for Making PMOs Work

When an organization sets up a project management office (PMO), what are the things that typically trip them up? And what are some best practices to help ensure success? Two consultants and an executive at a project management training firm offered these tips:

  • Make sure you have clear objectives-and collect metrics to measure those objectives and assess the PMO’s return on investment. That advice comes from John Musser, a Seattle-based advisor to Fortune 500 companies on project management and the author of Project Reference a Web site that lists scores of online resources. Among the metrics that organizations typically collect to evaluate return on investment:
  • 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. Eric Rudolf, marketing director at RMC Project Management, a training company, says the success of a PMO often depends on getting executive sponsorship. “In many cases, senior management is not properly informed of the time and resources necessary to make a PMO happen,” including the reassignment of currently active project managers, he says.Michael Vinje, a principal at Trissential, a Minneapolis-based project management consultancy, says a project management office shouldn’t be started unless its members have demonstrated the ability to run large risky projects and programs.He cautions 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, he says, to have experienced project managers doing that. “You really need the cream of the crop, the people who have done this before and have demonstrated how to apply project management best practices,” he says. PMOs, Vinje adds, need to operate at a strategic level or risk losing their effectiveness and power. “The biggest challenge, once you are in there, is to be not looked upon as an audit function or a bottleneck. If you are failing, the business executives will look at you as a librarian and a keeper of the templates.”Another trip up: 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? Write to us at [email protected]

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