In October 2017, cio.com published a great article describing what a Project Management Office (PMO) should do, what types should be considered and who really needs one. 
Their article opened with the claim that “Companies seeking more efficiency and tighter monitoring of IT projects are opening project management offices (PMO) in greater numbers” and while this may be true, especially in larger organisations, implementing an in-house PMO doesn’t suit every sized business.
I have been delivering IT projects for over 20 years for organisations that have differing levels of project maturity, some with a PMO and some without. In my experience, a PMO can add immeasurable value to the successful delivery of most IT projects however there needs to be balance between a “controlling” and a “guiding” PMO. What I term a guiding PMO is one that provides the tools, templates and processes that will assist all Project Managers in providing consistent stakeholder reporting, funding and resource requests, but at the same time won’t limit their ability to add their own individual flair to managing their project.
Here are my top 5 reasons why I believe every business should use a PMO:
1. Lack of a consistent project delivery methodology
Inconsistencies in the way projects are managed make it extremely difficult to report on status and progress. A PMO can establish not only a standard project methodology, but also a standard tool-set to manage projects, programmes and portfolios. A PMO will allow you to standardise the way your project managers plan projects, request resources and funding, and report on the status and progress of projects.
2. Limited visibility into project performance
One of the leading causes of project failure is when management have only limited visibility into projects and resources and cannot easily address questions such as:
- What work is being performed by who, and when?
- How are specific projects aligned with business priorities and goals?
- How has the Return on Investment for a specific project been calculated?
- Will this project continue to deliver the proposed benefits?
3. Limited project resources are available to deliver
A PMO can help most organisations significantly reduce the issues they face resourcing projects and planning their future project resource needs. Instead of managing each individual project in isolation, a PMO can centralise the selection and prioritisation of project and project resources. This allows the organisation to choose which projects they can start and when, all based on better understanding of resource and financial constraints.
4. Lack of ownership and/or accountability
Having clear ownership and accountability are key to project success, and this is something that your PMO should ensure exists for each project you undertake. Your PMO should provide a framework that ensures all projects have clear ownership and there is accountability to the business in a clear and consistent manner. A good PMO can help you build a business case for each project that can then be used to assist in selection and prioritisation of your projects.
5. Projects often run late, run over budget or fail to meet the objectives
Having a PMO in place will not mean you never have late or over budget projects, but a PMO that has the right processes and tools will enable your business to better plan, better select and better deliver your IT projects and will provide a clearer, more accurate and more consistent snapshot of how each project is progressing. This greater visibility will enable you to react faster to issues as they happen and make more informed decisions on the necessary corrective actions.
As I mentioned earlier, building an in-house Project Management Office is not the right solution for every business and if your business is one that doesn’t need a permanent PMO, you should consider using an external PMO. When making this decision, you should look for an organisation that can provide:
- Knowledge and expertise, ideally with experience in your area of business
- An overall cost/value proposition
- Transparent and proactive assessment of the risks and challenges of a complex IT implementation
- An understanding and explanation of any strategic trade-offs that may be required during the course of a project
- Expertise to assess the viability of the schedule and offer credible alternatives in those areas where the business may determine the risks are too great
- The ability to help your business balance the various stakeholders in order to achieve the best possible outcome
- A commitment to the long-term success of each initiative and the ability to understand individual projects within a larger business context