10 key attributes of a world-class PMO

Many organisations, large and small, have established a PMO. But what is a PMO, and indeed what differentiates a mediocre PMO from a world-class PMO? The term PMO is used, often interchangeably, to describe and define a Project Management Office, a Programme Management Office, and a Portfolio Management Office. A PMO provides a centre of excellence that promises to deliver many things for an organisation, including an effective and consistent project management methodology and powerful insight to help with the successful delivery of projects, programmes and portfolios. The existence and maturity of these PMO’s will most certainly evolve over time and will span the entire range of business activities from short-term tactical projects to enterprise-level strategic and transformational portfolios of work.

So, what are the key attributes of a world class PMO?

01 Responsiveness

Data (both historical and forecast) is, of course, important in helping organisations to make the right decisions. However, this data must be timely and up-to-date to foster effective decision making. PMO’s should ensure that they are responsive to the organisation’s needs, and that decisions are taken based on the very latest and most relevant data.

02 Independence & complete transparency

A PMO should provide an independent source of project, programme or portfolio information and reports. There should be no hidden agendas, no politics, just reporting and predictions based on facts and intelligent forecasting.

03 A consistent, joined-up approach from top to bottom

Whether the organisation has implemented a centralised PMO or a dispersed PMO structure, there needs to be a joined-up approach from top to bottom. Consistency of data, familiarity of reporting and sharing best practice across the organisation will ensure that reviews and decisions are based on the data, rather than time wasted trying to interpret the information.

04 A view of the future

A good PMO will provide a predicted view of the future and help to drive corrective action where necessary to improve the delivery outlook and benefits realisation. Forecasting should be based on trends to predict project performance based on current performance

05 Senior stakeholder sponsorship, engagement and support

A major contributor to the success of projects, programmes and portfolios is senior stakeholder sponsorship, engagement and support, and this equally applies to PMO’s. With proper senior management involvement, a PMO can act with authority and confidence in the knowledge that they have an escalation path for resolving bottlenecks quickly, and a route to removing bureaucracy where it is inhibiting successful delivery and ultimately benefits realisation.

06 Agility not bureaucracy

PMO’s that are truly transformational will embrace agile development methodologies and other techniques that accelerate delivery and outcomes. They will find the right mix of project management approaches, making traditional techniques work well alongside accelerated approaches that allow incremental handovers to end customers.  This can increase customer confidence and involvement and bring forward benefits realisation, helping to enhance the underlying business case.

07 Promote best practice

Whether the PMO is centralised or dispersed within the organisation, an environment that promotes best practice and continuous improvement is a healthy one.  Streamlining and standardising metrics and reporting provides the organisation with an efficient basis against which they can make quick decisions.

08 Develop a project management profession & community

A great PMO provides much more than just a service, they become a trusted advisor to both the Project/Programme Managers and the senior level sponsors alike. Ultimately, a PMO is only as good as the people that make it up and the tools, techniques, processes, reporting and insight that they provide. If the organisation is serious about maximising the benefits of a PMO, then investment in developing experts and leaders in this space is key, and promoting a profession and a community to support this will ensure that the PMO can flourish as an increasingly valuable asset to the organisation. 

09 Focus on the key metrics

It’s important that the focus remains on the metrics that actually matter, and not on the metrics that “we’ve always tracked”. These may, of course, change from project to project, from programme to programme, and from portfolio to portfolio, but there may also be some common key indicators that the organisation need to track company-wide. Truly transformational PMO’s will keep track of metrics that are key to the business and key to their customers. Involving key stakeholders, both internal and external, to capture what is important to them will ensure that the organisation doesn’t lose sight of what really matters.

10 Use the right tools

A world-class PMO will ensure that the right tools are embedded and used consistently and effectively.  This can end up being a mix of off-the-shelf and bespoke tools, smart templates, apps, workflow automation, integrated reporting via meaningful dashboards, automated reporting and communication, etc.. The important factor here is that the tools need to be easy to use, easy to maintain, and properly integrated.  If they are cumbersome, clumsy and difficult to use, teams will stop using them, leading to out of date (or incorrect) data, and poor insight for senior management decision making.

How does your organisation stack up against the key attributes of a world-class PMO?

Written by: Nigel Galloway

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