An efficient, well-run project management office (PMO) should provide a valuable service to a project manager and the team, particularly on long or complex projects and large organisations, but whether they do or not is a different matter. Some PMOs are mired in bureaucracy and are often perceived as just adding to a project’s workload; yet if they are flexible with their processes and appreciate that one size does not fit all they genuinely can add value, relieve some of the workload from a busy project manager and ensure projects are more successful.
The question is how can they do so?
One of the key factors in successful PMOs is that they deliver the benefits that matter most: satisfied customers and cost-reduction – mainly by streamlining processes – but all PMOs need to make sure that such benefits are actually delivered and that they are properly communicated to project teams and other departments as having done so. Otherwise it is all too easy for a PMO to become a cost rather than reducing costs or, at least, to be viewed that way.
The PMO is one of the few departments in a large organisation that will have a clear overview of which projects are being run well and which are not; which projects are efficient and which are not, which are staying within budget or on-schedule. They should, therefore, be able to make project processes more efficient.
So there is a contradiction here:
Good PMOs add value and contribute to the success of projects.
Bad PMOs are (or are perceived to be) a process and cost burden, and organisations with an ineffective PMO have a lower success rate for their projects.
So the inference is clear: get a good PMO and your projects will be more successful – provided, of course, that you follow sound project management practises. That doesn’t sound too hard but the reality indicates something different.
And just how can an organisation be sure whether their PMO is “good” or “bad”, adds value or adds to costs?
Much of the responsibility lies with the PMO itself making sure they can show what value they add because, in some organisations at least, they have struggled with a poor reputation as rigidly process-focused, inflexible and bureaucratic.
Just as defining success criteria for projects helps them to be more successful so defining how and where a PMO adds value, and agreeing on those metrics with other departments, will ensure that it does indeed add value.
Possible PMO Metrics for Adding Value
By establishing agreed metrics the PMO will be able to demonstrate their real value whilst, at the same time, improving project delivery. Examples of some possible success metrics include:
1. Improve on the estimated versus actual delivery times of projects
2. Improve on the estimated versus actual costs of projects
3. Increase the percentage of successful projects
4. Review completed projects for customer satisfaction levels
5. Review completed projects to ensure expected benefits were delivered
Clearly to measure improvements you would need to establish a baseline, which could be current or historical data and you would also need a mechanism to collect reliable data on future projects.