PMO Usage



We hear a lot about PMO’s

lately in regards to how to manage your portfolio of projects and initiatives in flight.  Each year as CIO’s, we commit to complete a set of projects. To be honest, it seems like every year the dates get more aggressive and the funding gets leaner.  As a result, you will need a way to manage the initiatives such that you can provide governance and oversight of the most critical projects.  I believe this is where a PMO can definitely help. 


Now each year we likely have hundreds of initiatives for which we are given budget to complete.  These initiatives range from small to large, and from highly visible to little or no awareness by the senior team.  You could potentially staff your PMO to track every project but likely you will not have sufficient budget and you would not have time to provide the necessary oversight.  Therefore, the best approach is to select the 5-10 projects that are the largest and most important to get completed.  You could create a screening process, potentially a 2X2 matrix with one axis being the level of investment and the other axis being the criticality to the business.  The upper right corner has the projects you want the PMO to track.  These are the projects that are the most visible and where the investment is the largest.


My perspective on how PMO’s should be used is very specific.  I believe that your PMO group should be built to be small and nimble.  Large, overstaffed PMO’s tend to just provide a distraction to the team and lead to a bunch of bureaucracy.  The larger the PMO gets the less productive I believe it becomes.   Also, I think that the PM’s running the projects should remain within their teams. I don’t believe that moving all PM’s into the PMO helps at all.  The PM’s should be 100% aligned to the teams they are working with.  The interaction between the PM’s and the PMO should be that of alignment and reporting. 


To be clear though, the PMO should feel responsibility to deliver on every initiative they are tracking.  The larger, more complex initiatives will likely have many PM’s tracking the different work streams, it is the PMO’s responsibility to ensure every work stream is on time and delivering on their commitments.  The integration of all workstreams into the overall plan is the PMO’s responsibility.


When project do go sideways, as they always do, then there should be a governance layer above the PMO that is able to clear roadblocks, change or reduce scope or get incremental funding if necessary to keep the project on track.  The PMO is critical tool that will help the CIO have visibility into the most important initiatives and have the ability to impact the outcome of the initiative in a positive way. The only caveat that you and your leadership team must take the time to sit down with the PMO leaders on a regular basis to understand the issues and help to get resolution. Without you and your leadership team involved, the PMO has no ability to resolve the roadblocks they find.