Underscoring the Value - and Ensuring the Survival - of the Project Management Office

By Stanleigh, Michael | Ivey Business Journal Online, July/August 2009 | Go to article overview

Underscoring the Value - and Ensuring the Survival - of the Project Management Office


Stanleigh, Michael, Ivey Business Journal Online


The value of the project management office (PMO) is sometimes questioned, never more often, it seems, in a time of economic uncertainty. Preliminary research findings, however, demonstrate that PMOs can provide significant cost savings and other benefits, as long as they align themselves with the organization's strategic plan. Those that fail to do so will not survive.

With economic pressures looming over the world, most executives are spending considerable time wondering how to manage the impact of outside forces on their business. Many organizations, even those that may be economically healthy, are seriously considering whether or not to cut fixed spending by layoffs, usually in non-revenue generating departments.

The Project Management Office (PMOs) is often seen as non-revenue generating and as a result is vulnerable in difficult economic times such as these. Yet a PMO provides important benefits to an organization by ensuring that projects are completed successfully and efficiently. However, preliminary findings of research conducted by our firm, Business Improvement Architects, indicate that PMOs are missing the opportunity to prove their value and to steer projects to a satisfactory completion.

Conducted in 2008, our research provides some insights that will help PMO demonstrate their value and survive during uncertain times. To meet these goals, a PMO should:

1. Train the management team on Strategic Project Leadership.

2. Conduct more Project Health Checks and Audits, following the ISO10006 Guidelines.

3. Manage the resourcing of all projects.

4. Ensure that only strategically aligned projects are managed. All others should be dropped during project prioritization.

5. Review all management presentations before they are delivered.

6. Ensure that all project changes are documented and approved by the sponsor.

1. Train the Management Team

Organizations should train the management team, including functional management, on Strategic Project Leadership so that everyone on the team understands why they should support you, the project manager, and why such a show of support is good for them and the organization.

2008 PMO Research Findings

* The main resistance to the PMO inside an organization was at the functional manager level.

* Sixty-one percent of PMOs we surveyed are responsible for project-management training. Training is generally conducted for project managers and to a lesser degree, for project team members. Surprisingly, only one-third of PMOs trained project sponsors or functional managers, even though functional managers, for the most part, refuse to recognize the PMO.

Example

A global manufacturer had two major projects that were suffering. The project manager and her team received intensive project-management coaching over a one-week period. They learned what was wrong with the management of their projects and what they needed to do in order to get their projects back on track. They also learned about the importance of receiving sponsors' approvals on certain key documents and for keeping the management team updated as the project progressed.

Within six weeks, members of this senior management team started to notice that things were being done differently. They began receiving updates and were asked to sign-off on documents, including a Scope Statement, Change Requests and the likes. They liked what they saw but didn't understand why their approvals were required and how these reports were developed. Essentially, they wanted to better understand the basics of project management and in particular, what their role and responsibilities were in ensuring the project's success.

A full day of training was provided to enable them to:

* Implement project-management practices throughout their organization in order to increase the speed and quality of the execution of their business and functional projects. …

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