PMOs & Project Audits: Oil & Vinegar?

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

PMOs often suffer from what I call Shiny Hammer Syndrome. The idea is, once you have a hammer, everything starts to look a whole lot like a nail. The implication of this is that once a PMO is in place--usually with the mandate to improve the effectiveness of project management--the question that immediately comes to mind is, "How's that working, anyway?" The consequence of this question, more often than not, is that some poor project (or several) winds up getting audited.

The word "audit" didn't start off life with the connotations of evil, malignant and suspicious probing that most have us have come to associate it with. In fact, many auditors are genuinely nice people. Really. But, just like we dread the IRS showing up on our call display post-tax time, no one is really happy when their project comes up for an audit. No one on the project team, at least.

What many PMO managers ask--or should ask--is whether or not they really want to be in the business of auditing projects. Regardless of the model of the PMO, the primary purpose is to support projects getting delivered well. Whether in a support capacity or as the organizational home of the project managers, is auditing a reasonable or appropriate role?

In the State of the PMO 2002 research project conducted by my company, only 12 percent of respondents ranked the conducting of project audits as being a significant …

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