Project Management

Priority and PMOs

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

The rationale by which project decisions get made varies widely from organization to organization, and is for the vast majority of organizations largely a subjective process. While a few short years ago the linkage between projects and strategy was a much more tenuous one, it is now becoming much more widely recognized that projects are a key means of realizing organizational strategy. The choices we make in terms of the projects that are taken on have a significant influence in defining organizational strategy for the organization.

From the perspective of the PMO, an important consideration here is where and how the process of prioritization occurs in deciding which projects to proceed with. Because prioritization represents the intersection between strategy on one hand and project delivery on the other, a strong case can be made for the PMO managing the prioritization process. This is in fact emerging as one of the key roles that the PMO plays in several organizations I have worked with.

Arguably, however, an equally strong argument can be made that prioritization must be managed by the business. Given the growing trend toward the PMO at least playing some role in the prioritization of projects, what emerge as key questions are: a) should this be a role the PMO takes on?; and b) what aspects of the role are most appropriate for the PMO to manage?

The key danger in …

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