Reversing the Tide: Creating PMOs of Value

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.

The last column in this department began to answer an intriguing question: What is it that project managers want to see from a PMO? Based upon input and discussion from readers over the last couple of months, a view has taken shape of the PMO as buffer--keeping executives from needing to get their hands dirty with projects while allowing the projects time and space to get stuff done.
As I observed, however, the idea of the PMO as buffer cannot be a viable one in the long term. Over time, any perception of value in terms of what a PMO might provide will dwindle and decay.
The greater challenge is building a PMO that can truly deliver value to the organization, where that value is seen and appreciated by all sides. As has been noted in many earlier articles, this is a tall order. The needs and perceptions of stakeholders vary considerably, and at times are in conflict with each other.
Rather than avoiding this conflict, however, the effective PMO will embrace and address the conflict head-on. One of the strongest means of demonstrating value is being seen to proactively address such problems where they are preventing projects within the organization from fully being successful. It is this willingness to engage and guide organizational participants through potential issues that will identify the great PMOs.
Looking at organizations that I have worked with, a number of common…

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