The Value-Adding PMO: Myth, Mystery or Might-Just-Be-Possible?

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.

I have a confession to make. I am not a major fan of Project Management Offices.

That might seem somewhat ironic given that for many years, I edited a department (and wrote dozens of articles) about PMOs for this very website. In the course of my consulting career, I have supported the implementation of PMOs. I have even led PMOs operationally for a few notable years. So it is arguably a little odd for me to be saying that I don't particularly like them much. And yet, that statement is entirely true.

And the thing is, I'm not alone. Back in the mid-noughties, I led several research projects looking at PMOs that suggested that they struggled for relevance, had difficulty justifying their value, weren't particularly thought of as providing a lot of value to projects and seemed to have a half-life of about two years from inception to irrelevance. Not stirring or awesome findings. But don't just take my word for it: Other studies have found the same essential findings, including a one coordinated out of the University of Quebec at Montreal and sponsored by PMI.

My issues, for there are many, would probably resonate with many project managers and senior executives that have come into contact with PMOs. The largest problem that I have, if I'm honest, is that when I have to deal with a PMO in managing projects for customers, they tend to make my life…

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