Is the Center of Excellence PMO Dead?

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

Not that many years ago, a lot of organizations were proud of having a center of excellence function within their PMO infrastructure. This was often aligned with a central EPMO and would extend its reach into every part of the organization, encouraging standard approaches to project delivery and the sharing of best practices from all areas.

Today, it’s a lot less common to see such functions. I would even go as far as to say it’s becoming relatively rare. There are a number of reasons for that which I’m going to outline here, but is the function now obsolete? Isn’t there still a need to ensure we consistently do things in the best way possible?

One of the biggest misconceptions I used to see with centers of excellence was that they needed to drive a single standard approach for all projects. While standard approaches have many advantages, the idea that all projects can be run in exactly the same way is simply unrealistic. This was the downfall of many such initiatives; the drive from the PMO was to eliminate all variances, and when they succeeded they negatively impacted those projects that legitimately needed to be treated as exceptions to the rule.

This damaged relationships with project managers and teams who felt the PMO wasn’t listening to them, and it damaged relationships with leadership—who questioned not just the PMO, but …

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